In the unlikeliest of alliances, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), has joined Connecticut prisoners and guards in condemning the "barbaric slaughter” of woodchucks (aka ground hogs) at Connecticut's Robinson Correctional Institution.
Long before the prison was built, woodchucks roamed freely over the 1,700 acre plot of land via an intricate underground tunnel system. They didn't have a care in the world.
Once humans invaded their turf, the beloved woodchucks ate well, thanks to prisoners and guards alike. Humans and woodchucks lived together in peaceful harmony, until April 2007, that is.
It seems that prison bureaucrats came to view woodchucks as a Security Threat Group, claiming that they created about 150 "sizable" holes around the prison complex.
"Their burrows have caused correctional staff to be injured while attempting to respond to emergencies," said Corrections Department spokeswoman Stacy Smith. "Their digging has caused damage to the buildings and electric system." Smith accused the woodchucks of creating "a tripping hazard for staff as they perform their daily duties."
Apparently, prison officials have had about all the tripping they can stand. In April 2007, they hired a hitman to execute the offending woodchucks.
Wildlife Control Services inserted dozens of steel-jawed "kill traps" into woodchuck holes in an attempt to crush the chucks to death as they emerge from their hole, thereby ending the staff tripping epidemic.
The chuck executions are "the talk of the whole facility," one anonymous guard reported. Guards say that the traps are maiming the woodchucks, causing them to suffer for hours before the extermination company retrieves them and clubs them to death.
"The intent is for the animal to die quickly," notes PETA Biologist Stephanie Boyles. "But in reality, they don't." The traps are designed to crush the animal's skull or spinal column, but a quick death occurs only if the chuck enters the trap at a specific angle, according to Boyles. As adult woodchucks are exterminated, their nursing young slowly starve to death in the dens, according to Boyles.
Exterminator Richard Daniotti, Jr., defends the use of the traps, claiming that he has no choice because traps designed to capture the woodchucks alive have too many components that could be removed by prisoners and used as weapons.
Guards say the method of trapping and killing the chucks is inhumane and abusive, creating a greater security threat than any woodchuck ever did.
"I never thought that I'd have a conflict with the department over my feelings about animals, and then I look out my window and see them being beaten to death." said an anonymous guard. "It's emotionally draining for me to try to do my job while this is going on."
According to the guard, who is a PETA member and vocal animal advocate, she was disciplined for refusing to loan her pen to an exterminator, so he could sign in to gain facility access.
Prisoners are also upset by the execution of the woodchucks. Some view the chucks as pets and see their execution as typifying other perceived injustices in prison life, according to a guard. "It's getting the inmates very worked up, which could pose a risk to us,” said the guard. "They see what's happening and they relate to it in a way."
Other guards fear that the woodchuck executions give prisoners something to rally against, which is not a welcome development in prison. That fear seems to be borne out in a letter that a Robinson prisoner wrote to the Journal Inquirer newspaper.
“They are being barbarically slaughtered with giant rat traps that are put into the entrances of their dens, if these traps are not illegal, they should be,” wrote the prisoner. “Eyewitness accounts of smashed heads and still-alive bloody pups, struggling with eyes bulging taking their last breaths, are commonplace. Why can they not be trapped humanely and relocated to another home instead of being slaughtered? This attitude is indicative of the collective mentality of the Department of Corrections.”
Boyles wrote to prison Warden Bruce J. Cuscovitch, demanding that he impose a moratorium on woodchuck executions, but he did not respond. PETA issued a national action alert, urging members to demand the Correction Department to immediately cease the woodchuck executions, according to Boyles. Prison officials refuse to comment.
Source: Journal Inquirer
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