Pigeon Racer Pleads No Contest To Gambling Charge After PETA Us Investigation

For Immediate Release:

17 September 2014


Ben Williamson +44 (0) 20 7837 6327, ext 229; [email protected]

Oklahoma Prosecutors Secure Pleas for Organising Illegal Bets on Pigeon Racing; Many Birds Never Made It Home

London – Oklahoma City resident Richard Wayne Mardis has pleaded no contest to a charge of violating a felony gambling law, as first exposed by PETA US’ investigation of the Oklahoma City–based American Racing Pigeon Union (ARPU), the largest pigeon-racing organisation in the US. PETA US provided authorities with the evidence that led to Mardis’ plea to charges of commercial gambling.

“PETA US’ investigations exposed, for the first time, how pigeon racing is a blood sport that kills up to 90 per cent of the birds in every race”, says PETA UK Director Mimi Bekhechi. “These prosecutions should stand as a warning for anyone looking to profit from pigeons’ misery: there are consequences to gambling with birds’ lives.”

Two other people pleaded no contest to the charges in August 2013, including the executive director of the ARPU. PETA US’ investigators documented that race organisers discussed how they conceal their illegal betting activities – which took in £125,000 ($200,000) or more in stakes per race – from the authorities.

Like the UK’s cross-Channel races that PETA US exposed last year, races often prove fatal for the pigeons. In any given race, many birds never make it back to their lofts or mates because of extreme weather, raptors, electric lines, foul play and exhaustion. Birds who return but who consistently finish out of the money are typically killed by suffocation, drowning, manual decapitation or having their necks broken. One racer told PETA US’ investigators that when starting out in pigeon racing, “the first thing you have to learn – how to kill pigeons”. Mardis and his adult son, who own and operate the Oklahoma City–based Continental Breeding Station, also sell birds to pigeon racers in Taiwan, where PETA US’ investigation of pigeon racing – released earlier this year – revealed bird survival rates of 1 per cent or less as birds were swept underwater by waves and drowned. Authorities in Taiwan are now investigating the matter.

Broadcast-quality video footage from the investigation is available here. Photographs from PETA US’ investigations are available here.

For more information on deadly pigeon races, please click here or visit PETA.org.uk.