Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dear Citizens: Stop the Senseless Gun Violence; Dear Hunters: Please Continue to Kill at Will

The United States' ever growing problem with guns reached a crescendo following the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Nevertheless, in the spirited discussions that have followed; politicians and media pundits alike continue to kowtow to hunters and give them a pass when it comes to guns and various animal "population control" measures.

This past year Costa Rica became the first country in Latin America to ban hunting as a sport. Under the new law, those caught hunting can face up to four months in prison or fines of up to $3,000. It appears the United States has a long way to go to achieve similarly progressive ideals.

Township officials in one New Jersey town (Colts Neck) recently bemoaned the “unhealthy spike in the number of deer in town.” After assessing the situation over the last year, the town’s deer control subcommittee determined, quite incredulously, that the “green open layout” is largely to blame for the presence of deer. Darn those green spaces!

Here’s the reality: Colts Neck, like every other town, is trying to cope with an increasing human population problem—and a greedy one at that. I was reminded of this when I saw a new sign along the road announcing more land for sale on one of those pesky green spaces. It proposed an approved subdivision of 5 estate homes (million-dollar homes) at 2.5-plus acres each. What's more, the Colts Neck Township Committee recently passed an ordinance that would provide more latitude to individuals who wish to build “large estate homes” in Colts Neck’s agricultural zone. Sure, no deer there!

In the words of one Colts Neck committeeman, “the proliferation of the deer population has made the streets unsafe . . . ruined acres of cropland, and trampled the landscapes of most residential properties.” If it weren't for the word deer, you might have thought he was talking about a gang of hoodlums. I guess those streets and residential properties will invariably be built, deer be damned.

Where exactly does Colts Neck Township (or any township for that matter) expect the deer to go when we’re constantly building on their green spaces? Does the committee need to be reminded that the deer were here first; that we do not have the right to trample over every square inch of land that we can get our grubby little hands on? And when will we start to get a handle on the real problem—our own human population and all that we impact?

According to Colts Neck Township, from 2009-2011, 184 deer bodies were removed from the roads and 230 car accidents occurred that involved deer. As I understand it, that's 184 deer who lost their lives, so it would certainly seem that the deer are the victims here. And while motor vehicle accidents are nothing to scoff at, we choose to drive cars that kill animals and most of us are driving as if we own the roads—distracted and too fast. Furthermore, insurance companies have found that cars hit deer most when deer are being hunted. 

There is established science that shows that deer are able to control their own reproduction based on food available and that deer respond to hunting pressure with increased fertility as fewer competitors results in more food for surviving females. Not surprisingly, however, hunters and the gun lobby oppose non-lethal methods like contraceptives calling it “a declaration of war on sportsmen” because it detracts from their sick desire to kill. Whoever believes that killing another living being is a "sport" should have their head examined.

Killing is killing, and animals are no less victims of gun violence than their human counterparts. The difference is pure semantics. When humans kill other humans we call it murder, yet when human animals kill other animals it’s called hunting. According to Wildlife Policy Specialist Susan Russell of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ), deer “scream” when shot at or hit with a razor-tipped arrow. The animal stumbles, cries out, and suffers.

Hunters are part of the problem, and their actions are no less violent than that of deranged individuals who shoot up schools and movie theaters. Despite making up just less than 5 percent of the national population (and less than half of 1 percent of the NJ population), hunters keep getting license from government officials and the media to do what they love to do most—kill. Just hope you do not get in their crossfire, too. 

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