On May 1, 2018 Ingrid E. Newkirk, President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to Mayor Harry Ward of Slaughter Beach, DE requesting that the town change its name. The worldwide organization suggested that the town consider changing its name from Slaughter Beach to Sanctuary Beach.
“Not only is this a more compassionate alternative to slaughter, it would also reflect the beach’s status as an official horseshoe crab sanctuary,” said Newkirk in the letter to Mayor Ward. “Whether the town is named after a stream, the slaughter of natives, or the tides that leave many horseshoe crabs stranded and vulnerable to the hot sun and predators, the term “slaughter” is defined as killing animals for food or killing people or animals in cruel and violent ways.”
Mayor Ward has decided not to respond directly to PETA, “as their presumptuous, disrespectful and totally self serving request isn’t worth giving PETA more press.” Mayor Ward also stated that “To assume that some international organization, that is miles away from us with very little knowledge of our town, it’s history and our culture & background would presume to know what is best for us is ludicrous.”
As to whether this will be considered by the Slaughter Beach Town Council, Mayor Ward stated that PETA’s request will not. “Should property owners or residents of our community wish to bring up this topic for consideration, we would absolutely consider it, but only if those directly impacted were to desire it,” he said. “Certainly not being considered from some outside entity with an axe to grind and eagerly seeking some positive press after years of bad press from digging their own grave.”
Slaughter Beach was founded in 1681 and incorporated in 1931. How Slaughter Beach got its name has been debated over the years. Early maps show a small creek named Slaughter Creek, which flowed through the marsh from the Cedar Creek south and emptied into the Delaware Bay just north of Prime Hook Beach. Just to the southwest of the town is an area called “Slaughter Neck”. Neck was a term used to describe upland areas between two key boundary areas. Another theory is the first postmaster for this locality had the last name of Slaughter.
The naming of Slaughter Beach has two more colorful stories. In the spring and early summer horseshoe crabs come ashore to spawn. Wave action flips the crabs over where they are left to die in the hot sun, thus the “Slaughter of the Crabs.” The most colorful story has to be of Indians attacking early settlers in the area. Upon hearing the news, the leader of the settlers arranged a meeting on the beach with the Indian Chief so the settlers God could speak to the Indians and make peace. The leader had the Indians gather around their God, a cannon, and fired the cannon killing all the Indians – thus the “Slaughter of the Indians.”
Like the naming of Slaughter Beach, the town has gone through many changes. Slaughter Beach in the early years was primarily a resort for Milford area residents during the summer months. In its hey-day, Slaughter Beach had a dance hall, hotels and a boardwalk. With the advance of the automobile and road systems, more and more people started traveling to the Rehoboth area and Slaughter Beach turned into a seasonal fishing village. Present day Slaughter Beach has a full time population of 198 people with a much higher summertime population. Slaughter Beach also has become much more of a year-round community.
Many people are aware of efforts to preserve wildlife in Slaughter Beach, from protecting natural habitats where migratory birds nest, saving horseshoe crabs and turtles who spawn on the beaches and creating areas designed to attract monarch butterflies who travel through the beach town. However, what many people may not realize is that Slaughter Beach became the third town in Delaware to be named a Certified Wildlife Community in May 2015. This Spring, bids will go out for the construction of a boardwalk in the Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve with construction planned to begin in the Fall. The project is a partnership between Slaughter Beach Town Council and the Delaware Nature Society (DNS). The Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve exists on land donated by the Marvel family of Milford. The area is used by DNS as well as other educational organizations to teach children about marsh, wetlands and ecology. For more information on Slaughter Beach’s conservation efforts, individuals can visit https://milfordlive.com/2018/04/10/slaughter-beach-designated-as-wildlife-habitat/.
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