A Commentary by Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate in the Canadian
office of Born Free U.S.A.
Posted November 29th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Regarding the deer hunt or cull in Short Hills Provincial
Park in Niagara, I wonder if the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and
Forestry (MNRF) is using the Haudenosaunee to promote “hunting as a wildlife
management tool” because their revenues are in decline from hunter (and
fisher) licenses issued.
Of course such revenue does not come from First Nations, whose treaty rights
override rules applied to everyone else. Thus my theory, in part, is that
it is seen as in the fiscal interest of the MNRF to support the conception
of hunting being necessary, overall.
I have had MNRF officials claim it is necessary to reduce deer numbers and
also claim that it is not – that the hunt is just a hunt.
I think the hunters are using the MNRF to provide the opportunity to have a
private hunting preserve with tame deer available for exercising
treaty-granted “rights” that are all too often stomped on in so many other
areas, including those fundamental to preservation of contributors to
cultural identity, including language and religion.
Indicators of overpopulation, such as starving deer, reduced fawn production
and heavy browse lines, are all missing here. The hunt is assuredly more
disruptive of the Short Hills Park’s ecosystem, than any naturally occurring
species within that ecosystem, including deer.
Vastly more deer are killed by non-First Nation hunters and poachers outside
the park than the relatively small number so easily killed within it.
However, I have some conservation concern as viable woodland in the region
is long gone and I do worry that the survival of some woodland-wetland
species (amphibians and invertebrates particularly) could be compromised by
the degradation of the park that follows the hunting activities.
I’m thinking, here, of such things as the run-off from deep ruts, which are
also breeding grounds for mosquitoes disruptive to the ecosystem dynamics
one would hope a park would preserve.
I believe that there is no such thing as an “inherent” right, so that
invariably the “right” of one person must come at the cost of at least a
part of the right of another (often to a trivial degree, such as my
neighbour’s right to mow his lawn coming at my right to a peaceful and quiet
Saturday morning). Whether “rights” are inherent or not, the only rights
that matter, pragmatically, are those enshrined in legislation that is
First Nations are not alone in wanting to kill animals. Nearly all
societies, cultures, demographics, religions, cults and other identifiable
segments of humanity have reasons to kill, often under the guise of
From kosher and halal slaughter through economic submission to economies to
scale in assembly-line slaughter to bull-fighting in Spain, dog-eating in
Asia, fox hunting in the UK, the Nepalese Gadhimai festival slaughter of
thousands of animals, Latin American cock fighting or east-coast seal
clubbing or Japanese dolphin slaughter to assurances by St. Thomas of
Aquinas that it’s just fine for Christians to make use of animals, “either
by killing them or in any other way whatever” so long as it does not
“dehumanize” the killer.
We love to kill.
One could list countless such examples of culturally sanctioned killing,
with a small but increasing minority questioning it all as we enter an era
of human-caused mass extinctions, but it is the animals who, not able to
vote or voice their defense, are most often victimized by people with what
is to them, solid rationales.
I’ve talked to many people in opposition to the hunt, including a
card-carrying First Nations (but not Haudenosaunee, and obviously feeling in
a position of conflict and a Metis, as well as colleagues who have stood
with the First Nations on various other issues.
It’s a Pandora’s Box that ought never to have been opened and has divided
the community, reduced property values, and led to rancor and disruption and
community polarization, and not just a little fearfulness.
It also bothers me that everyone else can and does find hunting
opportunities throughout the region, while the Haudenosaunee argue that they
are constantly discriminated against, and not allowed access to hunt on
private land that is open to non-First Nations sport hunters. t is an
allegation which, if true, is disquieting, to say the least, as a
manifestation of bigotry.
On the other hand, I’m reluctant to throw that term around casually since
people who stand with First Nations on other issues have been accused, at
least in dog-whistle language, of racism whereas, in fact, it hardly matters
to them what demographic one belongs to; the concerns raised by the local
people protesting the hunt seem quite valid and only directed at the
activity, not who does it.
I’d be infuriated if the deer and other animals I had come to know
individually through the year in areas near me, even visiting my yard, were
then allowed to be slaughtered. I have my own spiritual needs, and that
includes respect for lives of others, even other species!
There is this assumption at work with this hunt that the MNRF and/or
Haudenosaunee know more about deer than anyone. I am not young (indeed,
were I First Nation I’d be an “elder”) and I have had a life-time of
interaction with government wildlife managers and it has been my experience
that while they often have access to very solid research from wildlife
biologists and scientist, both on the government payroll and from academia,
the managers’ decisions often ignore best advice and are driven by various
political expediencies .
The places animals can live safe from humanity’s need to kill are few, and
should be protected.
About Born Free U.S.A. – Born Free USA is a national animal advocacy
nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. . Our mission is to end the suffering of
wild animals in captivity, rescue individual animals in need, protect
wildlife – including highly endangered species – in their natural habitats,
and encourage compassionate conservation globally.
For more information on Born Free U.S.A., click on –