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Makeup of deer advisory committee worries animal rights advocates

The selection process for the Capital Regional District’s deer management Citizen’s Advisory Group was not transparent, and the makeup of the group seems biased, claim local animal rights advocates.

Members of DeerSafe Victoria are expressing concerns over one of the appointed members of the CAG, Richard Christiansen, who appears to be a representative from the United Bowhunters of British Columbia, a bowhunting lobby group.

“He’s not just a citizen, he’s a representative of a lobby group, and they work for bowhunter recognition and opportunity, so that doesn’t make him a citizen at all,” said Kelly Carson, one of the founding members of DeerSafe.

The group’s main concern is that people are not aware of who is on the advisory committee.

“It’s not very transparent at all,” Carson said, adding she discovered this particular member’s history through a Google search.

Carson, along with 24 other DeerSafe members, feel that Christiansen should be removed from the group because as a representative of the UBBC, he would not be impartial, she said.

The feeling that the citizen’s group may veer towards one side is echoed by Liz White, leader of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, based in Toronto.

White has experience dealing with deer management throughout Canada, including London, Ont., and the Iroquoia Heights, a conservation area in Hamilton, Ont.

Through looking at the names of the selected advisory members, it appears “heavily weighted” toward a pro-lethal approach, White said.

“My worry is that we’re going down the road of a pre-determined decision, without even really looking at the possibilities of alternatives,” White said.

White has filed a Freedom of Information request with the CRD, in hopes of learning about the background of each applicant.

“The reason for the FOI is to try and figure out what that bias is; who actually applied?” White said.

She believes the CRD can resolve the deer issue without culling deer, but she adds, there has to be a desire to move in that direction.

“When it comes to human-wildlife conflict, the approach is to go out and kill the animal,” White said. “It’s a difficult fight, but it’s one that needs to happen, because we need to learn to how to live with wildlife in a way that doesn’t require killing them.”

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