Deer Killed in De-antlering Ceremony
October 4, 1999
There are many contributing factors that lead to the death of one of the caged deer at the antler cutting ceremony on Kashima island in Hojo on October 4, 1999. This tragedy must make us rethink whether cutting their antlers is truly necessary. If such practices are to continue, I believe that some new rules or guidelines must be designed so that such an occurrence isnít repeated.
The incident, as I saw it, happened like this. A portion of the caged deer were cordoned off so that the males could be isolated and tranquilized. Unfortunately two males panicked and repeatedly injured themselves trying to escape. Because of their elevated adrenaline, the tranquilizer had little effect. To the surprise of the workers the two males did manage to escape from the cage by jumping over the fence.
Some time later, someone discovered one of the escaped males. He had previously been tranquilized. He was caught, wrestled to the ground and de-antlered. He was then released but not returned to the cage. This deer first stumbled up the mountainside and soon after, wandered into the sea out of confusion and thirst (tranquilizers often make animals very thirsty). The crowd that gathered must have caused him to panic because he swam away from the shore. Deer are very strong swimmers but since the deer was heavily drugged, he drowned after a short time. I find it sad and ironic that the procedure of cutting off his antlers which aimed to make his life better, ultimately caused his death.
I do not believe that this procedure is necessary for these animals. It is natural for male deer to fight in the Fall as it ensures that only the healthiest deer reproduce. The animals do sometimes injure each other during these fights but more often the weaker animal runs off with only itís pride hurt. Problems arise if there are too many deer confined to a very small area because this leaves the weaker animals with no place to retreat. I think that if the population of the animals in the cage was reduced, cutting their antlers would be unnecessary.
In other parts of the world, antler cutting is only performed on wild animals that pose a threat to humans. In Banff, Canada for example they have a problem with very aggressive elk that wander into areas populated by humans and sometimes attack people who venture too close. The cutting of the antlers in this situation saves the animals lives because once an animal begins to harm humans it is almost always destroyed.
Having observed the incident in Kashima, I am lead to believe that the island management puts their financial interests before the animalsí well being. We must make sure that if the antler cutting is to continue, that it is with the animalsí best interest in mind. This should not be promoted as an event or a festival. This year the large numbers of people both inside and outside the cage caused unnecessary panic among the animals. The only people that should be present are those who are required to perform the task. I was shocked to see some of the spectators laughing when the deer were panicking and injuring themselves. The spectators reacted as though the deer were enjoying themselves and performing for them.
I also noticed that when herded for the cutting, the deer caused each other more bodily damage than usual. To get the other deer to move out of their way, the males speared many of the antlerless deer. Unfortunately, having no place to move to, the antlerless deer were injured when they normally wouldnít have been. Perhaps the management could build a shoot similar to the ones used for marking cattle. This might make the procedure safer for both the deer and the workers.
Needless to say this event upset me, but I was further disturbed with the TV news coverage of the event. The footage I saw on television, from four different stations, presented a cheerful event where everyone had a good time. No mention of the deerís death was made. It makes it very difficult to solve problems if the media fails to accurately report such incidents. The local newspaper was the only media to report the death.
I would prefer that no animals be caged, and that these beautiful animals be allowed to live free and natural lives. If animals are to be caged, then more thought should be given to animal rights. I believe that the de-antlering is unnecessary, but if it is going to continue in Kashima, stricter guidelines for the procedure must created and adhered to.
Kashima has also had problems with landslides recently because of the clearing of a large amount of the forest. The clearing of the trees has made life difficult for the wild shika on the island and it has increased the danger of landslides. This is a photo of a large landslide that happened this summer.
Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments about this web site.