Subjecting Children and Animals to Killing Contests
An Animal Rights Article from


Friends of Animals (FOA)
July 2013

Shooting associations and game commissions have an interest in indoctrinating children to use weapons, to think guns are cool. But society’s conversation on gun violence needs to confront animal-killing contests. Help us spread the word.

Friends of Animals’ Visit to Holley, New York on Squirrel Slam Day Exposes a Troubling Pattern of Abuse

What’s more abhorrent than a killing contest? Surely, a shooting competition that recruits children, and rewards them with prizes after dead squirrels are weighed to determine who killed the heaviest ones, wins an award for downright meanness.

All the more so when it’s billed as a fundraiser for a fire department, semi-automatic rifles are raffled off and cash rewards are distributed as children look on, in a place not far from Newtown, Connecticut, where, just weeks before, the rifle-wielding Adam Lanza committed mass murder at an elementary school.

squirrel killing contests

We’re committed to protecting all animals, pursuing on their behalf freedom from exploitation, abuse or death by humans who think they have the unfettered right to harm other beings. Squirrels, deer, geese, coyotes, foxes, pigeons, prairie dogs, mountain lions — all want to live free, on their own terms, so we seek to end the contests that treat living beings as targets.

We are, therefore, also part of the current debate on gun control.

Confronting Gun Violence

The once obscure village of Holley, in northwestern New York (population 1,811), is now notorious. Its contest flew under the radar for six previous years; but in 2013, prior to the seventh annual event on Feb. 16, our New York office received an alert from Carole Raphaelle Davis, west-coast director of the Companion Animal Protection Society. And together we mobilized supporters.

Hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters, and tens of thousands of petition signatures opposed the Squirrel Slam but the town refused to cancel. New York State Senator Tony Avella agreed to hold a press conference with us in Albany, the capital of New York, the Monday before the event, in an effort to stop it. “I can’t tell you how disgusted I am at this event,” said Avella. And Friends of Animals staff went directly to Holley to tell the town’s Mayor Kenney and Fire Chief Hendrickson that they were dead wrong in proceeding — and worse, involving children as young as 12.

News teams arrived and we demonstrated at the Holley Fire Department the day of the Squirrel Slam. With Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York, Animal Advocates of Western New York, and dissenting local residents, we rallied to raise consciousness in people in and beyond Holley. Our members attended the police department’s afternoon press conference, holding signs and observing the reporters asking questions of police and fire officials.

Right in the middle of this, someone named Gregory Roth of Hilton (near Holley) interrupted with remarks on eating squirrels and shouted that the assembled protesters were lucky that there were police officers with guns present; otherwise people in Holley would be shooting at us. Roth was charged with 2nd degree harassment.

About 60 activists then convened for the protest. A raucous counter-protest was held by local hunters and pro-gun groups. A car drove up and down Holley’s Main Street covered with dead squirrels; motorists waved squirrel bodies from their windows.

Near the 5 p.m. weigh-in, hunters walked through our assembly, waving their squirrels, headed for the fire house. Others wore previously killed animals on their belts or brandished them in buckets. Teenagers screamed and cheered the hunters. A man held a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” banner. Somebody in hunting gear, shouldering a rifle, strode up and down the street before being escorted off by police.

Does the NRA Run Holley?

Gun lobbyists want guns in the hands of children. The National Rifle Association desperately wants to increase its numbers, as hunting is a pastime in decline. Meanwhile, we’ve resolved to work with Senator Avella and other legislators to prohibit killing contests in New York. Disturbed by events that would encourage children to win guns, “especially in light of all the increasing gun violence in this country,” Avella said he backs a ban and has signed on as a co-sponsor to a pending bill.

The bill pending in the State Senate (S4074) and Assembly, (A3661) sponsored by Sen. Jack M. Martins and Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick, has this goal: to outlaw wildlife-killing competitions. New York residents and others may contact Friends of Animals for unfolding information. New York residents should also contact their state Senators and Assemblymembers to urge them to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill to ban wildlife killing contests and to push for its swift passage into law.

Shooting associations and game commissions have an interest in indoctrinating children to use weapons, to think guns are cool. But society’s conversation on gun violence needs to confront animal-killing contests. Help us spread the word. 

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