February 7, 2003

Alumni Arrested At Crow Shooting

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After protesting a crow-shooting contest in Auburn, N.Y., animal rights activists Milo Polte ’03, Brian Pease ’00, Tim Slate ’02 and Laura Carver were arrested on misdemeanor charges of trespassing and interfering with the legal taking of wildlife last Saturday. Released on $100 bail each, they are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 22.

The protesters played a recording of a crow “danger call” on a boom box as they drove around the property where the hunters were shooting. The recording of a crow supposedly warns other crows to leave the area.

“They were absolutely in the process of harassing hunters,” said New York State Sergeant Kent Middleton.

However, the protesters see the incident in a different light.

“We did what we could to scare the crows away and prevent [the hunters] from shooting them,” Pease said.

According to Pease, the protesters did not realize they were on private property and left shortly after being told they were trespassing.

“The owner of the land asked us to leave [and] after a five-minute discussion, we did,” Polte added.

New York State police officers later stopped the activists at a roadblock and arrested them, according to Polte.

The protesters will contest the charges.

“If people are out there shooting wildlife, we should be out there protecting wildlife. It’s a legitimate purpose to save the animals from being massacred,” Pease said.

Polte is currently the webmaster for the Cornell Coalition for Animal Defense, while Pease and Slate are both former presidents of the organization.

The Auburn crow shoot has been an annual event for three years, although this is the first time it has been publicized by the organizers. This year, more than 35 teams participated and shot 348 crows over the course of the weekend, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Between 25,000 and 50,000 crows roost near Auburn. Participants in the competition contend that the crows are a public nuisance.

“You don’t live in this town. You don’t know the problem with the crows,” said organizer and Auburn bar owner Lance Gummerson. “Our downtown is disgraced. The crows need to go.”

However, the crow shoot may not even have a significant impact on the crow population, according to Prof. Charles Smith, natural resources.

“It’s a misguided and uninformed attempt at using lethal control,” he said. “[The hunters] are treating symptoms, not causes. If they really want to get rid of the birds, they need to understand why they are there.”

Opponents to the contest argue that the event promotes cruel and senseless killing.

“It’s the blatant taking of life for one morning’s entertainment,” Polte said.

On Sunday, 30 other opponents to the crow shooting also protested against the contest in front of the Auburn City Hall. Since hunting is banned within city limits, some dissenters placed birdseed at crow roosts around town to keep birds out of the woods.

Despite the demonstration and boycott of his bar by protesters, Gummerson said the events over the weekend did not hurt his business.

“My business is better than it’s ever been,” he said.

The New York State Police again arrested Pease for interfering with the legal taking of wildlife on Sunday. This incident is not the first time Pease has been arrested for his involvement in animal rights protests. Last year, Pease was charged with commercial burglary, third-degree battery, criminal mischief, resisting arrest and fleeing arrest after participating in a protest against Stephens, Inc. in Conway, Ark. He was acquitted of all charges except criminal mischief, fleeing and resisting arrest.

Although originally scheduled to serve 45 days in jail, his term was reduced to 30 days after an unusual incident.

According to Pease, he fasted for his first several days behind bars, since the jail refused to serve him a vegan diet. Rather than change their meal plan, they made him a trustee, which allowed him access to the kitchen. As he helped an elderly female guard deliver food to the other prisoners, one of the prisoners violently attacked the guard. Pease pulled the other prisoner off and subdued him.

“She thinks she would have died if I hadn’t been there,” Pease recounted.

Pease has also participated in a number of other animal rights protests while at Cornell.

Archived article by Shannon Brescher