by David Cantor
Upon us now is the 15th annual Philadelphia deer kill, a slaughter originally billed as a one-time massacre in the Wissahickon in 1998, now expanded throughout Fairmount Park, enhancing status and livelihoods of decision-makers, propagandists, shooters, pseudo-scientists, and others.
Notorious among animal advocates for its injustice, needless suffering and early death, and false beliefs it promotes about the living world, the deer kill is officially portrayed as a safety measure for automobiles, human beings, and wildflowers. All ridiculous rationalization.
The deer kill perpetuates the hunting cabal that put our species on its destructive course alluded to in Genesis as the first humans leave Eden wearing animal skins. The primary motive of today’s deer kill and of the original hunting cabal is the same: aggrandize the status of the most aggressively dominant individuals, who claim to solve a big problem for society, protecting and empowering the group.
Claiming to solve a problem and solving it are entirely different matters, but propaganda takes care of that year after year. If destroying a few nonhuman animals in their prime can make some human endeavor marginally more convenient or pleasurable, humans are indoctrinated to destroy. It’s just a matter of reinforcing what “everyone” already believes.
Automobiles kill more human beings than all wars combined, severely injure millions more, destroy and aggrieve families, kill millions of nonhuman animals per day just in the U.S., pollute everyone’s air, and heat everyone’s climate (though not as quickly or intensively raising animals for food). It takes 50,000 gallons of water and enormous other ecologically unsound resource use to make just one. Yet the Philadelphia deer kill aims to protect them, lethal nonliving objects.
Humans acquired Lyme disease by cutting down trees – a particular injustice toward nonhuman animals, disrupting the ecosystem with car culture and sprawl so the mice with the most Lyme ticks grow ever more abundant and have ever more contact with humans and their pets. Scientific studies reveal places where completely eliminating deer did nothing to reduce Lyme disease in humans. The Philadelphia deer kill will supposedly reduce Lyme disease by doing what doesn’t reduce it, while doing nothing to halt what humans do to cause it! What a boon to the biomedical industries at great cost to all of us!
Nature is not a simple mechanism as deer-kill promoters make out. The more plant-eaters you kill, the more food is available for each survivor of the massacre. In deer, this increases earlier reproduction, more than the typical two fawns per birth, and more rapid population growth. If you think beings who have inhabited this continent thousands of times longer than humans can’t find ways to elude our assaults, then maybe you think fewer mice exist now than before mouse traps were invented!
The great conservationist-author Aldo Leopold exhorted humans to kill prey animals whose natural predators humans exterminate or drive extinct. Deer-kill propaganda routinely invokes Leopold. Problem is, he was wrong. Predators do not protect wildflowers and other vegetation by killing large numbers of grazing herd animals. They do it by keeping the animals moving about the landscape so they don’t nibble any particular acreage down to the soil.
Most of the food supporting Philadelphia deer is provided by ecologically unsound human “development” at the various parks’ edges – phenomena that do not occur in nature: “lawns,” “backyards,” “gardens,” “farms,” “nurseries,” “playgrounds.” Penn’s Woods had minimal edge and nowhere near the number of deer per square mile as inhabit landscapes humans mess up.
The Constitution’s stated principles are justice, equality, liberty, defense, tranquility, and the general welfare. The Philadelphia deer kill undermines them. Illusions of enhanced safety, convenience, or aesthetics do not justify destroying others. We will move forward as a community and as a species when we accept accountability and responsibility for what we wreak and put our species on a new trajectory vis à vis the other animals and the living world.
David Cantor is a Glenside resident and long-time animal rights activist.