Pigeon Races and Bird Flu: Racing Towards an Epidemic?
Pigeon fanciers certainly have no qualms about risking the health of their birds – after all, up to 90 per cent of pigeons never make it back from gruelling cross-Channel races. But could pigeon racers also be putting human health at risk?
The Chinese government has just grounded nearly 2 million carrier pigeons and banned all pigeon races in Shanghai because of the growing H7N9 bird flu epidemic, which has now claimed a ninth human life. A top Chinese pigeon-racing association has also decided to stop racing and inoculate up to 90,000 pigeons with a vaccine that protects against types of bird flu other than the new H7N9 strain – for which no vaccine yet exists.
PETA is calling on UK authorities to take action on cross-Channel pigeon racing now so that we don’t also have to face a serious epidemic in the future. Currently, those who release pigeons from international locations are required to comply with the import rules set out by Defra. However, a recent undercover investigation by PETA US reveals that in many cases, this just isn’t happening.
Secretly recorded conversations with the heads of the largest pigeon-racing organisations in the UK confirm an absence of any animal-health oversight at the race release sites. And given the chaos of thousands of birds attempting to fly back to the UK at different times, it’s indisputable that exporters and fanciers fail to comply with the requirement that all birds entering the country must be accompanied by a health statement or certificate.
Please join us in urging Defra to stop cross-Channel pigeon racing. Not only is this so-called “sport” a health hazard – it’s also desperately cruel for the hundreds of thousands of birds who are separated from their families, forced to fly hundreds of miles, and often unceremoniously killed at the end of the racing season.