Animal-rights activists are taking aim at Saanich Peninsula farmers and politicians looking to step up hunting to protect their crops.
An online petition against expanded hunting as a crop-protection measure has been launched on the Facebook page Boycott B.C. Deer Kills by Peter Hamilton of Lifeforce, a non-profit Vancouver-based ecology organization. Hamilton is also calling for a boycott of produce from farms that use lethal methods to control deer.
“Most people would not make the connection that buying organic fruits and veggies could result in deer being killed,” Hamilton says in a letter to Central Saanich councillors. “Some Vancouver Island organic growers want this massive slaughter. Some won’t even fence their crop lands and won’t implement other non-lethal controls.”
The awareness campaign started by Lifeforce comes in the wake of recent Central Saanich council decisions encouraging hunting to assist farmers in protecting their crops from deer.
Central Saanich council has asked staff to investigate opportunities for First Nations and non-First Nations use of sharpshooters for deer, a bounty for deer killed under a population-reduction program and support for First Nations deer harvests.
Staff have also been asked to come up with a bylaw allowing public deer hunting and another prohibiting deer feeding.
Last week, Peninsula farmers were encouraged to attend a workshop on regulations governing hunting to protect crops.
Lifeforce suggests there are several alternatives to hunting, ranging from fencing to chemical or natural repellents and scare devices such as noisemakers and flashing lights.
“There are numerous non-lethal methods that could be applied on a case-by-case basis. But one of the main ways to keep deer away from crops is to put a fence around your property. That should be the cost of business,” Hamilton said.
The Lifeforce petition encourages people to shop only at guaranteed “deer-friendly” farms.
Susan Vickery of Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society plans to launch a “deer-friendly” campaign June 1.
Vickery is looking for funding to host workshops on non-lethal methods of combating deer.
“I’m going to target the agriculturalists — mostly landscapers and gardeners around the area. It will be setting up real demonstrations — sort of the embedded-learning concept,” Vickery said.
In his letter to council, Hamilton noted that former Central Saanich mayor Jack Mar, a farmer, complained in a broadcast interview about the cost of fencing, which he estimated at $2,000 to $7,000, depending on whether he did it himself.
“Fencing to stop attracting deer to the food should be part of the cost of doing business. Instead, some want to kill all the deer for eating some veggies? This is further wildlife mismanagement,” Hamilton said in his letter.
He warned that “this Wild West ‘bounty’ mentality” runs the risk of triggering an international boycott of Victoria.
In fact, Mar said in an interview, the properties he’s farming are too narrow to allow hunting, so he is erecting fencing where he can.
“I can’t shoot in any of the properties because it’s just too narrow on the properties, with the setbacks where you can discharge a firearm,” Mar said.
“I can’t shoot. Period. I have to fence.”