Read the original article by Josephine Peterson and Maddy Lauria at delawareonline.com here.
Some Slaughter Beach residents are not happy with PETA.
The animal advocacy nonprofit sent a press releaseTuesday suggesting Slaughter Beach change its name to a “kinder, positive, and more appropriate ‘Sanctuary Beach.’ ”
The release explained that “Sanctuary Beach” would be a more compassionate alternative to reflect the beach’s status as an official horseshoe crab sanctuary.
Slaughter Beach Vice Mayor Ken Lewis said he and other officials in town are a little bewildered by the request.
“This is mind-blowing,” he said. “We’re a small, quiet little town and now PETA is sending things out in press releases and trying to force the town to do something without even discussing it with anybody,” he said.
Many in the seaside hideaway, though, say the origin of their town name has nothing to do with the maltreatment of animals.
According to the town’s website, there is some debate over the origin of the name, including several legends.
Two legends stem from a former postmaster named John Slaughter. Some say the town was named after him, and some say there was once a creek that ran into the bay called Slaughter Creek in his honor.
Another legend, Lewis said, is that the name came from the annual arrival of horseshoe crabs, which often get flipped over in the surf and die. The town is now a horseshoe crab sanctuary, with plenty of helping hands to flip the ancient-looking creatures over as they breed en masse.
The final tale is that in the 1600s, there was a miscommunication between Dutch settlers and Native Americans, Lewis said.
“That’s the hardest one,” he said. “They decided to show the Native Americans their god, and showed them their cannon.”
“But who knows why it’s really named Slaughter Beach,” he said. “It certainly isn’t named Slaughter Beach because anybody here is into slaughtering animals.”
PETA did not respond to calls for comments Tuesday evening.
The president of PETA, Ingrid E. Newkirk, said in the statement that the name is contrary to the reputation of the family-friendly town.
“Unfortunately, many people don’t look deeply into the origins of words and names, but that doesn’t diminish the negative connotations — especially for impressionable young minds — of a word like “slaughter,” which conjures up images of dead and dying animals,” Newkirk said.
PETA even offered to chip in financially for the cost of new signs, the press release said.
In the town of 233 residents, not everyone was against the idea.
One resident and rental owner of 17 years, Glenn Stieffenhofer, said he hopes this will spark a healthy conversation on the name.
“I have mixed opinions, but it’s good to know that PETA has initiated the conversation and wants to team up and help pay for it,” he said.
Stieffenhofer said the name has definitely helped increase his rental inquiries.
“I think more people are interested in the home because of the name,” he said.
Another resident, Bill McSpadden, who lives full-time in his grandparents’ bayfront cottage, said PETA should have just sent town officials a letter and not issued a press release.
“What are we going to do, start changing everybody’s name?” he asked, noting Broadkill Beach and the Murderkill River. “Does it sound better? Potentially. But I’ve been here all my life and I’m proud to say I’m from Slaughter Beach, and I don’t have a problem with it.”
In a few months, as they do every spring, nature enthusiasts and birders will descend on the town bordered by the bay and the marsh to watch thousands of shorebirds feast on horseshoe crab eggs.
This weekend, the town will also celebrate a rather unpopular frequent flyer — greenheads. The first Running from the Greenheads 5K will raise funds for the Delaware Nature Society and the Slaughter Beach Memorial Fire Company.
Soon the town also will celebrate a new boardwalk on the marsh, which will feature interactive displays and lead to a recently installed osprey nest platform.