PETA Rehomes Pigeons From King Charles’ Sandringham Loft

Posted by on June 13, 2024 | Permalink

Update (13 June 2024): We’ve now given names to the three rescued pigeons: Vera, in honour of Dame Vera Lynn, and Cliff and Dover, after the singer’s hit The White Cliffs of Dover, in homage to the role that the birds played during the second World War.

During her life, Lynn decried pigeon racing as an “utterly cruel pastime”. Her daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, says the following of her late mother’s namesake and the other birds named in her honour:

“My mother was opposed to pigeon racing. She acknowledged, just as I do, how these intelligent birds served honourably in the military, delivering vital messages under the most perilous conditions in both world wars, but saw no excuse for continuing to subject them to such hardship in peacetime. She would no doubt be delighted that the pigeons PETA rescued have been named in her honour – and that their offspring won’t be forced into gruelling cross-channel races or crudely killed when they are no longer deemed valuable. I wish all pigeons used in this dated pastime a similar retirement.”
– Virginia Lewis-Jones

Original post (28 February 2024):
PETA has rescued three pigeons who were bred for racing and kept in King Charles’ loft at Sandringham before being auctioned off at the British Homing World Show of the Year 2024. PETA won the bid to spare the birds further suffering in the racing industry, where they would have been used as breeding machines and their offspring forced to race – taken overseas and left to struggle against storms, exhaustion, disorientation, starvation, predation, and collisions with power lines as they try to find their way home. They have now been safely moved to a sanctuary.

PETA has also sent a letter to King Charles informing him that the three pigeons – two cocks and a hen – are being given the “royal treatment” at the Little Green Pigeon sanctuary in West Wales, where they can spend the rest of their life in peace.

The letter goes on to urge King Charles to help the remaining birds at the royal loft by ending his association with the archaic pastime and turning the loft into a haven where birds used for racing can retire.

The Pigeon Racing Industry

The industry often treats females as breeding machines and forces their offspring to race. Some of these gruelling races happen overseas, where birds are made to fly over vast distances.

As PETA’s exposés of pigeon racing have revealed, hundreds of thousands of birds face grisly deaths during races in which they’re forced to fly hundreds of miles home to Britain across the English Channel from the starting point in France, Belgium, or Spain.

The casualty rate among those forced to attempt the crossing is so high that many pigeon fanciers refer to the channel as the “graveyard”. And even those who survive the gauntlet and make it home to their mates, squabs, or eggs (the lures left behind to force them to struggle on) aren’t safe, as pigeons deemed not valuable enough for future races or breeding are killed by breaking their neck, drowning them, or gassing them with unfiltered car exhaust fumes.

Overcome Speciesism: See the Individual

Speciesism – the misguided belief that some species are superior to others – has led humans to treat pigeons with cruelty and contempt. Yet, these are individuals who feel pain, joy, and fear – just as we do.

Pigeons are kind and loyal animals with incredible homing abilities and were once entrusted by our military to deliver vital messages during wars. But now, the pigeon-racing industry exploits their navigational ability, flying them to their death for entertainment and prize money.

The Royal Pigeon Loft

The royal loft on the Sandringham Estate keeps nearly 250 pigeons, the majority of whom are used for the deadly racing industry.

A PETA US investigation found that every one of the eight birds sent by Queen Elizabeth II to participate in the 2020 South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race died during the quarantine period, when stressed birds from all around the world were grouped together in the same loft with the potential to transmit diseases to one another. Only five of the 42 pigeons the queen sent to South Africa in the six years prior survived.

How You Can Help Pigeons

Please contact Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Steve Barclay and ask that he take action to prevent more pigeons from suffering in cross-channel races: