Pigeon abuse is a multi-million-dollar enterprise


Pigeon racing is a hobby that fosters some $15 million a year in unlawful gambling countrywide and involves the killing of thousands of birds. This and more was discovered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who exposed the cruelty and corruption of this practice after a 15-month undercover investigation.

The animal rights group presented law enforcement organaizations including the FBI with a book's worth of evidence of what its lawyers say are illegalities in the pigeon racing "sport." But the messy details are particularly disturbing:

The races involve trained homing pigeons, who are driven hundreds of miles away from their home environments and released. The bird that flies home the quickest wins. This initially seems innocent enough, but investigators learned that in many races - most of which are 600 plus miles - over 60 percent of the birds get lost or die from harsh weather, predators, hunters, electrical lines, or mere exhaustion.

Furthermore, some activists believe that the deliberate separation of a pigeon from its home and family causes severe emotional trauma; this could also play a factor in some of the birds' deaths while in transit.

Supporting this, said PETA, is the fact that, "Pigeons are complex problem-solvers and have tested even higher than cats, dogs, and primates on intelligence tests. They are loyal mates and doting parents - the mothers and fathers take turns caring for their hatchlings. Pigeon racers exploit these qualities by removing birds from their mates and babies so that they will be frantic and fly home faster. Once the racing season is complete and the babies are no longer needed, they're often killed."

Indeed, the group's undercover probe obtained audial and visual evidence that only 40 percent of pigeons that were raced survived.

In addition to the abuse, pigeon racing organizations - in particular the Bronx Homing Pigeon Club - secretly dish out hundreds of thousands of dollars for winning bets on races. In New York, where that club is located, a horse is the only animal that can be legally raced for gambling purposes.

"The clubs are nothing but unlawful racketeering enterprises," argued PETA lawyer Jeff Kerr.

"There was just constant gambling going on," agreed an investigator, who desired to remain anonymous. "It's pretty flagrant. They're gambling on these animals' lives."

Finally, birds in the race who aren't considered fast or healthy enough, are killed in a variety of ways, each more horrific and sadistic than the next: decapitation, suffocation, neck-breaking, and drowning.

Though this investigation and exposure highlighted a very real threat to these birds, it's not the only ongoing example of severe animal cruelty.

The NRA commonly holds pigeon shoots, which involve trapping thousands of live city pigeons and trucking them back to the town where the event takes place. They are then released from boxes, where people can shoot them - taking these animals' lives as - for the shooters - an amusing form of target practice.

"Each pigeon shoot teaches children that violence and animal cruelty are acceptable practices," remarked Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president for the Humane Society.

It seems that pigeon shoots - as with other questionable gun usage - will remain active in many states for the time being. However, if authorities take the evidence against many pigeon racing outfits seriously, it will send a clear message to organizations like the Bronx Homing Pigeon Club: "Your race is run."

Photo: A pigeon club releases racing pigeons. Jaqian/Wikipedia

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  • pigeons r gr8

    Posted by carl, 04/09/2015 5:19pm (10 months ago)

  • I am a pigeon racer and I have read this same article, which is a reproduction of Peta's original piece, in many different papers. It is riddled with inaccuracies. "Imagine being taken from your family in the middle of the night hundreds of miles with a bunch of other confused strangers and forced to try to find your way home hungry and thirsty". First of all you're not hungry and thirsty; you are well fed and hydrated. Secondly, not only can you fly but you are one of the greatest flyers in the world. Thirdly, you have the innate ability to navigate straight home where you are treated with affection and given the best food, water and security one could hope for. This is the reality of pigeon racing. Each of these articles throws around the number of 60% losses in the races. This does happen but it is the exception not the rule. Generally we lose more like 5% of the birds and almost all of us hate to lose birds, doing everything we can to avoid it. We cancel the race if the whether is going to be bad. Peta also is droning on about the gambling. Just because SOME people bet on the races does not make it cruel to the birds. It seems to me that there are much more worthy causes that peta could be focussing on than the age old hobby of pigeon racing.

    Posted by Torrey Riches, 05/12/2012 4:31pm (4 years ago)

  • Utter nonsense. I've kept pigeons for over 40 years and this article is full of lies and exaggerations. Pigeon racers dote on their birds,sometimes so much that I even I think they go overboard at times. Pigeons love to fly--so be it. This is like saying people who run in marathons are mistreated and traumatized because they leave their families to go out and race,or they dehydrate themselves while running,or they inflict cramps,plantar fascitis,shin splints upon themselves. Oh,the cruelty of the jogging sports! Get a grip,people. If you PETA fanatics spent half your energy eliminating HUMAN suffering the world would be a better place

    Posted by Pigeon lover, 05/04/2012 12:20pm (4 years ago)

  • I think this pigeon situation is overly exaggerated. I raise racing pigeons myself and this article sounds ridiculous to me in every since of both pigeons and all animal competitions. Someone out there must hate pigeons in their neighborhood that much to make such a commotion about this great and loving hobby. About the killing of the baby pigeons when the parents are separated for a race...I have never seen this or maybe this is the first that I've heard of. We use fake eggs for motivation, if eggs do hatch we keep them because these baby pigeons are probably off a couple of pigeons that we really like. Understand to situation first about the health and being of the racing pigeons first before stating false statements to discourage others into participating in this hobby. Living proof....you don't need to research much about this pigeon hobby, check youtube on how people care for these pigeons. You'll be surprised at how much people care about their racing pigeons. You got to raise pigeons yourselves to understand the pigeon hobby.

    Posted by unkown, 05/04/2012 9:13am (4 years ago)

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