Are Our Dietary Habits the Real Inconvenient Truth?

This is the 18th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Until this point, we’ve been discussing what’s in the Community Climate Action Plan that shouldn’t be, namely, the deer killing plan.

Is there anything that the task force should have considered that they didn’t?

On June 23, 2015, the Energy and Climate Protection Task Force presented a draft version of the Community Climate Action Plan to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and asked for their feedback. Mayor Lydia Lavelle suggested an initiative to encourage eating less meat and more foods that don’t emit greenhouse gasses.

The Mayor is wise. According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation combined. And according to a 2009 report by the Worldwatch Institute, livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

At that same meeting, Alderman Sammy Slade expressed the desire to align the climate action plan with social justice issues. We wonder if he knows that perhaps the most pressing social justice issue of our time is the fact that “82% of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals that are then killed and eaten by more well off individuals in developed countries like the US, UK, and in Europe.

The Task Force ultimately gave lip service to the Mayor’s suggestions in Community Integration Recommendation #1: Create Grass Roots Partnerships to Engage Community. Within that recommendation, under the heading Implementation Opportunities, we find: “Many local and other groups are involved in environmental outreach and/or climate action. These include but are not limited to…Meatless Monday Communities…Carrboro can adapt and use programs with proven track records for community engagement.

According to the Triangle Meatless Monday web site, “Meatless Monday is an international non-profit initiative established to encourage healthier and more sustainable eating, one step at a time.

“Triangle Meatless Monday (TMM) is our local version of the initiative, inviting everyone to try meat-free dishes each Monday. To make it easier and more fun, we have invited Triangle area restaurants to participate by offering at least one vegan dish.”

Durham’s County Commissioners officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Monday” at their monthly board meeting on Monday, June 13th, 2011.

The Town of Chapel Hill passed a lamer version of the resolution by proclaiming September 2011 as “Meatless Monday” month.

And there, the “proven track record” of the Triangle “Meatless Mondays Communities” ends.

In his book, Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work (Langdon Street Press, 2013), Dr. Richard Oppenlander writes that 45% of the Earth’s landmass is now devoted to livestock, including land used for grazing and land on which plants used to feed livestock are grown.

For centuries, Earth’s forests have been cut down primarily to create more land for grazing cattle. Worldwide, 91 percent of all rainforest land deforested since 1970 is now used for grazing livestock, much of it for export from poorer nations to richer ones.

There is more than enough food to feed the world’s population today, and even enough to feed the nine billion people projected to be alive in 2050. But because half of the world’s grain is fed to livestock rather than directly to humans, many millions of people face starvation or food insecurity at the same time that resources are being depleted at an alarmingly unsustainable pace. At current rates of animal food consumption, we would need two Earths to feed everyone expected to be alive in 2030. As Oppenlander writes, we have the ability to feed everyone, now and in the future, but only if we change the types of foods we consume. As long as humans consume animals and their secretions, the problem is unsolvable.

Unfortunately, in current political and public policy debates, resistance to seriously examining the unsustainable impacts of animal agriculture is deeply entrenched. Oppenlander suggests that this may be because the meat-eating leaders of corporations, governments, and the environmental movement refuse to believe evidence that would require them to question their own dietary habits.

Eating locally grown plant food brings many health and environmental advantages. However, Oppenlander cautions, contrary to myth, even a 100% locally sourced diet that includes typical amounts of animal products uses more fossil fuel than a plant-based diet of foods trucked 1,500 miles. The reason is that transportation from farmer to retailer accounts for only 4 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in the entire food production process.

The Task Force’s recommended goal is “a 50% reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.” Perhaps they don’t realize that we could reach that goal almost overnight by eliminating animal flesh and secretions from our diets. A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover.

Can Naturalized Landscaping and Deer Coexist?

This is the 17th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 17: “Encourage naturalized landscaping instead of manicured lawns. These types of landscapes offer critical wildlife habitat, cause a decline in the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, more effectively capture stormwater runoff, and reduce the heat island effect.” [page 47]

Encouraging naturalized landscaping instead of manicured lawns is an excellent suggestion. Many of the plants that cause the most complaints regarding deer damage, including tulips, hostas, and azaleas, are not native to the southeastern United States and should be avoided in naturalized landscaping. There are other plants, including American holly and southern magnolia, that are both native to our area and tend to be avoided by deer. There’s a helpful list here.

As for the native species that deer love, plant them behind tall fences so that they can thrive. Ditto with your vegetable garden.


Tell the Carrboro Board of Aldermen: Remove the deer-killing program from the Carrboro Community Climate Action Plan

Sign the petition now.

We respectfully ask that the Carrboro Board of Aldermen remove Ecosystem Recommendation #2, the deer-killing program, from the Community Climate Action Plan.

The Carrboro Energy and Climate Protection Task Force released its Community Climate Action Plan on November 4, 2015, which was presented to the Board of Aldermen on November 10, 2015.  Among their many recommendations, the Task Force presented “Ecosystem Recommendation #2: Pursue Deer Herd Management…through culling.”

“Excess deer” (whatever that means) are not the primary cause of decreasing plant diversity and spreading of exotic species.According to a review in the journal Science, “For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration.” In other words, humans are the primary cause of a decrease in plant diversity and the spreading of exotic species.

The Task Force has failed to prove that Carrboro is an area with deer overpopulation, or that such overpopulation is the cause of the spread of exotic species. Deer and other large wild animals rarely exceed their biological carrying capacity. If there is not enough food available to support the population, the weaker individuals will die and the does will absorb some embryos and fewer fawns will be born in the spring. Further, humans, not deer, are making the purchasing and planting decisions that are the major reason for the spread of invasive species.

Wildlife management is code for recreational hunting. According to In Defense of Animals, “Wildlife management, population control and wildlife conservation are euphemisms for killing–hunting, trapping and fishing for fun. A percentage of the wild animal population is specifically mandated to be killed. Hunters want us to believe that killing animals equals population control equals conservation, when in fact hunting causes overpopulation of deer, the hunters’ preferred victim species, destroys animal families, and leads to ecological disruption as well as skewed population dynamics.”

Deer killing does not reduce deer population. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Deer kills do not keep deer numbers down. Deer are highly prolific, and their high reproductive rate can quickly compensate for declines in their population. When deer numbers are reduced after killing programs, the remaining female deer will often respond to greater food abundance by giving birth to twins or triplets. Fawns also have higher survival rates and earlier onset of sexual maturity. The end result is a quick ‘bounce-back’ in numbers.”

The deer-killing program in neighboring Chapel Hill has failed to reduce the deer population there, even after 60 deer were killed over 5 years. In fact, it’s likely that there are now more deer in Chapel Hill.

Deer hunting is cruel. According to In Defense of Animals, “Bow hunting is, next to trapping, the cruelest way of killing animals. A report summarizing 24 studies of bow hunting demonstrated that there is little chance that deer die instantly when struck, but more typically bow hunters take an average of 14 shots (!) to kill an animal, and there is a 54% wounding and crippling rate. For every deer killed and dragged out of the woods, another one is wounded and runs off only to die hours, days or even weeks later, all the while in pain, defenseless against further attacks by natural predators.”

Carrboro has rejected two other deer-killing proposals as unsafe and unsuitable for a densely populated urban area. According to the organization Safe Backyards, “While it is true that accidents with bows and arrows are less common than other forms of hunting, they do happen… Most go unreported, as people remove errant arrows from their yards, homes, garages, etc., without notifying the authorities. There are also deliberate killings with bows and arrows. It’s the prosecutions of these crimes that are rare.”

The NC Wildlife Commission has no interest in reducing deer populations in Carrboro or anywhere else. Their mission is to “provide programs and opportunities that allow hunters, anglers, boaters; other outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy wildlife-associated recreation.” In other words, they exist to provide humans the opportunity to kill for fun.

Submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season abdicates control to the state. The recommendation “that the Town consider submitting a letter of intent to participate in the Urban Archery Season program of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission” is particularly troublesome, as this “letter of intent” ruse was exactly how the neighboring town of Chapel Hill was duped into implementing a deer killing program without the express consent of the Council, and before the public had a chance to address the issue.

Killing deer does not improve the health of the herd. “Improved health” when applied to free-living animals is hunter-speak for improved fertility. It creates more animals, not fewer, which is exactly the opposite of the stated goal of the task force.

Killing deer does not decrease deer-vehicle collisions. According to Erie Insurance Company, the number of deer-vehicle collisions actually rises “nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season.” And according to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year.”

For more information and references, please visit Friends of North Carolina Wildlife.

Bow hunters make up only 1.4% of the population of the United States (94% of all hunters are white, and 84% of bow hunters are men). We suspect that the number in Carrboro is even lower. Carrboro is a town that values peace, justice, and non-violence. We ask that the Board of Aldermen consider these values and remove this violent, unjust recommendation from the Community Climate Action Plan.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.

Sign the petition now.

How Can We Know Where We’re Going, If We Don’t Know Where We Are?

This is the 16th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 16: “Evaluation Criteria • Number of deer culled and reduction of deer per square mile. • Improved health of deer population. • Reduction in number of deer-vehicle collisions. • Return of forest understory (increase in native flora, decrease in exotic species, and increase in plant and animal biodiversity). Reduced loss of crops, gardens, and planted ornamentals.” [page 44]

What is the current number of deer per square mile in Carrboro? Nobody knows? Then how is it possible to evaluate a program based on reduction of deer per square mile, if we don’t know the number we’re starting with, and we don’t have any plans to determine the number we end up with? The only number that might be known at the end of this program is the number of deer killed, and that number means nothing in terms of the goals of the Energy and Climate Protection Task Force.

What is the current health of the deer population, and how was that measured? How will the future health of the deer population be measured? As we’ve already established, deer population health is hunter-speak for deer fertility, the opposite of the stated goals of the task force.

What is the current annual number of deer-vehicle collisions? What was the number of deer-vehicle collisions in Chapel Hill in 2010? What was the number of deer-vehicle collisions in Chapel Hill in 2015? Wouldn’t a better metric for an Energy and Climate Protection Task Force be reduction of vehicles per square mile? As we’ve already established, deer killing does not decrease deer-vehicle collisions.

What if there is no return of forest understory, increase in biodiversity, or decrease in exotic species in five years? Will it have been worth it to kill 60 deer in five years, as Chapel Hill has done, with no benefit to the forest to show for it? As we’ve already established, deer killing does not keep deer numbers down. If, by some miracle, Carrboro was able to eradicate the entire deer population, year after year, what if the forest understory and biodiversity are adversely affected, as many studies have shown? Will the genocide experiment have been worth it?

Are there nonviolent ways to protect crops, gardens, and planted ornamentals in Carrboro? Of course there are, and thoughtful, compassionate people have successfully used those methods all over town.

In the end, a deer killing program in Carrboro will be a failure, just as the deer killing program in Chapel Hill has been a failure, because deer killing programs do not reduce the deer population.

When is Urban Archery Season in North Carolina?

This is the 15th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 15: “Urban archery season is in the fall. A decision could be made as to whether to look into for the fall of 2016 or 2017.” [page 43]

Um, no. Urban Archery season is in the winter. The 2016 season runs from January 9 through February 13. Obviously, the Task Force has not researched this issue very well.

At the November 1, 2011 Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, one of the out-of-town bow-hunters who showed up lamented that the Urban Archery season was in the winter, when the leaves were off the trees, and “deer aren’t stupid.” They avoid the hunters when they can. The regular season is much better, in the fall, when you can hide in the leaves and tell the bucks from the does and kill more bucks, which leaves more does to produce more fawns. Oh, also, in the regular season, you can use firearms, which are much more effective (deadly).

So, in the end, the Urban Archery program is just a training ground for more urban people to buy more archery equipment, and eventually, more guns.

Should Carrboro Taxpayers Fund a Marketing Campaign for Hunters?

This is the 14th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 14: “A well-conceived and well-implemented public outreach and education campaign will require Board and staff approval and effort. This campaign is needed to get public buy-in, ensuring that citizens understand the purpose of, and need for, managing the deer population.” [page 43]

So the hunters want the taxpayers to run a marketing campaign for them. At some level, they must realize that the majority of citizens will be against bow hunting and deer killing within town limits, and that it will require a “well-conceived and well-implemented” taxpayer-funded marketing campaign to persuade them otherwise.

We believe that the residents of Carrboro are intelligent enough and compassionate enough to see this recommendation for what it is.

Carrboro has, in recent years, spent taxpayer dollars on a branding and marketing campaign that produced the slogan, “It’s Carrboro. Feel free.” It seems that Carrboro is now on the brink of spending more taxpayer dollars to undo all that effort to market the town as cool, hip, diverse, progressive, inclusive, compassionate, and inviting. Perhaps the new town slogan will be. “It’s Carrboro. Feel free to kill some of our gentlest residents.”

Does Deer Killing Have a Positive Impact on Other Wildlife Species?

This is the 13th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 13: “Culling deer herds is an emotional issue, despite clear science that shows deer herd management results in a healthier deer population, produces a more intact forest ecosystem, and has a positive impact on other wildlife species.” [page 43]

People who advocate for violence, whether it is violence against humans, as in war or the death penalty, or violence against non-human animals, as in hunting, typically present their position as scientific, while dismissing people who advocate for peace, justice, and non-violence as “emotional.”

As we have already established, the Task Force has presented no scientific evidence that deer killing results in a healthier deer population or produces a more intact forest system.

But what of this new assertion that has been slipped in to the recommendation? Does deer killing have a positive impact on other wildlife species?

Again, the Task Force provides no scientific evidence that killing deer has a positive impact on other wildlife species, nor does it even specify what these other species are.

But neither does it give us any examples where violent human interference has ever had a positive impact on species diversity.

According to an article by Peter Muller in Animals in Print, “The activity of human hunting is not and never has been a sustainable, mutually beneficial, predator, prey relationship. Human hunting techniques, even the most primitive ones, are far too efficient to meet the conditions required of a natural predator-prey relationship. In modern times, with new technology, the efficiency becomes totally lopsided so as to cause instant habitat degeneration. Add to this the conscious mismanagement of habitat to further degrade and obviate all natural corrective measures.

“Using techniques such as sex-ratio distortion, habitat manipulation, the removal of natural predators and the introduction of exotic game species destroys biodiversity. The goal is to maximize the number of targets for human hunting, thereby destroying the naturally evolved ecosystems and putting them at the brink of total collapse.

“The number of animals of game species (native and exotic) is maximized at the expense of all others. The naturally evolved mechanisms that insure biodiversity are short-circuited.

“The only way that these ecosystems can recover is to prohibit human hunting and all other forms of non-sustainable consumptive uses of these animals. We should allow for the unfettered reintroduction and re-immigration of predators (which is occurring naturally). Stop ‘managing’ the environment of those areas. When it comes to managing the environment, our knowledge is inadequate to do an even passable job. Even given an ethically sound motivation, which the state agencies now lack, we simply don’t know enough to do a better job than nature.

“Rather than playing God, we’re acting more like the three stooges, when it comes to managing ecosystems. For the sake of life on earth, we must not allow the hunting and gun-manufacturing lobbies to continue to dictate wildlife management policies.”


Are Deer Contraceptives Expensive?

This is the 12th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 12: “Contraceptives are expensive ($600-800/doe) and only work when the deer population is isolated and does not have an opportunity to migrate in or out of a given area. Sterilization is expensive ($800-1,000/doe) and is currently not legal in North Carolina.” [page 43]

We’re not sure how the Task Force came up with this estimate, but it throws into question the validity of their other estimates.

The current state-of-the-art birth control for deer is immuno-contraception using PZP (porcine zona pellucida), a protein that occurs naturally in pig ovaries. The Humane Society of the United States and others are conducting research to develop a synthetic form of PZP. In 2006, the cost of PZP vaccine was between $10 and $25 per dose “and is constantly being reduced as production becomes more efficient.”

The real cost, of course, is in the labor involved in administering the contraceptives, which is typically done via dart. If the hunters in this community really cared about the environment and the health of the deer, they would volunteer to administer the immuno-contraceptive darts.

However, because the task force has provided no scientific evidence that the deer are overpopulated, that their numbers need to be reduced, or that it is even possible to reduce their numbers, given that Carrboro is not an island, Carrboro should wait until those facts are established before implementing any population control methods.

We couldn’t find any references for deer sterilization being illegal in North Carolina; however, we do know that Bald Head Island received permission from the state for a deer sterilization program. As mentioned previously, Carrboro is not an island, and there is no evidence that a deer sterilization program would work in Carrboro.

Does Deer Killing Decrease Deer/Vehicle Collisions?

This is the 11th in our series analyzing Carrboro’s Energy and Climate Protection Task Force’s Recommended Deer Cull.

Assertion 11: “A reduced/better managed deer population would…Decrease the incidence of deer/vehicle collisions…” [page 43]

According to Erie Insurance Company, the number of deer-vehicle collisions actually rises “nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season.”

And according to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year.

Finally, as we’ve already established, deer killing programs do not reduce deer population, so there is no logical way that they could reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

So what does help in reducing deer-vehicle collisions? The Humane Society of the United States has some excellent advice.