Squirrel Slam causes nutty controversy
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 09:02
If you had the pleasure of driving through the quiet, charming town of Holley, Saturday, Feb. 16, you would have seen a picket sign reading: “Holley N.Y.: A National Disgrace.”
If you were a native of the area, you were probably shocked at the amount of people protesting the Holley Fire Department’s controversial annual Squirrel Slam and curious how a simple fundraiser turned into a huge protest. Squirrel Slam is a squirrel-shooting competition for adults and child above the age of 12. Whoever bags the heaviest squirrel wins the competition.
If you didn’t have the opportunity to see what was going on, let me paint a picture for you.
In a sea of camouflage jackets and peacoats, residents of Holley and protesters gathered around the Main Street four-way stop with picket signs to hash out their differences over animal rights.
Megaphones blasted from each side as they argued over right and wrong and good and evil. Cops stood closely by, journalists snapped pictures and video cameras were in everyone’s faces as they tried to capture what was really happening in Holley.
Lifted trucks with rims taller than the majority of the crowd rolled through town holding dead squirrels out the window in the air for the crowds to see. Hunter’s with guns and camouflage from head to toe were walking around carrying dead squirrels as if they were carrying around something as simple as their wallet. The air was tense on both sides of the road, as spectators watched shaken or barely able to conceal their laughter.
The hunters involved thought what they were doing was right. For them, it wasn’t just a fundraiser or their idea of a good time, even though both of those are true. It was about the food.
Austen Reid, a student from Monroe Community College, was in attendance at the event even though he did not participate nor was he a resident of Holley or the surrounding area. He heard about the event and wanted to check it out and be a part of it. Reid said all of the squirrels that are hunted are eaten and those that aren’t are donated to the food pantry. An organizer at the event would not give comment and was not able to be reached to confirm.
He said the Squirrel Slam is a different lifestyle for these people. He said what the protesters don’t understand is that this was a huge public relations boost for the fire department. All of the attention the fire department received made their fundraiser sell out.
Derrick Bradley, who was referred to as “Dancing Derrick,”wore a skunk costume, which was meant to be interpreted as a squirrel costume, and proceeded to dance through people with his Nerf gun in support of the event. “Dancing Derrick” previously competed on So You Think You Can Dance.
The protesters found it to be vile the people of Holley would let this go on and let their children be involved, said Edita Birnkrant, the New York Director of Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy group.
“There’s enough gun violence in this country, we don’t need to bring our children into it,” Birnkrant said.
There were also children protesting on both sides, demonstrating the difference in lifestyles and cultures even within New York.
She said this was the most hostile event she ever has ever protested at and that she had covered numerous events. She said she had never been threatened before today. Earlier in the day, one of the hunters was arrested for threatening the protesters lives.
Referring to the hunters who were walking by with their winnings and getting close to the protesters, she said she had never felt like someone would actually throw a bucket of squirrels at her until now.
One protester went on to say this competition was the reason people grow up and kill people.
According to Birnkrant in a press release from Friends of Animals, the group asked Holley officials to cancel the squirrel-killing contest. Even though thousands of people across the country signed petitions, sent email messages and called the fire chief and mayor to object to the event, the event wasn’t cancelled.
The Friends of Animals organization offered to help the Holley Fire Department earn more money than what they would have actually made and they refused, Birnkrant said.
“We didn’t offer them a dollar amount,” Birnkrant said. “But the people across the country that were signing our petitions would have donated money to help the fire department instead of letting the Squirrel Slam go on. One account raised $5,000 but they refused.”
In the end, the Holley Squirrel Slam was an example of the divide between cultures, values and lifestyles. No solution between hunters and protesters was reached and neither group was left with any better understanding of the other.