Deer Killing at Vassar: A Complex Issue

While it would absolutely thrill me to attend a liberal arts college that reflects the ethics of veganism, I’m fairly confident that no such institution exists (yet). Vassar certainly boasts a bounty of redeeming qualities that obviously attract me quite powerfully, but, unsurprisingly, an unquestioned devotion to animal rights does not rank among them. For example, many of Vassar’s course offerings within the sciences include animal testing, Slow Food Vassar often ventures to local dairy farms to extol the “virtues” of raw milk, the MLLC students recently built a chicken coop in their backyard, and now the college intends to engage in a mass deer hunt during winter break.

Since I only just learned of the complexities concerning deer populations in relationship to the local ecosystem here in Poughkeepsie, I sought further insight in two of my heros of the animal rights/vegan movement: Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House. My email to Jasmin summarizes the situation as well as my current perspective on it:

Hello, Jasmin!

My name is Alessandra Seiter–a passionante vegan and animal-rights activist of two years, blogger at Farmers Market Vegan, avid Our Hen House supporter, and freshman at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Recently, I received an email from the Vassar Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources on behalf of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve concerning the supposed deer overpopulation at the farm. The email stressed “protecting and preserving the biological diversity of the land” and “maintaining ecological balance” as integral in the administration’s decision to “cull” (of course they have to put it nicely) the deer population this winter break. Worse, they further promote the “virtuosity” of their plans by assuring us that the deer meat will be donated to local food pantries, thus contributing all the unhealthful effects of eating animals to impoverished and most likely already malnourished people.

My fellow Vassarian, vegetarian, and animal rights proponent, however, asserted his and most other scientist’s view of the necessity of this deer killing. The email sums up this opinion:

“Ours is just one of numerous locales threatened by this complicated problem, which largely results from the loss of natural predators in areas that were once less developed. Extensive research shows that deer overpopulation severely affects forest ecosystems throughout our region and well beyond. For example, our research shows that the deer overabundance at the VFEP is reducing forest regeneration and plant diversity. This undermines the growth and survival of native herb, shrub, and tree species causing changes in the composition of forests. Changes like these lead to a variety of harmful, cascading effects on native insects, birds, and mammals — including deer — that may be irreversible if left unaddressed.”

I don’t know enough about this issue or the science behind it to offer a legitimate rebuttle against the deer culling, but I remain confident that there is, indeed, a better solution than killing the deer (because veganism is always right!). I would greatly appreciate any insight you and Mariann might have concerning this complex issue.

Thanks and keep up the fantastic work.

If you have any further knowledge regarding deer “population control” (goodness, I hate to refer to the killing of innocent animals as such), I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, Ali.

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