There are several issues with the deer killings, beyond just those that concern animal-lovers.
INTERNAL INSTITUTIONAL SILENCING AT VASSAR
Although numerous Vassar College employees and students object to the killings, several do not feel comfortable or safe voicing this opposition. Conversations with Vassar employees—such as those tasked with directly participating in the killings through dispersal of the food used as bait—have revealed that many fear resisting participation in the killings could result in loss of their positions, loss of potential promotions, or other professional repercussions. The college has failed to recognize the position it has placed its own employees in, creating an atmosphere of fear in which employees must decide between compromising their ethics or risking job security. Students are similarly silenced, tasked with speaking up against their own administrators and professors while relying on the college for tuition funds and professors for grades.
In early 2013, after the second killing, Vassar Dean Marianne Begemann revealed that in the months prior she, other Vassar administrators, and involved faculty had setup filters on their email accounts so as to not receive messages pertaining to deer. As over 2,000 people voiced their opposition to the killings, Vassar decision-makers censored out their voices.
IRRESPONSIBLE USE OF COLLEGE FUNDS
The Vassar Farm Oversight Committee has repeatedly recommended killing over non-lethal alternatives and in doing so has also provided cost estimates for the killings. Before the second killing, they estimated the cost of baiting and shooting the deer at approximately $200 per deer killed. They estimated that the cost of the first shooting (of 64 deer in 2010) was $13,000, noting that this price tag did not include "the time of Vassar personnel to maintain bait stations, secure the site, or manage items related to the cull," though this method was still deemed that "likely requir[ing] the lowest input of time for Vassar personnel." They also stated, "In 2009, the Vassar Farm Oversight Committee decided that fencing was not a viable option because it is expensive to erect and maintain." Elsewhere, they estimated that enclosing the entire Farm with fencing would cost $100,000, nowhere providing price estimates for only enclosing the key areas of concern to the college.
By Save Our Deer's estimates, Vassar College has likely spent approximately $150,000 on the killings. This number will only grow should Vassar continue with plans to conduct the killings every year or every other year. This spending is irresponsible and clearly more than even the high-end estimate provided for fencing.
PUBLIC SAFETY (GUNS IN OUR BACKYARDS)
As stated elsewhere on this site, two residential roads are no more than 1,200 feet (approx. 0.23 miles) from any point in the Farm. Bullets have the ability to travel over 13,200 feet (2.5 miles) from the point they are fired, placing surrounding schools, churches, businesses, and thousands of homes in the line of fire. We are in the process of creating a map to show these distances, so please check back soon for a visual of this. We maintain that the use of firearms at the Farm is in direct violation of both City and Town of Poughkeepsie ordinances and this issue remains to be decided in court.
The use of guns to kill deer understandably sends deer running. As the Farm is surrounded by several roads, this increases the likelihood of deer-related car accidents during the time of the shootings.
PUBLIC SAFETY (WHITEWASHING AT THE HUNGRY'S EXPENSE)
State law dictates that the slain deer must be donated. Without mention of State law, Vassar College uses the donations of the deer flesh to improve its public image and increase support for the killings among the charitably-minded. However, these donations not only whitewash the killings, but also place the public at risk. The deer bodies are inspected and butchered by a group of volunteers. These deer have been feeding on pesticide- and herbicide-treated lawns and are shot with bullets potentially containing lead. Both these chemicals and the lead have been known to travel throughout the bodies of deer, making their flesh unfit and unsafe for human consumption. It is unclear if the volunteer butchers are properly trained or if the necessary tests are carried out to determine this. Stories abound of other soup kitchens—and even a zoo!—rejecting deer flesh for these reasons. Consumption of the deer thus poses a risk to the population who rely on our local soup kitchen for sustenance. It is exploitative for Vassar to use these donations to improve PR, especially when Vassar puts those donated to at risk.