Pigeon racing is hardly the same as cockfighting

PETA are campaigning to have pigeon racing outlawed, but I just can't get behind the idea that this is a barbaric sport

Share
Related Topics

Among my various
ailments, neuroses and other assorted psychological disorders, it seems that I
may suffer from peristerophobia.

This is an extreme fear of pigeons, and while my symptoms may not be so acute that I can't walk in a London park, my idea of a living hell would be to find myself in any kind of confined space with a pigeon flapping around.

This happened to me last week in a cavernous shopping centre, and it was a horror on a Hitchcockian scale. I realise I am not alone in disliking pigeons - the poor things are the outcasts of the avian kingdom, blamed for spreading disease through their droppings, held accountable for damaging property and usually regarded with the same affection as rats or spiders.

Throughout Britain, there are more than 18 million feral pigeons, and they are one of the few species of birds officially recognised by the government as a nuisance pest. And while I may not have been Ken Livingstone's most ardent fan when he was Mayor of London, I wholeheartedly supported him in his war against the pigeons occupying Trafalgar Square - there was believed to be a flock of 4,500 who regarded it as home - and his ban on feeding the birds has, in most rational people's view, improved the quality of life in this part of central London.

So it was through this prism that I viewed with indifference the news that the animal rights group PETA are campaigning to have pigeon racing outlawed. I would regard myself as a caring, sharing citizen and, as an animal lover, I applaud some of the work done by PETA, but I'm afraid I just can't get behind the idea that this is a barbaric sport, up there with cock-fighting and bear-baiting.

And it's not just for the simplistic reason that I don't care for pigeons. I am aware, also, that racing pigeons, carefully bred and lovingly cossetted, are highly-evolved specimens, quite unlike the street-dweller of my nightmares. PETA (an organisation, it should be remembered, which believes no animal should be bred for human consumption and which is against the keeping of household pets) claims that pigeon racing is inherently cruel because of the numbers of birds lost - presumed dead - in competition. They also have film which claims to show pigeon fanciers euthanising slow-flying birds by snapping their necks.

The head of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association admits that, among the 43,000 pigeon fanciers in Britain, there may be a tiny minority who mistreat their birds. "The vast majority of pigeon fanciers look after and take care of their animals - why wouldn't they?" That's the official view, and there is, equally, disagreement over the casualties sustained during races, with PETA's figures being disputed.

For obvious reasons, that is a hard one to prove either way. My feeling is that pigeon racing is an esoteric, lawful, engaging pursuit whose popularity is on a seemingly unstoppable downward curve. It will, for certain, die out eventually without a shove from PETA. But my liberal principles lead me to believe that, as long as the laws of the land are observed, people should have the freedom to follow whatever interest they choose.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Reconciliation Analyst

£200 - £250 per day: Orgtel: Reconciliation Analyst Gloucestershire

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
David Cameron and Theresa Mayspeak to Immigration Enforcement officers at a property where six immigrants were arrested on July 29, 2014 in Slough, England.  

Does David Cameron actually believe his tough new immigration stance?

Matthew Norman
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on