The town of Holley, New York is certainly no friend to squirrels. The fire department of this small upstate community is planning to hold their seventh annual "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam," a yearly celebration of death on February 16. The "Squirrel Slam" is organized for the mass killing of squirrels, with prizes given to the individuals who kill the most and the largest of the animals. What is even more disturbing is that the prizes will be given in "adult" and "youth" categories. That's right: children will be encouraged to take up guns and kill harmless squirrels for no reason other than "fun" and "entertainment," and given prizes based on their efficiency and skill at this pointless killing.
There is no telling how many squirrels will be arbitrarily killed at this event. And what's more, many others will be wounded and maimed, many of them left to crawl away to suffer and die slowly. Furthermore, with the even held in mid-February, some female squirrels may well have recently given birth, only to be killed and leave their young alone to starve to death.
Sounds like fun, right?
Here is the flyer for this year's blood rite:
Notice that in addition to the cash prizes, a drawing will be held to give away several guns, including--as an extra macabre touch--a .22 caliber AR-15, a version of the assault weapon used in the slaughter of school children in Connecticut last month and several other mass killings.
It's one thing to hunt an animal for food, as needed, and for many people in America and elsewhere this is a tradition that, as distasteful as I find it, I would not deprive them of. But to simply slaughter animals for no reason, in as large numbers as possible, and to celebrate this pointless slaughter as a community event with prizes... and then to encourage children to participate in the bloodbath, teaching them that pointless, arbitrary killing is fun... is beyond disturbing. The only word that comes close that I can think of is an abomination.
I am asking anyone who reads this to join me in raising our voices against this event:
1. There is a Facebook page dedicated to protesting and stopping the Squirrel Slam. Please "Like" the page to add your voice to those opposing the slaughter.
2. You can call the mayor of Holley, NY, John W. Kenney, Jr. at 585-638-6367, and/or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am including the text of my letter to Mayor Kenney at the bottom of this post. You can paraphrase as you see fit, but whatever you do, please be respectful but clear about your disgust at this event.
3. There are at least two petitions asking the town to stop this event. Here is one. And here is the other. I have signed both, and I hope you will too. I considered starting my own petition, but I feel that too many separate petitions might dilute the message and reduce their effectiveness, as some people may just sign one.
4. Most important, please spread this information by whatever means you have--Facebook, Twitter, email, and word of mouth. This isn't just about squirrels, it's about all cases of killing and cruelty to animals for public entertainment.
Here is my letter to the mayor of Holley, NY:
To: Mayor John W. Kenney, Jr.
I was troubled last night to learn of the planned event to be held by your town's fire department, the "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam," an annual event at which squirrels will be killed in a contest with prizes given to those who kill the biggest squirrels.
Although I choose not to kill animals for any reason, I can understand hunting to obtain food. But to hold a local festival celebrating the mass slaughter of an animal for no other reason than "fun" or "entertainment" is pointless cruelty that I and countless other find horrific. And to then encourage children to take up guns and participate in this slaughter--teaching them that killing for no reason is fun--is just utterly disturbing.
Please do whatever is necessary to stop this event, and replace it with one that celebrates life instead of death.
Update: You can contact the Holley Fire Department through their web site at www.holleyfire.com. From the main page, click on the Contact Us link on the left. I suggest that comments be polite and respectful, and be addressed to Chief Pete Hendrickson.
Update: Some people have questioned whether the AR-15 was actually used in the Connecticut school shooting, or whether that rifle remained in the trunk of the shooter's car. I have been provided a link to a press release from the CT state police confirming that the AR-15 was in fact recovered inside the school. This is, of course, a side issue--the real issue is the cruelty that is about to be inflicted on the squirrels of Holley, NY. But I also know that people will seize on any detail that they can to discredit what they disagree with.