A News Commentary by Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper
Here we go again with a so-called “culling” of deer in a provincial park in Niagara, Ontario that was established decades ago as a sanctuary for wildlife.
Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources argues that the annual hunt, taking place over six days and heading into its fourth year starting this Saturday, November 14th, is necessary to control the population of deer in the park which overlays boundaries of three Niagara municipalities – St. Catharines, Pelham and Thorold.
An over-population of deer, insists the ministry, means not enough for the animals to eat in the park and at least some of them wandering onto neighbouring farmlands and feeding on crops. So the ministry moved to allow members of the aboriginal community to enter the park on a few designated days each year to hunt the deer, using archery only.
The hunt has met strong opposition from a number of people living around the park who feel it is unsafe and who have reported that at least in a few cases, hunters and arrows have strayed beyond the park boundaries and onto their properties. It has also met strong opposition from animal advocacy groups like Niagara Action For Animals and the Short Hills Wildlife Alliance who object to the hunting of animals – especially in a conservation park – on principle, and who take issue with the ministry’s claim that there is an over-population problem in the park, and with hunting as a way of addressing it.
The arguments for and against this hunt vary and become more complex and nuanced as the debate rages on. And what unfortunately complicates it is the fact that only aboriginal people are allowed by the ministry to participate in it.
While leaders of animal advocacy groups have made it clear, as Niagara Acton for Animals has in a note it has circulated online in recent days, that both it and the Short Hills Alliance “will not tolerate racist remarks” at an upcoming vigil they are organizing outside the park, some individuals have taken to calling the hunters “dirty Indians” and worse.
This has made it more difficult than usual to have a rational discussion about the hunting of deer or any other animal in this park or anywhere else, or to know for sure whether some individuals engaged in the debate are motivated solely by their concern for the animals or the safety of park neighbours or there is an element of underlying racism involved.
It is an element of this particular hunting issue that this commentator knows, because I’ve had people tell me, that they are reluctant to get involved in the debate out of concern of being lumped in with the bigots if they happen to take the anti-hunting side.
What cannot be doubted is that the Ontario government, through its Ministry of Natural Resources, is responsible for allowing this hunt in this park, and has so far has offered no demonstrable sign of trying anything else, other than killing, to control any over-population of deer in the area.
So here we go again with six days of hunting in the Short Hills Park that include the dates; Saturday, November 14th, Sunday, November 15th, Thursday, November 19th, Friday, November 20th, Saturday, November 28th and Sunday, November 29th. (The park is obviously not available to other members of the public on those dates for hiking, etc. and its entrances and perimeters are patrolled by ministry officers and police.)
In a message, Niagara Action for Animals is circulating online, the group says; “The Ministry of Natural Resources is intent on calling it a ‘harvest’ as if apples were being picked, but in truth it is more a slaughter. And sadly, archery will be used to kill the animals; studies have shown that a 50% wounding rate is not unusual…”
“Meet at the Pelham Road entrance to Short Hills Park (on the dates of the hunt to participate in the vigil.),” the NAFA message continues. “The best times to attend are between 5-7 a.m. and especially at 4-6 p.m. (when hunters are leaving the park). However, Shorthills group will have a presence all day, so if you cannot make it during those specific times, please attend whenever you can.”
“If you cannot attend the vigil, you can still help by contacting Jim Bradley MPP at 905 935-0018 email@example.com and in your own heartfelt words, let him know that you do NOT support this hunt.”
For more information, view the following youtube presentation from the Short Hills Wildlife Alliance at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt4TbPxawPg .
Visit Niagara Action for Animals’website at http://www.niagaraactionforanimals.org/ .
Visit Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary for and from the greater bi-national Niagara region.
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