Some fire departments raise funds by holding raffles, throwing parties, or simply collecting donations on the street, but the Holley Fire Department in Hazzard County, New York has more brutal ideas in mind. Later this month, firefighters there will be hosting their 8th annual "Squirrel Slam" -- a little-known fundraiser that's as sickening as it sounds.
For $10 a ticket, the fire department invites participants as young as 12 years old to grab their guns and indiscriminately shoot at squirrels for the chance to win firearms and cash prizes up to $200. Each resident is limited to blasting just six squirrels a day by law, so winners in the one day hunt are chosen by the total weight of the animals they bag.
A special $50 prize is reserved for the most successful hunter under the age of 15.
Although the small village is home to just 1,800 residents, more than 1000 tickets were sold for last year's hunt which easily killed hundreds of squirrels (though official records aren't made public). This year is expected to be no different.
Not surprisingly, the "Squirrel Slam" has its fair share of critics, including the journal Psychology Today which describes the event as "pure barbarism," particularly the encouragement for young children to join in the hunt.
Friends of Animals' New York director Edita Birnkrant echoes that concern, worrying that the celebration of the animal killings can desensitise kids to the horrors of gun violence.
"Our experiences protesting the event last year showed a sickening, gun-worshiping culture of adults, teenagers and children who celebrated the violence of mass animal killing -- cheering on the hunters as they waved fistfuls of dead squirrels in our faces and in the air, even plastered them on their cars, before they entered the fire house to weigh the corpses and win cash and gun prizes."
This year, around 100 protesters are expected to be on hand to call attention to the "Squirrel Slam" -- to which one Holley resident, identified only as Richard, offered this simple retort to the Hendrickson Post:
"This is our area. Leave us alone."