Activist group sets sights on deer

Vancouver-based Lifeforce calling for Central Saanich to revisit decision

A Vancouver-based ecology and animal rights foundation is using an online petition program to encourage the District of Central Saanich to ban the killing of deer in the municipality.

Lifeforce Foundation, guided by Founding Director Peter Hamilton, started the petition titled ‘Say No to B.C. Deer Bounty and Killings’ earlier this week on the website change.org. Hamilton said the online petition is designed to encourage the district to be respectful of wildlife and to find solutions and alternatives to killing deer who are harming crops, something they’ve petitioned in other communities in the province like Invermere and Cranbrook.

“This issue comes down to one question which is does one have to kill off the wildlife to prevent crops from being damaged?” said Hamilton.

“I say the answer is no. The deer have access to those crops that aren’t fenced in.”

“Putting up fences should be considered a cost of doing business for farmers,” he said.

Hamilton started Lifeforce in 1981 and over the last three decades the foundation has been involved in a broad range of different wildlife management issues including the keeping of exotic pets and sightseeing boats endangering orcas in B.C. and U.S. waters. The petition against the killing of deer in Central Saanich is their latest project, said Hamilton, one he hopes which will be successful.

“The quick answer to a problem like this shouldn’t be killing,” he said.

Hamilton started petition last week after requests were made by Central Saanich council to have their staff write bylaws to allow public hunting in the municipality as well as implement anti-feeding bylaws. Council also asked staff to look into provincial issues and what it would take to get amendments to the provincial hunting regulations, to align provincial and local permitting processes for crop protection, revisit deer bag limits, look into the use of sharp shooters and investigate a bounty on deer.

Hamilton said the only aspect of what Central Saanich council was pitching that he agreed with was the anti-feeding bylaw, but that is only as good the enforcement, he added.

“The bottom line is if you have laws and bylaws you have to enforce them,” he said, adding that he believes killing deer could actually be harming farmers’ business practices.

“We want people to be deer friendly and be able to sell deer friendly food, which will hopefully encourage people to buy more produce from them,” said Hamilton.

“We’ve had a few people that have emailed us saying that we’re trying to put farmers out of business but thats not what were trying to do, we’re trying to help them by being able to have deer friendly product,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe price increases on the produce from farmers having to install fencing and implement other non-fatal wildlife control measures would deter customers from buying deer-friendly produce.

Central Saanich farmer Ian Vantreight, who estimates he loses thousands of dollars from each crop grown to damage done by deer, said he can’t speak for his customers when it comes to paying more for deer-friendly products.

“I definitely can’t speak for what my customers want, weather they’d pay more for deer-friendly or not, but I know what I have to do to keep my crops from being stolen and to keep my business profitable,” said Vantreight, likening the damage done by deer to someone stealing cash or merchandise from a business.

“What makes that right?” he said.

The letter:

To: Mayor and Councillors, Central Saanich, B.C.

Say No to B.C. Deer Bounty and Killings!

Veggie farmers and politicians in Central Saanich, British Columbia are trying to change various levels of law to kill deer who are being attracted to crops. This could include a bounty on deer, increased kill limits, sharp shooters, and First Nations hunters.

Most people would not make the connection that buying organic fruits and veggies could result in deer being killed. Some Vancouver Island organic growers want this massive slaughter. Some won’t even fence their crop lands and won’t implement other nonlethal controls.

Jack Mar, a farmer and former mayor in Central Saanich, claimed that he can’t afford $2,000 to $3,000 for fencing that would keep deer out permanently as compared to shooting the deer that would be costly and ongoing. Fencing to stop attracting deer to the food should be part of the cost of doing business. Instead some want to kill all the deer for eating some veggies? This is further wildlife mismanagement!

Are farmers threatening everyone with this bloodbath to get government funding? They risk an international boycott of Victoria with this Wild West “bounty” mentality.

Lifeforce hopes to raise public awareness that food should be healthy for people, and be produced without harm to animals. People will buy local if local is humane to wildlife. There are many nonlethal methods.

Our society must find ways to live in harmony with the wildlife who are rapidly losing their natural habitats. As humans continue to encroach upon their homes there must be new approaches to protect wildlife. Organic and other veggie farmers must implement nonlethal solutions and wildlife friendly organics.

I will shop only at guaranteed Deer Friendly Farms! No pesticides and deer blood on my organics! Keep it local! Keep it humane!