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PETA US Investigation Reveals Potential Human-Health Threat Posed By Pigeons Used In Cross-Channel Races

For Immediate Release:

27 March 2013

Contact:

Ben Williamson +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 229; BenW@peta.org.uk

London – PETA US today called on British authorities to investigate the UK's largest pigeon-racing organisations for endangering human health following an undercover investigation into the secretive world of cross-Channel pigeon racing. Birds who survive the gruelling races, which involve crossing the English Channel after being released in France and Spain, may be returning to the UK after being exposed to diseases if they have landed on foreign farms, consumed contaminated water or come into contact with wild birds and/or pigeons raced at the same time but originating in other countries. PETA US' investigation also reveals that thousands of pigeons are crammed into filthy, congested cages and transported to and from continental Europe – on journeys which can last up to seven days – and are released to return to Britain without the required checks and certification, in apparent violation of UK law.

"Pigeon fanciers may be putting your, my and everyone else's health at risk by engaging in this surprisingly cruel and deadly 'sport'", says PETA UK Associate Director Mimi Bekhechi. "The government should surely take action on cross-Channel pigeon racing now rather than having to react to a serious epidemic in the future."

As a result of recent outbreaks and disease scares, including avian influenza (H5N1) and Newcastle disease, the release of pigeons from international locations is required to comply with import rules set out by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' (Defra) Importer Information Note CBEU-1. However, PETA US' investigation reveals widespread non-compliance with these requirements. 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. The premises from which the birds are released must be registered with a veterinary authority in that country, and the birds must be registered with an Animal Health Office in the UK prior to import – both legal requirements that racers seem not to be meeting. Moreover, PETA US' investigators noted that the birds were not observed in any meaningful way before being released to fly back to the UK. It is also indisputable – given the chaos of thousands of birds attempting to fly back to the UK at different times – that exporters and fanciers fail to comply with the requirement that all birds entering into the country must be accompanied by a health statement or certificate.

PETA US has sent formal complaints to Defra urging it to investigate and prosecute racing organisations for these apparent offences.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.uk.