Protestors of Squirrel Slam say hunting contest ‘is a crime against nature’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo from Friends of Animals Facebook page – Protestors were in Holley last February for the seventh annual Squirrel Slam. They will be back again on Saturday.

(This article was updated from an earlier version that stated Friends of Animals isn’t against hunting. The group is opposed to all hunting, said director Edita Birnkrant.)

HOLLEY – Edita Birnkrant doesn’t want to take away anyone’s Second Amendment rights. But she does want to make shooting animals illegal when it’s part of a fund-raiser.

Birnkrant is director of Friends of Animals in New York. She will be in Holley on Saturday for the 8th annual Squirrel Slam. She may be joined by hundreds of FOA supporters from several states.

“We share the landscape with wildlife,” Birnkrant said by phone this afternoon from New York City. “I see this as a crime against nature.”

Friends of Animals plans a peaceful protest near the Holley Firehall from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Birnkrant was in Holley last year for the Squirrel Slam and she said some of the hunters taunted her with dead squirrels, holding them out towards her as they passed by for the weigh station at the firehall.

Police have told Birnkrant the Friends of Animals will be separated from the hunters on Saturday. Police don’t want the hunters walking through a pack of protestors.

This year’s event has the added dimension of the New York Revolution, a group that formed last year after the state passed the controversial gun control measure known as the SAFE Act. The group is expected to be in Holley on Saturday, showing its support for the Second Amendment.

Birnkrant said she doesn’t want to infringe on the Second Amendment.

“We’re not trying to take guns away,” she said. “We think wildlife killing contests should be unlawful. As a society we have to evolve from this.”

The Holley event isn’t the only fund-raiser where participants hunt wildlife. Other events target crows and coyotes. But Birnkrant said Holley’s Squirrel Slam is unusual because it has a fire department as its sponsor and welcomes children as young as 12 to participate.

Participants bring up to five squirrels to the weigh station and prizes go to the heaviest cumulative entry. The event on Saturday, despite little advertising, quickly was a sellout and capped at 650 participants.

The Squirrel Slam generates about $6,500 in revenue for the Fire Department. After it pays out $1,500 for prizes, $500 for food and $440 to Holley for police overtime, Fire Department President Fran Gaylord said the event nets about $4,000.

Friends of Animals plans to present a petition to village and fire department officials, asking that the event be cancelled in the future. Friends has offered to make up the fund-raising loss for the fire department, Birnkrant said.

Bills in both the State Assembly and Senate call for banning wildlife hunting contests. That doesn’t include fishing derbies. Birnkrant said that her goal is to stop the contests that call for killing of land animals. She doesn’t see the contests as hunting in the traditional sense.

“Most people would be horrified by a dog or cat killing contest because they are pets,” Birnkrant said. “I’m horrified by a squirrel killing contest. They feel pain.”

Friends of Animals is actually against all hunting, but the group’s immediate goal is to see state legislation approved to ban wildlife hunting contests.

Birnkrant said her group hopes to show its opposition to the Holley event on Saturday, and doesn’t want to get into any confrontations with supporters of the Squirrel Slam.

“I would hope it would be pretty uneventful,” she said.

Holley police expects to have at least five officers on duty Saturday afternoon with additional support from the Albion Police Department and New York State Police.