PETA: Slaughter Beach should change name to ‘Sanctuary Beach’

Hundreds of migrating birds take flight during an event at the DuPont Nature Center at Mispillion Harbor Reserve near Slaughter Beach. Delaware State News file/Marc Clery

SLAUGHTER BEACH — PETA, the animal rights organization, in a letter mailed to the mayor Tuesday asked Slaughter Beach to consider changing its name to Sanctuary Beach.

A follow-up press release from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the group thought the town’s name ought to be changed to something “kinder, positive and more appropriate” as to not evoke imagery of “dead and dying animals.”

Slaughter Beach Mayor Harry Ward said he was bewildered by the letter.

“I find them to be presumptuous, disrespectful and self-serving,” he said. “That an organization many miles away, with so little knowledge of our town, history and culture, would presume to know what’s best for us is incredible to me.”

PETA is based in Norfolk, Virginia.

Mayor Ward noted that the town has not solicited any sort of recommendations for name changes and the letter came “out of the blue.”

“It seems to me they just rolled out a map and were looking for names they didn’t like,” said Mayor Ward.

Although the content of the letter perplexed Mayor Ward, it was PETA’s apparent desire to create a public spectacle that he found offensive.

“It’s one thing to have someone write us a letter to make a suggestion, but it seemed rather self-serving to send out a press release and public announcement at the same time,” he said.

In her letter, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk acknowledged Slaughter Beach’s commitment to conservation and volunteered to pay for the cost of “new signage” if the name was changed. (The letter appears in its entirety in the Opinions section and on Page 4 of the Wednesday, May 2 Delaware State News.)

“This town’s grim name sounds at odds with its status as a certified wildlife habitat community, whereas ‘Sanctuary Beach’ feels really positive,” Ms. Newkirk said in a statement. “PETA is encouraging Slaughter Beach to embrace a new name that celebrates saving lives rather than taking them.”

Mayor Ward said the Slaughter Beach community is one that’s doggedly committed to environmentalism, wildlife preservation and general conservation.

“Ninety-eight percent of our town is a wildlife conservation area,” he said. “We’re a horseshoe crab sanctuary. In my opinion, we’re one of the most environmentally conscious towns in the country, let alone in the state.”

Further suggesting the tone-deafness of the request, Mayor Ward pointed out that the true origin of the beach community’s name is unknown.

“As far as we know, the established origin for the name is still a bit of a mystery,” he said. “There’s a story that ties it to a slaughter of Native Americans that took place nearby hundreds of years ago. Another story connects it to the slaughter of horseshoe crabs on the beach — often in a year with high winds and waves, they flip as they come ashore and have a hard time righting themselves.

“But honestly, the most plausible story is that it was in named in honor of the original postmaster, whose last name was Slaughter. Lots of roads and small towns in this area were named for the prominent people that lived here. It’s been named Slaughter Beach for as long as anyone can remember. It was founded in the 1640s and incorporated as a municipality in the 1900s.”

The small town is home to about 240 full-time residents with a sizable part-time vacationer presence, Mayor Ward said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Ward said that he hadn’t responded to PETA yet because he needed to “calm down.” Nevertheless, he says he’ll submit the suggestion to the town council at its next meeting on May 14 as he would with any sort of correspondence.

“I can’t speak for all the residents here. I know there are people in the town who have opinions on both sides about our name — so I’ll bring this to our town council,” he said. “If you ask me though, PETA needs to stay in their lane.”

Greenhead 5K

On a less controversial note, the town of Slaughter Beach recently announced the first annual “Running from the Greenheads” 5K Run/Walk this Sunday. The run/walk will benefit the Slaughter Beach Memorial Fire Company and Delaware Nature Society.

The event is a collaboration between the town, the nature society, the fire company, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).

“The name of the race recognizes the annual arrival in Slaughter Beach of the infamous greenhead flies,” Mayor Ward said. “We hope the funny name conveys that this is going to be a fun event. In actuality, the flies won’t be here in May when the race is held.”

According to a news release, partnering with DNREC’s Delaware Bayshore Initiative through the Division of Fish & Wildlife and DelDOT’s Scenic Byways Program, the community is working to make Slaughter Beach a haven for visitors along the Bayshore Byway, providing access to beaches for fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, nature photography, and scenic vistas.

In addition, Slaughter Beach has become a Bayshore destination for outdoor and environmental education that benefit students, families, and adults through programming offered by the society’s Abbott’s Mill Nature Center and DNREC’s DuPont Nature Center.

The 5K course is an out-and-back route that takes participants through the town. Event day registration starts at 8 a.m. at the Slaugher Beach Memorial Fire Company, 359 Bay Ave. Activities kick off with the Healthy Kids Run beginning at 8:50 a.m., with the 5K starting at 9 a.m.

Participants are asked to enter the town from the south via Slaughter Beach Road on the day of the event. Detours will be marked. Rock and soul group, The Reunion, will kick off the after-the-race festivities. Post-race activities will include corn hole, horseshoes, a bounce house and video games.

Registration costs $25 per person. To register and get more information, visit

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