For the past couple years there’s been on ongoing controversy over attempts by Princeton Township (New Jersey) to reduce the size of the deer herd. Princeton has brought in sharpshooters in the past, endured failed lawsuits trying to stop it from carrying out the deer cull, and generally been the focus of the ongoing debate about dealing with deer in urban and suburban areas.
The whole episode took another interesting turn in January when one of the opponents of the Princeton hunting plans switched sides, much to the consternation of animal rights activists who complained they had been betrayed.
A group called Hunters Advocate had opposed the plan to kill the deer with sharpshooters and captive-bolt guns. Led by Robert Kubiak, Hunters Advocate had worked along side animal rights groups such as the League of Animal Protection Voters to oppose the sharpshooters.
But in January, Kubiak’s attorney Falk Engel presented a plan to the Princeton Township board to replace the sharpshooters and captive-bolt guns with a program of coordinated bow hunting. Princeton Township largely rejected Kubiak’s proposal — it will continue to seek sharpshooters and captive-bolt gun methods — but it did modify its plan to address complaints from hunters who felt the previous plan unfairly denied them the ability to hunt game.
Under the revised plan, Princeton Township agreed not to cull deer on any private lands that are under contract with hunting clubs. The revised plan also agreed to work with hunters to investigate opening up some public lands for private hunters during the 2003-2004 hunting season.
Stuart Chaifetz of the League of Animal Protection Voters was outraged at Kubiak’s sudden about-face. In an e-mail posted to an animal rights e-mail list, Chaifetz cited comments by Kubiak in support of bow hunting and wrote,
What we have here is a textbook case of how compromise, working with the enemy and an unwillingness to take a hard stand for the animals leads to the bloody destruction of those animals. It is a shameful thing that should never have been allowed to happen. Any of you who attended the “celebration” fund raisers at Princeton, which may have funded this man, should demand your money back.
In the last few years there has been a rush to the “center” in the fight for wiild [sic] animals. By this I mean taking a non-offensive stance (because we just can’t afford to offend anyone) and compromise on issues (because we just can’t be seen as being radical animal rights activists).
. . .
This is a cautionary tale: Move closer to the enemy, join with the enemy, and sleep with the enemy, and when you wake up you will find that you have become the enemy.
Similarly, Angi Metler of the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance told The Princeton Packet,
We are appalled and will not be party to any collaboration between hunters and attorneys calling for anyone to kill deer in Princeton or anywhere else.
The activists were likely even further appalled when the state Fish and Game Council approved the revised plan in a 7-2 vote — it had previously rejected other plans put forward by the Township. Of course by that time, Kubiak had once again switched sides and was voicing his opposition to the deer cull saying there was no justification for continuing the program.
Stay tuned for the exciting next episode in the Princeton Township deer cull saga. This is likely to be a stewing issue for years.
Animal-rights advocates slam bow-hunting proposal. David Campbell, The Princeton Packet, January 31, 2003.
Princeton deer betrayed by lawyer. Stuart Chaifetz, e-mail, January 29, 2003.
Princeton Township stands firm on deer-plan removal. David Campbell, The Princeton Packet, January 28, 2003.
Animal-rights group fights deer plan on the airwaves. Gwen Runkle, The Princeton Packet, February 11, 2003.
Game council drops opposition to Princeton deer control plan. Newsday, February 16, 2003.