Mary the Pigeon Becomes the First Animal to Receive a Prestigious Blue Plaque
Mary the pigeon, who carried top-secret messages from France to the UK during World War II, has become the first animal to receive a blue plaque commemorating her life. The plaque, awarded by the Exeter Civic Society, will hang outside the former home of pigeon-breeder Cecil Brewer, where Mary’s loft was located.
During the war, Mary was repeatedly dropped behind enemy lines, sustaining several serious injuries after being fired on and attacked by enemy falcons. She was nursed back to health and returned to the front line numerous time, before finally being retired after injuring the muscles in her neck. This brave little bird was awarded a Dickin Medal – the equivalent of a Victoria Cross for animals – for her contribution during the war and was eventually laid to rest at Ilford Animal Cemetery in London.
For birds, flying across the English Channel – which is as wide as 150 miles at points – is no mean feat. They face treacherous and unpredictable weather and can’t see any land to use as a reference point. The birds fly close to the water to avoid the winds and can be swept under by the waves. The exhausted pigeons have nowhere to land, and touching down on the water means almost certain death.
It’s right that Mary is honoured and remembered for the dangers she faced and the risks she took, but we must do more to prevent more birds from suffering and dying needlessly. Today, gentle pigeons just like her are being forced to undertake this incredibly dangerous and arduous journey for nothing more than some people’s idea of fun. PETA has exposed the unimaginable suffering involved in cross-Channel pigeon races that lead to the disappearance and presumed deaths of tens of thousands of birds every year. Ninety per cent of the pigeons entered into these so-called “smash” races across the Channel don’t return and most likely die after becoming exhausted, being attacked by predators, hitting electrical wires or crashing into the sea. This is why the English Channel is known in pigeon-racing circles as “the graveyard”.
What You Can Do
While Mary is being honoured for her flights across the Channel, hundreds of thousands of other pigeons are being raced to death on the same route every year. Please contact Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and ask him to put an end to these cruel cross-Channel races now.