On Monday, in blistering cold, protesters stood out in front of town hall in East Hampton with signs announcing that they are not eating for three days and were asking the town board to reverse a decision to expand the areas for deer hunting within the town.
Members of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife (EHGW), who organized the protest, held the hunger strike on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Protestors propped up signs on easels and strung posters around their necks reading, “Stop the Killing” and “Hunger Strike for Wildlife.”
They have abstained from eating food, and have been drinking just water since 7 p.m. on Sunday. The fast will end today, Thursday morning.
“The town board has a poor record with respect to wildlife,”Â president of the EHGW Bill Crain said on Monday.
“Because the defenseless animals cannot speak on their behalf, it’s up to people to call attention to their plight,”Â he continued. He also said that he believes the bulk of hunters do not hunt because they need food, but as sport.
The protest on Monday had about 10 participants, and shortly after the group convened in front of town hall, local hunters came and offered their own —Â contrary —Â opinions.
“I enjoy eating what I shoot and I enjoy being out in the woods,”Â said 72-year-old Springs resident and local hunter Hugh Miles.
“Nothing goes to waste when I kill a deer, I eat the meat and my children eat the meat,”Â the hunter and father of three girls said on Monday.
That day marked the beginning of the special shotgun season for deer hunting in East Hampton, the season goes until January 30. During this time, hunters are allowed to shoot in the approved areas using shotguns during weekdays.
The EHGW is a non-profit organization that explores alternative solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.
Last January, the town agreed to install reflectors along Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton. According to Crain, the reflectors have reduced the number of deer hit along that road. The idea was created by EHGW members, and funded solely by the organization. The group would like to see more reflectors put up and see the town possibly engage in a contraception program for deer to reduce the population.
Â “It has been proven by the State of New York and Pennsylvania that the reflectors don’t work,” countered Miles, “so why waste the money?”
Crain maintains they work.
The total expanded town hunting areas total some 62 acres in Wainscott, East Hampton and Springs. The majority of the expanded shotgun hunting area is in Wainscott.
Crain said his intention is to get the town to reduce the area.
“I personally wish we would get rid of all hunting,” said Crain, “But we are asking the board to reverse the decision.”
“That would be a good step,”Â he said.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill McGintee said he does not have any plans to reverse the decision to expand the hunting area which was made in August.
“We review the hunting areas every two years and I don’t think there has been a big increase in the amount of hunters,” the supervisor said. “The expansion of land doesn’t encourage more hunting.”
Further, McGintee said that there should be a fair sharing of open space.
“There are those people that hike and those that mountain bike and those people that hunt. Everyone has a different reason for utilizing the trails and no group should be excluded,”Â he said.
If the hunger strike proves unsuccessful, Crain said he will be planning a different way to raise awareness. On Wednesday Crain delivered a letter to the supervisor asking for four specific goals including the examination of contraception and roadside reflectors as well as asking the town to set a goal of eliminating the hunting of all wildlife on 50 percent of town nature preserves and to reverse the decision made on August 5 that expanded the hunting areas.
McGintee said that he respects Bill Crain and his wife Ellen and adds they are “sincere in what they do.” But, he said, “They are under the assumption that by expanding the area it will increase the number of hunters and that doesn’t prove true.”
Crain said he wishes the community could learn to “live in harmony with the deer and all wildlife.”
“Our group is not disapproved to the expansion of hunting, but there is already too much hunting going on. This puts pets, hikers and residents in danger,” he said, and believes this is “practically shooting in the suburbs.”