pbDueling protests mark western NY squirrel hunt/b/p
pAssociated Press/p
pHOLLEY, N.Y. – A weekend squirrel hunting contest to raise funds for a western New York volunteer fire company drew about 30 animal rights protesters and a heavy police presence following heated criticism of the once obscure event./p
pOrganizers of the “Hazzard County Squirrel Slam” say they sold 900 tickets at $10 each for hunters as young as 12 to vie for cash prizes for bagging the largest squirrel and the heaviest group of up to five. They said that’s the most ever sold since the annual event began seven years ago. The fundraiser in the Orleans County village of Holley included raffles for five rifles and shotguns./p
pLocal media in the Rochester area reported that some threats included in the thousands of emails critics sent to village and state officials urging them to call off the hunt prompted police to bring in extra officers from surrounding communities to monitor what turned out to be a peaceful, and sometimes colorful, protest on Saturday./p
pOutside the weigh-in station, one demonstrator carried a sign reading “Teach Kindness, Not Killing” as a hunter walked by with dead squirrels hanging from his camouflage jacket pockets./p
pOther hunters showed off their kills to the protesters./p
pEdita Birnkrant, director of New York Friends of Animals and an organizer of the protest campaign, said she was disturbed by an event that encourages youngsters “to pick up a gun and kill defenseless animals for prizes.”/p
pShe and other protesters chanting “Shame on Holley, New York” faced about 150 supporters of the hunt, some responding with a chant, “Squirrels taste good!”/p
pPolice charged one man with harassment after he shouted at Birnkrant, first inviting her home for a squirrel dinner and then saying “someone would be shooting you” if police weren’t standing by./p
pHolley Fire Department officials couldn’t be reached Monday for information about how many squirrels were killed./p
pAusten Reid, 19, who watched the protest with a fellow Rochester Institute of Technology student, told the Batavia Daily News he “just wanted to see this. We’re hunters, but we couldn’t get tickets.”/p
pHe said he hadn’t heard about the hunt before the national attention generated by the critics./p
p”It’s their right to protest and it’s our right to hunt,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. They get around on subways and we drive pickup trucks. It’s all the same.”/p
p-Copyright 2013 Associated Press/p