Animal crackers, Rockefeller State Park and deer
From Animal Defenders of Westchester (ADOW)

We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal crackers, Rockefeller State Park and deer

Letter as published on
September 14, 2018

[See September 21 response to this...]

Thanks to Eric Schoen for mentioning that the animal crackers’ box illustration will now feature animals walking free instead of the previous cages they were shown confined (Aug. 31). Language and images are powerful, they change hearts and minds. Women, minorities, gays, etc., complain vigorously when they are insulted and stereotyped in the media, because such images send a destructive, hurtful message; even a popular cereal was criticized because its cartoon depiction of mall attendees included only one who was dark-skinned – and that was the janitor.

“Yes, it’s a tiny thing,” said one complainant, “but when you see your kid staring at this over and over, as are a million other kids, this is teaching kids racism.”

It’s no different for the animals. Since they can’t complain, animals are mocked, disrespected and treated as trash in the media; wildlife is “lurking,” “on the loose,” “monsters,” etc., all which promote a tone of hatred, fear, contempt and superiority toward animals.

What does this have to do with Rockerfeller State Park preserve? Officials there have erected a highly infl ammatory, fraudulent sign that states: “We are propagating plants because deer and invasive species have reduced their numbers.”

This biased, discriminatory sign was posted in hopes of getting sympathy for Rockerfeller’s bad decision to use taxpayer money to bring in bow hunters and slaughter deer there. What possible purpose can this scapegoating, fearmongering sign serve other than to create hatred and contempt for the deer - in a feeble attempt to justify their unpopular decision, since the public should not be forced to share this beautiful area with hunters killing animals.

A prior disgraceful sign states, “Hunters must pass a stringent qualification test and be permitted,” which is a joke because these are ordinary hunters, not Navy Seal Special Ops like the sign implies, who have merely checked boxes stating they “know this is dangerous” and that they are killing animals “for ecological purposes.”

Rockerfeller Park preserve is doing this because non-hunters are shamefully banned from serving on the Department of Environmental Conservation Advisory Board, guaranteeing a lethal outcome for the wildlife they are supposed to protect; then, related agencies and the media cower before the DEC without question – and spew skewed misrepresentations out to the public.

The sign is also a blatant lie, since studies show many factors, such as pollutants, insect damage, climatic and weather extremes, and canopies of mature trees blocking the sun, as well as others, play a major role in plant life. Science shows that hunting deer doesn’t control their numbers – deer repopulate and compensate by increased birthrates, called “twinning.”

Bow hunting is particularly brutal because deer are often injured with an arrow and suffer for days or weeks – a slow and painful death. Weather conditions, moving targets, fl awed judgement, “rushing” a shot and shooting through brush and trees all contribute to bow hunting danger and cruelty. The term “invasive species” was invented by various government regulatory officials to justify their salaries and their jobs. Meanwhile we are the real “invasive species” responsible for overdevelopment, deforestation and more. This entire state was forest until we destroyed it, yet wildlife – who can’t defend themselves – are easy to blame for this and made the fall guys for what we ourselves do.

Yes, words and images change hearts and minds.

For this reason we are calling upon Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and Commissioner Rose Harvey of Rockerfeller State Park preserve to immediately remove this horrible, unfair sign – and then stop the indecent killing of our wildlife, who have as much right to that park as we do. Let nature be nature, especially in a “preserve.” And there are humane methods easily utilized if park officials feel a need to justify their jobs in this manner.

Words matter. With bullying in schools at an all-time high, causing even children to commit suicide as a result, it’s time that we use words and images that encourage kindness and a decent life for all – including for the animals. Even words on a sign… even images on a box of animal crackers. Decency will follow.

Kiley Blackman
Founder, Animal Defenders of Westchester

Letter as published on
September 21, 2018

Dear Editor:  Rockefeller State Park Preserve is a Westchester treasure, but the annual bow hunt of deer that turns this bucolic setting into a killing field makes a mockery of its designation of being a “preserve” and a “haven for nature lovers,” as stated in its brochure.

The preserve management, in cahoots with the governor, the DEC and New York State Parks have waged a war of propaganda to try and convince the public that the deer are such a threat to vegetation that it is worth shooting them in the cruelest manner possible while putting the public at risk. 

This bow hunt is indefensible on so many levels. To reiterate some of the points made by Ms. Blackman, studies have shown that deer density is not a leading factor in tree regeneration or plant diversity; there are many factors that play a major role. Bow hunting is not an effective method of deer management, as it causes the deer to become more fertile, and it is one of the cruelest forms of hunting. There is also suspicion that the deer are baited, as the hunting is done from tree stands. This is extremely heinous and illegal in New York.

If deer management in the preserve was found to be truly necessary, there are safe and humane alternatives available, such as female contraception, male sterilization, and simple solutions such as using fencing or dogs to keep the deer out of certain areas. But tragically, the preserve has no intention of exploring these sensible options because they are beholden to the hunting culture perpetrated by the state and its agencies. 

And, unfortunately, despite much opposition, many of our representatives in Albany are either buying their rhetoric or are afraid to speak up. 

Yes, as Ms. Blackman stated, words matter, and we should not accept lies from our public officials and their awful consequences. 

Rebecca Sunshine 

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