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Animal rights activists and hunters unite against Long Island deer cull

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It was a rare joint effort between animal rights activists and hunters as they stood side by side during a Saturday protest in Long Island’s East Hampton. Both groups were against a plan to kill as many as 3,000 deer on the East End of Long Island during a 40-day span that is scheduled to begin in February.

The rally included more than 200 people from both camps and took place on Newton Lane. Their efforts are to stop the $200,000 state-funded project to cull the deer population before it starts by using federal sharpshooters.

"For the first time you're able to see animal activists and hunters get together on something that they both believe in," said Michael Tessitore of East Quogue, founder of Hunters for Deer, who was at the rally along with a contingent of camouflage-clad fellow hunters. "At the end of the day the best solution is to recognize that hunting should be the major management tool for the deer population on Long Island."

Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) complained that there was no impact statement published about the long term benefit of having sharpshooters come in and kill the deer.

The “crimes” that an estimated 30,000 deer in Suffolk County alone are being penalized for are for causing car accidents, crop damage, and a correlation with increased tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease.

"The deer are going to suffer terribly by this cull, if it goes through," said John Di Leonardo, president of LION. The group marched single file from a meeting point on Main Street to a park on Newtown Lane, waving signs and eliciting honks from passersby. "It's not just going to be sharpshooting, which is terrible within itself . . . but also netting. To net a frightened deer -- they flop around like a fish out of water. It's absolutely disgusting."

Local animal rights activists have already filed a legal challenge to block the cull. Di Leonardo made a comment that it was only a matter of time for lawsuits to start cropping up.

Most activists are exceptionally upset by the fact that the Long Island Farm Bureau – the group organizing the cull – was given the funds for the slaughter by the state without making a decision using a voter referendum. Some activists are even speaking up for the use of contraception methods to curb the deer population.

"We've done everything we can to stop this cull. It's going to be a terrible slaughter of the deer," said Bill Crain of Montauk, president of East Hampton Group for Wildlife. Crain said his group has been lobbying East Hampton town officials for deer contraception programs since 2004. "The deer are sentient beings with family and emotions."

TAKE ACTION: Click here to sign a petition to stop the Long Island Farm Bureau from slaughtering thousands of deer.

(Amanda Carlucci has her finger on the pulse of the green movement. Stay up to date on the latest in green activism. You CAN make a difference. Be a part of the movement, and click here to subscribe.)