Pigeon Racing: Exposing the Cruel Truth and Inhumane Practices


Over the past decade or so, investigations have revealed the cruel behavior that occurs in pigeon racing.

Footage and eyewitness accounts have shown that pigeon racing is not a sport; rather, it is animal cruelty.

These poor birds are often kept in terrible conditions and are forced to race primarily for the entertainment of humans (and for money).

Of course, pigeons aren’t the only animals that are used for sport, but they are the focus of this particular expose.

Some people have claimed that certain racing pigeons have been treated well and that their living environments were more than adequate, but this isn’t always the case.

One pigeon trainer said he believes the birds are “happy to race.” But, of course, this is an example of anthropomorphism, and we can’t truly know the birds’ feelings and emotions.

This same trainer asserts that the pigeons “enjoy pampered lives,” while also admitting that the birds do not “volunteer” to race.

Source: PETA/YouTube

PETA has been encouraging people to speak out about pigeon racing for more than a decade. This includes an investigation that lasted two months that saw pigeons “forced to fly up to 900 miles” as part of cross-channel pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. According to this investigation, thousands of birds were presumed to have died as a result of this “grueling and hazardous” race. Unfortunately, per PETA’s video footage, those pigeons who survived may have been killed due to not being “valuable enough” for racing or breeding. After PETA investigated large U.S.-based pigeon operations, three racing organizers were charged with violating “felony gambling laws” in Oklahoma. During the 15-month investigation, which was released in 2012 and spanned five states, investigators discovered unwanted pigeons being killed and abused, and they also “documented massive casualties” of pigeons during training and racing. According to the investigators, for races that could be up to 600 miles long, upwards of 60 percent of pigeons would get lost or die due to electrical lines, exhaustion, extreme weather, hunters, or predators. The most fatal of races are called “smash races.” The most common hazard for these pigeons is predators — namely, birds of prey, which have been illegally killed by some pigeon fanciers who wanted to avoid the larger birds killing their “valuable pigeons.” Another common hazard is when pigeons fly directly into objects they’re unable to see properly (or at all), due to difficult flying and/or weather conditions. These birds may return to their homes with missing feathers or with wounds.

Source: PETA/YouTube

Investigations on pigeon racing have been ongoing and, earlier this year, the Taiwan Bird Rescue Association (TBRA) called for more action against pigeon racing. In June, authorities “arrested members of a group” that supposedly “kidnapped racing pigeons for ransom.” While pigeons can live up to 15 years and racing pigeons may be as old as 10, the racing scene in Taiwan may use birds in grueling races who are less than a year old. The Taichung City’s Animal Protection Office released a photo showing 34 caged racing pigeons — who’d been abandoned — whose legs and wings had been clipped. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to do much about pigeon racing in Taiwan, as racing organizations are “wary of outsiders” and their “pens are scattered” across the country. With the help of Shaunak, an animal rescuer based in India who was featured in last year’s documentary “All That Breathes,” the TBRA released a petition about pigeon racing in Taiwan. The petition claims that the pigeon racing industry has been “plagued by animal cruelty and organized crime,” calling for a “thorough investigation” to determine the “full extent” of the crime and cruelty. The petition also seeks accountability and “legal consequences” regarding the people involved in the aforementioned “criminal activities.”

Source: PETA/YouTube

As physically taxing as it is for these birds to fly in races, it can be equally distressing for them before race release. For example, they could be crammed in cages with up to 20 other pigeons, who are then transported with many others for up to a week. Also, because these pigeons might be released alongside other birds, they could all “exchange viruses and infections” on their return journeys. In addition, the ones who survive may bring back avian flu, which is dangerous for animals and humans alike. Pigeons who supposedly aren’t “fast enough” and who aren’t considered useful for breeding will usually be “culled.” This means they’ll killed by decapitation, drowning, gassing, neck-breaking, or suffocation. Apparently, according to PETA documentation, one notable racer admitted he’d buy a dozen pigeons for breeding purposes, find the one he wanted, and then kill the rest and all of their offspring. Another racer said that, when learning how to be a pigeon racer, “the first thing you have to learn” is “how to kill pigeons.” The pigeon racing industry is estimated to generate $15 million per year via illegal gambling, which consists of violations for racketeering, tax evasion, and federal gambling.

Source: ENTR en/YouTube

Pigeon racing is a cruel so-called sport that, even with the best of intentions, does not have positive results. The best thing that can happen for the birds is that they survive the race; but, even then, they will continue to be used in racing events until they are determined to be no longer of use and will eventually be killed in (oftentimes) brutal ways). Despite people who claim that their pigeons are treated excellently and that they are not doing it for the money and/or entertainment, these birds are still being forced to do something that, were they able to speak up for themselves, they might not elect to do. Do not Support pigeon racing; animal sanctuaries are encouraged to take in rescued racing pigeons, especially ones who are injured.

This article by Alyssa Christian was first published by One Green Planet on 19 December 2023. Image Credit :Jorge Alcalá/Pexels.

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