By Joshua M. Rinaldi , Freeman staff
CATSKILL – The Catskill Game Farm, a combination zoo and hands-on animal farm, is scheduled to close for good Monday evening, but one organization wants to make sure the last weekend isn’t all quiet and peaceful.
A group calling itself Advocates for Game Farm Animals plans a protest outside the Catskill Game Farm Saturday morning because it has concerns about the sale of the zoo’s animals. Jim Van Alstine, chairman of the group, said it was formed in response to the announcement in early August that the game farm was closing.
Several organizations, including the Ulster County Legislature’s Environmental Committee, have expressed concern for the nearly 1,000 animals to be auctioned. The groups are worried the animals will end up in “canned hunt” operations or in other disreputable places.
“My great fear is that this is about to turn into a blood bath,” Van Alstine said. “I am getting nervous. I’m afraid on behalf of the animals.”
Van Alstine expects dozens of protesters along Game Farm Road off state Route 32 starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We won’t be blocking traffic or interfering with traffic, so it will be safe and legal,” Van Alstine said. He added the organization didn’t want to give the Catskill Game Farm any legal recourse to shut the protest down.
The group decided to go ahead with Saturday’s protest as part of its public outreach, Van Alstine said. He said the group had been trying to arrange a meeting with Kathie Schulz, the owner of the Catskill Game Farm, to discuss some of their concerns.
Claiming no response, members of the organization distributed leaflets on Game Farm Road on Labor Day. Van Alstine said the group agreed to drop the display in exchange for a conversation with Schulz, but he said he didn’t get the answers he wanted.
“I got a little bit of information and a whole lot of unanswered questions,” he said.
Calls to Schulz were not returned Wednesday, but she previously has said the animals would not end up with canned hunt groups. She said animals of interest to canned hunts wouldn’t be available at the auction, but some critics dispute that.
After the protest Saturday, the organization will not disband, Van Alstine said. He said its main goal after the auction will be to attempt to follow and monitor where the animals end up, but he admits that will be difficult.