Ethics and Animal Welfare

If SIERP is approved:

Sidney Island owners will be acting unethically and contrary to the basic tenets of modern animal welfare.

1. Modern animal welfare ethics require that the least harm be used in animal management.

2. Scientific research has proven that deer are sentient, conscious beings who feel pain, suffering and stress. Eradication methods proposed by Parks Canada will cause deer to suffer all three as well as death and the unnecessary eradication of the black tail deer.

3. As sentient beings, fallow deer have a moral claim which should be considered by Sidney Islanders. A human desire to achieve a certain level of biodiversity should and can be balanced with animal interests.

4. UBC ‘s scientific research indicates how plant restoration is occurring slowly on Sidney Island in the continuing presence of deer. UBC’s monitoring of plant diversity has not been done recently because of Covid. Up to date research is needed.

5. There is no accurate information on the number of deer (fallow or black tail) on Sidney Island. Attempts to come up with the carrying capacity of deer on Sidney Island (the number of deer that Sidney Island can support without environmental degradation) is purely speculative.

6. The designation of fallow deer as “invasive” is not an ethical basis for eradication. That term is described as pejorative by animal welfare experts. Instead, modern animal management practices consider the damage being done by particular animals. Humans introduced fallow deer in the early 1900’s and they have become naturalized on Sidney Island. In the early 2000’s, a hyper-abundance of deer severely harmed the biodiversity of Sidney Island. The number of deer has since been dramatically reduced and today, restoration, with islanders’ assistance, is now occurring.

7. There is a lack of accurate and current information on the carrying capacity for fallow deer on our island and on the speed of restoration that has been occurring. This prevents a balanced ethical assessment of whether eradication rather than management of the deer is justifiable given the impact on the welfare of the deer. Absent this information, ethics would require the deer to have the benefit of the doubt.

If SIERP is not approved:

An ongoing, well managed hunting operation can keep the fallow deer population at a level that ensures biodiversity of both animals and plants.

— Robin Bassett and Lisa Cowan