February 11, 2013By JESS STRING
Gazette staff writer
Sen. Tony Avella, D-Whitestone, along with animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, spoke out against a competitive squirrel shooting fundraiser in the Village of Holley, Orleans County, that involves children using guns to shoot as many squirrels as they can.
Avella said he is not against hunting or breaking tradition, but the competition cannot be considered hunting since no one uses the squirrels after they are shot.
Sen. Tony Avella, D-Whitestone, along with animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, spoke out against a competitive squirrel shooting fundraiser in the Village of Holley, Orleans County.
"I understand that hunting is a very important part of upstate New York and part of the culture," said Avella. "But this goes way beyond, this is just insane."
The competition, called "Squirrel Slam" is held by the local fire department as a fundraising event. Those who wish to participate in the event sign up for a small fee and are then divided into age categories where individuals will compete against each other. Prizes include cash and a rifle, according to Friends of Animals.
Though the judges of the competition weigh the largest of five squirrels, there is no limit on how many squirrels they can shoot and there is no attempt to clean them up from the area they are competing in, according to information presented at the anti-Squirrel Slam press conference.
Edita Birnkrant, director of the Friends of Animals New York chapter said the competition is inhuman and only encourages kids to practice violence.
"How atrocious that 12-year-old children are indoctrinated to treat animals like inanimate targets and be rewarded with money and firearms for such violent aggressive behavior?" said Birnkrant.
Avella pointed out certain guns normally used and awarded in the event are now illegal under the recently enacted NY SAFE Act.
Some opposing the Squirrel Slam started an online petition intended to raise money and promised to donate to the Holley Fire Department if they put a stop to the event. The petition also offers new alternatives to the competition to raise money in the future.
"What we want to see is that these kinds of killing contests are made illegal in New York State," said Birnkrant.
Though the hunting of small game is legal in New York, Avella said, the law requires the hunter make use of the game in order for it to be considered hunting.
So far, the squirrel shooting event has gained 4,000 participants and is scheduled to take place Feb. 16.
"I hope the [village] recognizes the fact that this is not a proper way to raise money," said Avella. "This is just encouraging children to kill … defenseless animals. I can't tell you how disgusted I am with this."