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Racing to the Death

Posted by at 4:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)


Imagine if someone invaded your home, tore you away from your family, drove you hundreds of miles away and then let you go. You don’t know where you are, and you’re desperate to get back home. You’re surrounded by hundreds of strangers, all as confused as you are. You’re scared and hungry and must fight to stay alive through all weather extremes. Some of the others succumb to exhaustion or starvation. Some are killed by hunters or predators. It may sound like a plot twist from The Hunger Games, but it’s real.

This is the fate of birds who are forced to fly for their lives in the abusive and often illegal pastime known as pigeon racing. That the victims of this cruel sport are animals and not humans should not make their suffering any less appalling.

PETA recently completed a 15-month undercover investigation into some of the largest pigeon-racing operations in the U.S. PETA’s investigators documented massive casualties of birds during races and training, rampant “culling” (killing), abusive training and racing methods and illegal interstate gambling.

In many of the races—which can be up to 600 miles long—more than 60 percent of the birds become lost or die along the way. Because these birds were raised in captivity and cannot fend for themselves in the wild, those who don’t make it home will likely starve to death. Pigeon racers even have a name for races that are particularly lethal: “smash races.”

During one race in Queens, for example, only four out of 213 birds ever returned. Out of nearly 2,300 baby birds shipped to the Phoenix area for training for the 2011 American Racing Pigeon Union Convention Race, only 827 survived to race day. Of those, only 487 birds had completed the 325-mile race by nightfall.

Pigeons are among the most maligned urban wildlife, yet they are complex and fascinating birds. Their hearing and vision are both excellent and have been used to save lives in wartime and to help find sailors lost at sea.

A study released in December showed that pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules—something that until recently, we thought only humans and other primates could do. They are also loyal mates and doting parents. Both parents share in the care and nurturing of their hatchlings. Pigeon racers exploit these qualities by separating birds from their mates and babies so that they will race their hearts out, frantic to get home. After the racing season is over, the babies—no longer of any use to the racers—are often killed.

One racer told PETA’s investigators that the “first thing you have to learn” in pigeon racing is “how to kill pigeons.” Another recommended killing these gentle birds by drowning them, pulling their heads off or squeezing their breasts so tightly that they suffocate. Any bird who isn’t considered fast enough or isn’t wanted for breeding is killed.

Like other forms of animal exploitation, pigeon racing is driven by money. PETA penetrated racing organizations in which a quarter of a million dollars is bet on a single race. Pigeon racing generates an estimated $15 million a year in illegal gambling proceeds and involves felony gambling, racketeering and tax evasion. Not surprisingly, the high stakes lead to cheating. Some racers administer performance-enhancing drugs—including steroids and morphine—to their birds. One racer even admitted that he kills hawks—federally protected birds—because they prey upon his pigeons and then disposes of their bodies.

Pigeons are rock doves, a symbol of peace, and they deserve to be left in peace. PETA is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate and prosecute unlawful pigeon-racing operations. The rest of us should shun this cruel sport. Animals should not have to pay with their lives for someone’s sick idea of entertainment.

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16 Comments

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    Patricia Bell says...

    May 18th, 2012, 8:20 pm

    Its just disgusting….Man WILL be the distruction of the earth….

    Don Randall says...

    May 18th, 2012, 8:22 pm

    Large cities don’t provide pigeons with a proper environment. They like to nest on cliffs in mountainous regions with plenty of fresh water and seeds. People think they are dirty birds, but it’s not true. There’s a woman in my neighborhood who provides pigeons with clean water and generic bird food which is vegan. The pigeons will naturally bath and clean themselves, and when fed a half-decent diet they’re relatively healthy, happy and clean. Anybody who abuses or even neglects these lovely birds should be stopped.

    George H. Campbell says...

    May 18th, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Please stop these inhumane pigeon races now! These birds do not have a chance at leading a normal life for pigeons, as God intended, and most will die a miserable death.

    Thank you for your consideration and suupport!

    R Jordan says...

    May 18th, 2012, 10:56 pm

    I cringed when I read about this pigeon racing. I never knew this was taking place. My heart goes out to these lovely birds. Animals were not put on this earth for our entertainment. They are living, breathing creatures that feel pain just as we do. I hope they punish the ones responsible for such”events” and all those who participate and profit in them. The breeders should be punished as well.

    Susan Arceo says...

    May 19th, 2012, 2:42 am

    Horrible! And very sad!

    a.de nise sr. says...

    May 19th, 2012, 4:12 am

    please stop the racing ty

    Monika says...

    May 19th, 2012, 7:42 am

    stop this barbarism !!!

    Tina Herzog says...

    May 19th, 2012, 8:14 am

    Please investigate and prosecute unlawful pigeon-racing operations.
    Thank you.

    Anne Compagnon says...

    May 19th, 2012, 10:43 am

    These fine birds have a mind. A true story:

    Think for a moment that you are part of this true story.

    “You and your son age 7 are walking back from Bible class in the evening. All of the sudden you both hear the tinny cries of a bird.

    You bend down and find this tinny bird that had fallen to the ground.
    We picked the tinny bird and brought the bird home.

    The tinny bird used to fed manually and place back in a confortable shoe box with towel paper. Days went back and the tinny bird grew some of his plumes. It began to be able to stand up in his box. He grew some more and now is a full size Pigeon. WE made sure it was free to fly around the inside of the apartment. One day, the little son started to mouth badly his Mother. Do you know what will happen next?

    No? well, the Pigeon flew directly to the Mother’s son head and started to pick on his head…………’get this bird away Mom’.

    The bird was settle in the family. The Mother used to bike each day in the early evenings to the beach with the bird on her shoulder.

    One day, the bird and while at the beach decided to join another of his kind. The Mother had tears. Early in her life, her own father had saved a big bird that came down by accident while hunting for ducks in a tropical island. The injured bird lived and the Mother, then a child of about 8 asked the Father to keep the bird.

    The Father said to her: ‘you must return to Nature that wich by mistake came into your life, let the bird be free’. This was a lesson never to be forgotten. What is Freedom?

    Is freedom a word that is used by so many people to enslave animals, birds and even humans in this century?

    What shall we do? Are we to politely ask the people from the running races of pigeons to stop and let Mother Nature to stop crying for its many birds lost in trying to come home. Let’s tell these groups to stop
    being so cruel to birds that have more brains than they do…a good brain gives Peace and Freedom…You cant have Justice untill you have Freedom and Peace. Folks write to your government and ask to stop
    the ill behavior of so many groups in having those poor pigeons fly back and even get killed. They have a right to life!!!.

    Anne

    deanna smith says...

    May 19th, 2012, 11:46 am

    please stop

    Pauline Moore says...

    May 19th, 2012, 1:36 pm

    Animals have a hard enough time surviving from humans.

    thomas moore says...

    May 19th, 2012, 1:44 pm

    so many humans just don’t care about animals. Very sad.

    prachi shukla says...

    May 23rd, 2012, 6:50 am

    “Be Human” and pleasee .. STOP this cruel practice.

    Jessica says...

    May 25th, 2012, 10:28 pm

    If you would like to help pigeons and live in the New York City area, please consider joining New York City Pigeon Rescue, an all-volunteer group that helps rescue and rehabilitate injured pigeons and other birds in the metro area. You can join the group here:
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/NYCPRC/
    We are always looking for help!

    chris says...

    June 27th, 2013, 2:24 pm

    here i am caring for this pigeon that i just picked up today litterally off the side of the road. It has a tag on its leg so of course im sure its a racing pigeon. I hope that there is nothing physically wrong with it and that it is just tired and hungry/thirsty. I am giving it food ect.. I just witnessed first hand how bad this “sport” really is. and from what i read in the article i havent even seen the half of it. The people that participate in this sort of thing should all be shot.

    chris says...

    June 27th, 2013, 2:25 pm

    By the way the road was a main road and the pigeon was very very lucky that it did not get run over. It wasnt on the side of the road but litterly in the road right next to the curb.

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