Monday, May 20, 2013

WHEN THE NEEDY AND THE FIRST NATIONS ARE A MEANS TO AN END

We're a lucky few who live in North America at this time. Regarding our lifestyles, we are insulated by legislation with laws that protect us from everything from military attacks to bacteria. Protected, that is, unless you are a member of a marginalized group who lack friends in high places to speak on your behalf.

We've learned to lie to ourselves about the comforts that we deserve and who we exploit to achieve those comforts. The topic here is deer and the use of the First Nations and the needy to justify the mass slaughter of a species that has begun to annoy a few people.

Where do I begin to list the complaints that have recently arisen thanks in large part to mainstream media about deer in British Columbia? Do I start with deer/vehicle collisions? With the individuals who have claimed that it is a matter of time before their children are killed by deer? (I am not kidding with this one – you can read those very words in minutes from an Invermere council meeting). With the backyard gardeners who are losing their petunias and peas? With the landscaping companies who are hired to ensure that the curbside appeal of real estate sells properties?

I'll start with the local farmers who have jumped on this bandwagon even though most of us know that the majority of their woes encompass high land values, reduction in agricultural research, labour availability, an aging farm population, water supply and climate change.

Robin Tunnicliffe and Heather Stretch of Saanich Organics wrote to the Times Colonist on March 7, 2013: “We prefer not to export exploitation and environmental destruction by buying food produced elsewhere that is grown with dubious labour and environmental standards. By keeping our food system local, we can ensure best practices if and when deer killing becomes necessary. By bringing the discussion out into the open, we can involve qualified First Nations hunters, and the deer can become part of a healthy food system.”

Let's keep exploitation right here on Vancouver Island. A “qualified First Nations hunter” can be invited onto agricultural land to exercise his right to subsistence hunt. We can all acknowledge that this is a win/win for First Nations and farmers. However, when the numbers of deer carcasses are expected to exceed the practical use of the meat and hides it's time to call it what it is. A cull of inconvenient animals.

And so another marginalized group has emerged as the solution to the problem of what to do with all the carcasses of culled deer: the needy.

Bush meat is not for sale in BC supermarkets or butcher shops. Provincial regulations require controlled feed and slaughter conditions. Urban deer in British Columbia are consuming garden and boulevard flowers and lawns – sprayed with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, yet those who support culling urban deer are claiming that feeding them to the poor will be a magnanimous act.

There is also an enormous price tag that comes with feeding culled deer to the needy. The city of Cranbrook paid a contractor $15,000 to clover trap/bolt gun 24 urban deer in a hastily impemented cull this February. The cost to Cranbrook's taxpayers was $625 per deer. The food bank to which this meat was donated will have paid for the provincial inspection and butchering of the carcasses. This is no handout.

Following up on a complaint this February, Louisiana’s State Health Department forced a homeless shelter to destroy $8,000 worth of deer meat because venison is not an approved meat source to be distributed commercially in that state. This reaction by a hunter on Bowsite.com on February 26, 2013 calling himself “Bowfreak” summed up the spirit of charity for some: “It would have been easier to just shoot the complainer on sight. No way should anyone who is mooching a free meal complain even if they were serving turds.”

At first glance that may appear to be an extreme statement. The “beggars can't be chosers” mindset has become part of the lie that we tell ourselves in order to achieve the comforts that we believe we deserve. When legislation that is in place to protect us from food-borne diseases and toxins can be circumnavigated in order to foist “charity” on a marginalized group to justify the destruction of a pest we have really lost our way.

Kelly Carson

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