Niagara Gazette —
HOLLEY — Flying a bit under the radar this year, the seventh annual Squirrel Slam drew its share of protesters — and hundreds of local participants.
After last year's highly publicized protest of the event by the New York chapter of Friends of Animals, participation in the event more than quadrupled from roughly 200 tickets sold to 950.
This year, Fran Gaylord, president of the Holley Fire Department, for which the event is a fundraiser, said about 650 $10 tickets were sold.
"We realized last year we had too many people, but we still sold out this year with no advertising," he said.
Participants in the Slam brought dead squirrels to the Holley Fire Department headquarters where they were weighed and prizes were doled out. There was also a raffle.
Before the event, a statement issued by Friends of Animals called the contest a "bloodbath" that is "disguised as a fundraiser."
During Saturday's protest, Edita Birnkrant said, "Our experiences protesting the event last year showed a sickening, gun-worshipping culture of adults, teenagers and children who celebrated the violence of mass animal killing."
For a few hours Birnkrant was joined by about 10 to 12 protesters holding signs advocating nonviolent fundraisers and speaking out in defense of squirrels as part of wildlife. Double that amount of people were across the street holding signs in support of the fundraiser, while on another corner a handful of people took the opportunity to picket in opposition to the SAFE Act.
Birnkrant said her group opposes all hunting, not just such contests as the Squirrel Slam.
"We're opposed to fishing derbies, too…but it would still be a huge improvement to stop these," she said.
Gaylord, of the Holley Fire Department, said the fundraiser brings in about $4,000 annually, with the money helping to help offset equipment costs. In response to the protesters, Gaylord said the participants in the Squirrel Slam were not doing anything illegal, nor were they partaking in a promotion of violence.