Cold-Blooded Killers – Routine Cruelty in Pigeon Racing Exposed
“You have to kill some, obviously.”
– Rod Adams, North of England Homing Union, 3 August 2012
PETA US recently went undercover to reveal the truth about the world of UK pigeon racing. The findings were shocking: hundreds of thousands of birds die each year during gruelling cross-channel races, while the sport has an endemic lack of regulation and is rife with illegal wagers and unlicensed associations.
Another aspect of this dark story makes it still clearer that racers (also known as “fanciers”) have little to no regard for the pigeons’ welfare – the killing of birds at the end of the racing season to make room for new birds in the loft or to save money on feed over the winter is widespread.
“I’m quite ruthless with pigeons – I mean, they’ve got to perform; same in the stock loft – they’ve got to perform, they get a couple years – the different hens and different cocks … and if they’re not producing, they’re out. I do not suffer bad pigeons.”
– PETA US undercover audio recording of a champion UK pigeon racer, 2 August 2012
Pigeons would naturally live approximately 20 years, but in pigeon racing, only a small percentage will make it to age 4 if they are not put in the breeding loft. “Unsuccessful” birds – those who survived the races but who did not earn enough money to be wanted on the race team the following year – are often killed by drowning, gassing or decapitation. Most birds, however, are killed by having their necks broken (called “cervical dislocation”) – a method that has been condemned by top avian vets.
“Cervical dislocation does not result in immediate unconsciousness, and studies have shown that, in fact, it can persist for well over a minute. The killing of pigeons in this way by untrained, hobbyist racers undoubtedly causes the birds tremendous pain and suffering.”
– Dr Yvan Beck, President, Planète-Vie, 6 December 2012
Fanciers can be ruthless when selecting which birds to kill at the end of a racing season, only keeping the bare minimum number of the very fastest birds necessary to maintain a winning loft.
“I think the biggest secret in pigeon racing is being ruthless. You’ve got to show something as a young bird to make it into the widowhood team and as old birds if they don’t show anything by the time we reach the coast, I don’t waste my money sending them across the water.”
– Roy Reid, Spellow Flying Club, North Liverpool Federation