ANN ARBOR, MI — Four dozen peace activists gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Ann Arbor for a memorial rally honoring the lives of 63 deer recently killed by hired sharpshooters in the city's parks and nature areas.What about the lives of cabbages and cockroaches, do they get memorials? Humans don't fare well when eating just dirt and air. The proper way to restore balance is to introduce predators as nature had done. So a proportion of mountain lions and wolves need to be introduced to the city parks; that would reduce the propensity of deer to multiply to the point of starvation. (Or they could be shot, you know).
The mood was somber, and hearts heavy.
"We are doing a public call to peace," said Ann Arbor resident Shunahsii Rose, memorial rally organizer and founder of In Sacred Balance.
"In a universal capacity, we're asking Ann Arbor to return to a path of peace, and this particular day we are offering a memorial to the deer that have been shot as a result of the Ann Arbor deer cull," she said. "People who are here are from many different spiritual traditions and different communities, and I felt like it was important to have an interfaith acknowledgement of the longing for peace in our city."
Peace and Memorial Rally for Ann Arbor Deer Peace and Memorial Rally for Ann Arbor Deer, March 5, 2016
Standing in a circle on the Library Lot next to the downtown library, they offered prayers, sang songs and passed a heart-shaped memento featuring an image of a deer as they shared their thoughts and reflected.
"Let's pray for peace and work for change."
"Deer lives matter, and all lives matter."
"We are all one in spirit."
"When we kill the deer, we kill ourselves."
They strung together and hung 63 prayer flags along Fifth Avenue, each one depicting a set of hoof prints and representing a deer killed. They also left flowers and candles around a deer-shaped topiary, transforming it into a memorial site.
The city's first deer cull ended this past week with city officials reporting 63 deer were killed in 14 city parks and nature areas from January through March 1.
City officials are trying to get a handle on what they consider a deer overpopulation problem and they're already planning another cull next winter. Tentative reports show an increase in deer-involved traffic crashes last year, and a recent aerial survey suggests the deer population is increasing despite the cull.
But those who attended Saturday's memorial rally see the cull as a needless taking of innocent life by humans who consider the deer a nuisance. They expressed hopes that the city can find a non-violent way to peacefully coexist with wildlife.
Memorial rally to honor deer killed in Ann Arbor Memorial rally to honor deer killed in Ann Arbor on March 5, 2016.
"Someday, through our work and the work of peacemakers over the whole world, the boundaries will dissolve, the animals will be cherished," said Ann Arbor resident Paula Uche, speaking during the memorial rally, referencing theologian Albert Schweitzer's teachings about reverence for life.
"And we will have reverence for all life and live that," she said before turning to observe the built environment around the group.
"These concrete buildings someday will pass. There's an eternity of truth, faith and life, and the deer's souls do live on."
Around here a lot of deer meat is donated to the needy. Without natural predators, deer multiply to the point of self-limiting populations through starvation and disease. So citizens are encouraged to take deer.