Animal auction draws further criticism
By Jeremiah Horrigan
Catskill — To generations of kids and ex-kids, the Catskill Game Farm holds a place in their memories as vivid as their first visit to the Empire State Building or Yankee Stadium or the Statue of Liberty.
This was the place where they first met animals they couldn’t see or touch or feed anywhere else — giraffes and llamas and rhinos and deer. It was, for animals and visitors alike, a sanctuary, a place like no other.
And with the game farm’s scheduled closing on Monday, there’s been more than a few tears shed by the holders of those memories — memories that span the farm’s 73-year history.
But not every memory of the Catskill Game Farm is a warm one these days. The farm’s announced intention to auction off at least half of their 2,000 animals has sparked a protest planned for today by animal activists who foresee an animal “bloodbath” if the mid-October auction proceeds as planned.
The activists have two main concerns: that exotic and essentially docile animals will be auctioned off to private ranches and killed in what are called “canned hunts” and that other, less valuable animals will be sent to slaughter. They’ve publicly urged the farm’s owners to donate all the animals to reputable sanctuaries.
Chris Schulz, who owns the farm with his mother, Kathie, dismissed the allegations yesterday, declaring that the auction will be overseen by a phalanx of federal and state authorities.
“We’re doing nothing illegal and taking every precaution to make sure the animals get a good home,” he said yesterday.
The trouble, a spokeswoman for the coalition said, is that there are very few ways to ensure the animals’ safety.
“There’s a lack of controls, especially when it comes to interstate matters, that can offer any margin of safety,” said Kirsti Gholson of Advocates for Game Farm Animals.
Gholson simply doesn’t believe Schulz’s reassurances, rejecting the family’s statements that it is essentially a conservationist facility.
“Conservationists don’t breed for other facilities. Catskill doesn’t re-introduce species to the wild. They see animals as existing only for human entertainment.”
The Schulz family’s conception of conservation may have been true 73 years ago, but not today, she said.
Schulz countered by noting that all the farm’s felines and exotic equines have already been donated to reputable zoos or private sanctuaries. The antlers on their deer are being cut to make them unattractive to sport hunters. The family will retain “many” of the exotic animals to breed privately, he said.
As to the question of whether animals will be slaughtered, Schulz stopped short of saying that pigs or cows wouldn’t be sold for meat.
“I’ve got water buffalo here. Who’s going to eat that?”
The disdain that the Schulz family shows toward the actvists is clear:
“You gotta understand, a lot of these people have nothing better to do — they’re the same people who eat Big Macs and wear leather shoes.”