MONTREAL — French activist and former actress Brigitte Bardot is condemning a Montreal suburb's controversial plan to kill most of the deer living in a local park.
Bardot published a letter on her foundation's website Tuesday asking Longueuil, Que., Mayor Catherine Fournier to stop what Bardot described as the "planned crossbow slaughter" in Michel-Chartrand park.
"If the death penalty is pronounced for these poor animals, teams of hunters armed with their terrible crossbows will invade a usually peaceful place, popular with families and tourists, and sow death in the heart of your city," the letter read.
Officials in Longueuil have been trying to cull the expanding white-tailed deer population for years but have faced strong backlash, including protests and threats. A challenge by animal rights groups is making its way through the court system.
The city said this summer there are nearly 10 times as many deer as the park can comfortably support. Officials warned that the deer are contributing to road accidents, are increasing the risk of Lyme disease in residents because the animals carry ticks, and are travelling to nearby areas to seek food.
The cull was supposed to take place this fall but was halted after a judge agreed to hear an appeal by animal rights groups.
Bardot, a film legend and the star of “And God Created Woman,” ended her acting career more than four decades ago. She has dedicated herself to the cause of animal welfare and has been a vocal opponent of Canada's seal hunt.
In her letter to the mayor, she was particularly critical of Longueuil's chosen method of culling the animals. "Crossbow hunting is a cruel practice and totally prohibited in France and in many countries because of its dangerousness and does not guarantee that the animal will be killed instantly."
She urged the city to find a more ethical and durable solution to the overpopulation problem.
A report commissioned by the City of Longueuil in 2021 concluded that the park's natural areas were "so degraded they could no longer regenerate'' due to factors including emerald ash borer infestations, invasive plant species, visitors not respecting park rules and the large number of deer stripping vegetation.
It considered relocation or sterilization or birth control for the deer, but the city concluded the only viable short-term solution was to slaughter all but about 10 to 15 animals.
A Quebec Superior Court judge refused the animal rights groups' request to suspend the hunt until the case can be heard on its merits. But the city was forced to wait because the province's appeals court agreed to review that decision.
The groups are hoping the courts will approve an alternative plan to sterilize and relocate the animals.
The case returns to court Nov. 25.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press