In May 2020, cantonal police in Basel City approved a request from city gardeners to cull several deer who live at the canton’s Hörnli Cemetery (Friedhof am Hörnli).
Animal rights advocates have challenged the request, saying the deer should be protected.
The cull has been suspended after an appeal was made to the Justice and Security Department of Basel City.
The deer have lived at the cemetery – Switzerland’s largest – since it was built in 1926, although city records indicate that the deer population was “manageable” in the early days.
The population has increased in recent years from 15 to 25.
The cemetery spans 54 hectares with space for 60,000 graves and is situated just metres from the Swiss-German border.
Deer snacking on flowers at Basel's Hörnli Cemetery. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
‘A culinary paradise’
Advocates of the cull plan have said it is necessary for the ‘conservation’ of the cemetery.
They argue the deer destroy gardens at the cemetery, leading to additional costs for maintenance.
The risk of diseases its also increased due to the animal’s close proximity.
In a plan more reminiscent of a spy thriller than a conservation effort, the ‘targeted kill’ is set to take place after dark which “should be done with silencers out of consideration for the peace and quiet of the grave and the adjacent living quarters.”
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that the cemetery is a “culinary paradise” for the deer “with its variety of flowers and other plants”.
‘Killing innocent animals just for eating flowers’
The animal advocates who launched the appeal gathered 18,000 signatures to suspend the effort. Among the supporters is French actress Brigitte Bardot, who wrote to the cantonal authorities demanding that the deer be protected.
Fondation Franz Weber, which has been previously successful with animal protection efforts in the canton, has criticised the cull plan for “killing innocent animals just for eating flowers”.
Private hunting is banned “as a matter of practice” in cemeteries all across Switzerland, said cantonal authorities.
Switzerland is set to go to the polls in a referendum on hunting practices in September of 2020, although this is not related to the decision on the deer in the cemetery.