World Vegan Day 2017: Thoughts From Valley Forge

I’ll be walking through Valley Forge Park tonight, just before they finish closing all the gates.

Every year, on or about the First of November, they start shooting off the deer. They will start tonight.

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A Vegan View of Deer, Coyotes, and Bobcats

Deer-stalking season is back. Time to remember defending the free is the core of the vegan ethic.

A vegan humanity wouldn’t breed chickens, emus, cows, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, llamas, or, for that matter, Chihuahuas. Nor would it pack ammunition and go chasing after hapless herbivores.

A vegan humanity wouldn’t compete against wolves, coyotes, and bobcats to keep the above-listed animals available for our use and amusement.

And if our hero, a pleasanter humanity, stops warring on wolves, coyotes, and untamed cats, then the claim that moose, elk, and deer have no natural predators would be history.

Now, some people stalk animals regardless of their numbers, because they think it’s fun, so they must have been led to regard an object that can kill as a toy—but people with this ugly view would not be brought up by our hero.

Canids Come Back

Long ago there were wolves here on the eastern side of the North American continent. Our anti-hero killed them off.

But you can’t keep a good bio-community down.

The Great Lakes wolves have mingled with eastern coyotes, producing coyote-wolf hybrids. Deer make up about a third of their food. These coyotes are apex AF.

So, why are there still so many deer?

 

Coyote on deck: Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons

The states’ hunting and trapping rules are dead-set against coyotes. About half of the coyote population winds up dead each year in Pennsylvania.

Bobcats are targets too—so there’s a community of capable carnivores under fire.

Federal managers ought to be heeding the growing body of scientific knowledge of the harm done when lands lose big predators. They ought to work with state agencies to reverse the current obsession with snaring, poisoning, hunting, and trapping them. We need to make this point heard.

Philadelphia’s Bloody Green Space

Know what shooting does? It creates a huge population of deer to keep shooting.

At the Wissahickon Valley Park, the northwest section of the city’s Fairmount Park, indigenous deer are baited and shot each winter.

Here’s the story, as recorded by Bridget Irons, archivist for Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer.

  • 1994: Friends of the Wissahickon called Natural Resource Consultants, Inc. for a deer population survey after people around the park observed—Oh, my!—deer.
  • 1996: An aerial survey counted 159 deer.
  • 1998: The Fairmount Park Commission, deciding on a limit of 30 deer, approved a one-time cull of the Fairmount Park deer.
  • 1999 – 2017: The official tally is 3,469 deer killed in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.

It starts because the human “cultural carrying capacity” is so low (the number 30 as the limit on deer in the largest urban green space in the world). And then it becomes a vicious cycle of killing, deer repopulating at a frantic pace, and ever more killing.

Watch the same dynamic at the nearby Valley Forge National Historical Park, and throughout the townships surrounding Philadelphia. Residents complain. They don’t like their gardens nibbled. And eventually there’s a killing contract with the U.S. Agriculture Department—usually starting with a time limit, but carrying on indefinitely, with lot of money and personnel hours diverted to the projects. (For the Fairmount Park shootings, Philadelphia’s police aviation unit has been pulled in.)

How much should public pressure influence managers to impair what nature produces?

And how do we have a dialogue with the communities that manage to exert such violent pressure?

A Deer’s Reproductive System Is None of Our Business

Many advocacy groups prefer to promote deer birth control instead of shooting. They claim obstructing deer reproduction is a humane way of reducing their numbers.

It’s not. Scientists have published harrowing post mortems of deer subjected to chemical birth control.

And in the bigger picture, the attitude that humans should manage nature puts coyotes out of a job. Predators need us to stop repressing them, and to empower them to regroup and return to their natural roles.

And in the even bigger (and vegan) picture: Why on Earth would we want a pharmaceutical plan to control the destinies of untamed animals?

We might believe the public isn’t ready for coyotes.But then it’s our work to create understanding. Coyotes aren’t trying to create additional risks for us. Mainly they’re avoiding run-ins with us, moving at night where they live near us. Humans need to take a page from their book and be better minders of our own business.

 

Our War on Deer Is a Product of Domestication

Brace yourself. With autumn comes the early “official” deer kills. They will go on through the winter.

The deer of Valley Forge National Historical Park (photographed in the banner image by Jeff Houdret) are among the communities annually targeted by the United States government.

The vast majority of deer in the Park get shot down again every year. This means very few, if any, deer who stay in the Park will live past age two.

The assault on the deer themselves and on their community’s evolution is grotesque.

Deer Kills Aren’t a “Single Issue”; They’re a Vegan Issue

Deer killing starts because we have created cows, goats, domesticated sheep, domesticated fowl etc. for people to eat and wear, and pets as well. All these animals, human property, must be protected from carnivores and omnivores who run free. (How dare they!)

So we wipe out the wolves and then we establish policies to kill those who rise up to take their place.

Coyotes, in most of the northern Americas.

Then we have “too many deer”? No, we have too few carnivores.

I’m working on a presentation on this connection, tentatively scheduled for Sunday 29 October, at SuTao Cafe in Malvern, PA, to kick off to World Vegan Month in Chester County.

The presentation will be informed by the work of two groups who have directly confronted government assaults on deer: Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer (PAD), and Compassion for Animals – Respect for the Environment (Chester County CARE).

Forced Sterilization of Deer Is Another Insult

Most other deer protection projects have rallied around pharmaceutical control as the “solution to the deer problem” but that answer oppresses and erases deer, just as mass killing does.

And the deer contraception crusade allows the public to retain the idea that animals such as wolves and coyotes have no business living.

Animal liberationists and environmentalists alike should be cultivating human respect for carnivores including coyotes. These beings have roles to play in a balanced bio-community. Our society must stop pretending that managing and micromanaging the balance of nature is humanity’s work.

— Lee.

A Vegan Ethic for the Untamed

It’s deer-killing season. What’s an activist to do? Sometimes the call to use birth control seems the only available delay tactic when people are loading the guns.

But it’s coexistence with predators that we need to insert into advocacy. We might believe the public isn’t ready for coyotes. The public isn’t fond of running into deer on roads either. Natural predation would reduce that risk. Coyotes aren’t trying to create additional risks. Mainly they’re avoiding run-ins with us, moving at night where they live near us.

And greater danger lies ahead if we do not let predators live and thrive.

Click here for full piece published today on Free from Harm.


Free from Harm is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization promoting farmed animal rescue, education and advocacy and registered in the state of Illinois. The banner photo on this preview was taken by Jeff Houdret and is used here with permission of the photographer.

Deer and the Simplicity Principle

Yesterday an op-ed piece I wrote ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sharing it on Facebook, Harold Brown observed that the best answer to a problem—in this case, the claim that suburban Philadelphia has too many deer—can be right in front of us all along.

Letting the indigenous deer be and at the same time enabling coyotes and bobcats, their natural predators, to live and thrive is the simple, environmentally obvious response; yet reporters, policymakers (including the author of Valley Forge Park’s Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan), and people who type into Internet comment fields have all used the term reintroduction of predators as though something complicated would have to be done. Coyotes and bobcats are already here. It’s strange how one can write this plainly—coyotes and bobcats are already here—and people will still react, time and time again, to the idea of reintroduction, which is not being proposed.

One of the e-mail messages I received in response to the column came from an It's their home. Let them roamInquirer reader who says it’s infeasible to have coyotes “used for animal control” because they are “aggressive and hard to control…” It seems this reader got the idea of an extermination firm coming in with a trained pack of coyotes.

Respecting the balance of communities in habitats is a simple idea, a common-sense concept. When it comes to respecting nature, people appear to lean heavily to making the most simple answer seem the most complex.