Since I published my request to end the Holley, New York Fire Department Squirrel Slam, I’ve received a lot of feedback from people who shoot animals for entertainment. Many of them are vitriolic and unapologetic while claiming to be patriotic. Here is an example of some comments that provide a valuable opportunity for us to further examine some of the common arguments in the debate:
“The hunt and event are perfectly legal. And our community supports it! This is America, remember? Land of the FREE. Sorry that you don’t like the fact that we here in NYS have open season on squirrels and raffling off LEGAL guns is used as a fundraiser. You and yours are kindly requested to go mind your own business. Find some other cause to run up your collective flagpoles!”
Here is my reply:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Squirrel Slam. I appreciate you paving the way for a discussion of these important topics.
1. I’m not debating the legality of the event. I’m debating its morality. It’s illogical to kill animals and promote gun violence to raise money to save people from fires. Offering prizes to children under 14 for killing squirrels seems inappropriate. Also, simply because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s right. Dipping tax collectors in boiling hot tar and dragging them through the streets, slavery, and denying women the right to vote all used to be legal in the United States until more sensible minds prevailed. I believe in a much more humane future. You can degrade and demonize those of us who pursue it but you will not dissuade us from working to achieve it.
2. You stated your Holley, New York community supports Squirrel Slam. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Holley, New York is 1,811. It’s my understanding that approximately 40 sport hunters attended this event with their children last year. More accurately stated, the people who participate in the event and kill squirrels for fun support it. Your views are not necessarily those of the Holley or broader community.
3. You stated, “This is America, remember?” Yes, I remember. I was born and raised in New York. My parents, grandparents, and extended family all come from New York. In fact, my grandmother spent her entire life in Buffalo, not far from Holley, New York so I’m familiar with the area. Simply because I don’t support shooting animals for fun doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my birthplace or your right to own a gun. I also have a First Amendment right to oppose you using it to destroy the lives of the most defenseless among us.
4. You stated this is the “land of the FREE.” I agree. That is why I believe the only moral choice is to allow the squirrels to continue to enjoy their freedom like you and me.
5. You stated I should mind my own business. I will gladly mind my own business because this is my business. You don’t own the squirrels or the land. We are privileged to share it with all of its inhabitants and I believe they all deserve the same respect we ask for ourselves.
6. You stated I should find some other cause to “run up my flagpoles.” As an American, I have the right to run any issue up my flagpole. Our flag contains the faces of billions of animals senselessly and mercilessly killed every year. This is our flag and we will not lay it down until the lights go out on every animal farm, fur farm, circus, animal race, laboratory, hunting expedition, and puppy mill and every grocery store, retail store, and restaurant stop peddling the remains of animals for human consumption and profit. We fly it with pride, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to justice.
This is a squirrel. While this little guy’s life may not mean anything to you, it does to me and millions of other people. Some people might say, “Squirrels, really?” Yes, really. If you can recognize the right of squirrels to live their lives freely, you may also realize the same rights for chickens languishing in factory farms, tortured monkeys in experimental labs, confined elephants in the circus, caged tigers in the zoo, captured whales in seaquariums, and skinned foxes in fur farms. The cause for freedom is not limited to people or any species of animal. We stand for freedom for all.
I submitted an attractive proposal to Chief Hendrickson and the HFD Board of Directors. I’m hopeful we can reach a resolution in the days ahead. In the meantime, I hope you will reconsider your decision to kill squirrels.
Thank you again for the opportunity to address these issues.
On behalf of the squirrels,
2/20/13 Update: All requests for humane fundraising were denied and the Squirrel Slam occured as scheduled. One hunter reportedly dumped a bucket of dead squirrels out in front of protestors and laughed.