Ad for squirrel shoot.

What you go and do
You go and give the boy a gun
Now there ain’t place to run to
Ain’t no place to run to
When he hold it in his hand
He feel mighty he feel strong
Now there ain’t no place to run to
Ain’t no place to run

– Tracey Chapman [1]

This February the Holley Fire Department of Hazzard County, New York, is holding its annual “Squirrel Slam” fundraiser. It marks its seventh year. An advertisement invites teams of two to “spend a day in the woods and then enjoy the party” – that is, killing squirrels. The first prize of $200 goes to the team that brings in the greatest number of dead squirrels. Additional prizes are awarded such as $50 to the 14-year-old-and-under participant who brings in the heaviest dead squirrel.

Aside from the pure barbarism of the overall event, this last bit of information heightens the horror, particularly in light of the recent Newtown massacre of school children. Children are awarded and offered money to use guns and kill. [2] However, the New York firefighters are not alone.

Many states promote killing and violence in children with such events as the “Mentored Youth Hunter Program”. For example, the website of the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Department (the people and agency responsible for safeguarding wildlife wellbeing) states [3]:

The time shared between a youngster and a mentor is invaluable. There simply is no better way to introduce a young person to. . .hunting than with the close supervision of an adult mentor. . .The Program allows youth 9 through 13 years of age to hunt without first passing an approved hunter education program. It gives unlicensed youngsters the opportunity to receive mentored, one-on-one field experience and training on the. . .enjoyment of hunting.” [3]

Here are a few statistics that illustrate the consequences when children are encouraged to harm and kill [4,5]:

• Children’s acts of animal abuse are some of the strongest and earliest diagnostic indicators of conduct disorder, often beginning as young as 6-1/2 years of age

• 70% of animal abusers had criminal records including crimes of violence, property, drugs, or disorderly behavior.

• 50% of schoolyard shooters have histories of animal cruelty

• 35% of search warrants executed for animal abuse or dog fighting investigations resulted in seizures of narcotics or guns. 82% of offenders arrested for animal abuse violations had prior arrests for battery, weapons or drug charges: 23% had subsequent arrests for felony offenses

• 70% of people charged with cruelty to animals were known by police for other violent behavior – including homicide

• 61.5% of animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault; 17% had committed sexual abuse. All sexual homicide offenders reported having been cruel to animals.

• 63% of aggressive criminals had deliberately inflicted harm on animals in childhood

• 48% of rapists and 30% of child molesters committed animal abuse in child- hood or adolescence. Sexual assault, domestic violence and firearms offenses featured prominently in cruelty offenders. criminal histories.” [5]

All of this should come as no surprise. It is common knowledge, even common sense among teachers, health practitioners, law enforcement, the legal professions, and social services that teaching violence begets violence.

One day he may come back
Repay us for what we’ve done
Then where you gonna run to
Where you gonna run. . .

And if he finds himself to be
A reflection of us all
Bang bang bang
He’ll shoot us down

Squirrel on shoulder of friend

This widespread understanding and escalating crisis have brought a consensus that intervention is crucial. One sterling example, the Animals & Society Institute, has created a program, AniCare, which in the words of the International Association of Chiefs of Police provides “an effective means of breaking the cycle of family violence from one generation to the next.” [5, 6]

Our society is long past its saturation point for violence. Firefighters of all people appreciate life – human and nonhuman. Their job is saving lives, not taking lives. Let them know by using one of the many petitions asking that the event be cancelled forever. [7]

Instead of a cycle of violence, let’s promote a cycle of love and compassion for our animal kin.

Literature Cited

[1] Chapman, T. 1992. Bang Bang Bang. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from

[2] Inhabitots. 2013. Fire department to host “squirrel slam” killing spree as “fun” family event. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from

 [3]Oregon Fish & Wildlife Department. 2013. Mentored Youth Hunt. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from

[4] Animal Protection of New Mexico. 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from

[5] Animal Protection of New Mexico. 2013.The link between violence towards animals and violence towards people. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from Retrieved January 27, 2013

[6] Animals & Society Institute. 2013. AniCare. Retrieved January 27, 2013 from

[7] 2013. Petitioning John J Kenney, Jr. Mayor John W. Kenney, Jr: Please Stop the Hazzard County Squirrel Slam, January 27, 2013 from

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