PETA’s investigation into the cruel pigeon-racing racket spanned many states and revealed rampant illegal gambling, in violation of state and federal laws—including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and felony gambling and tax laws—with stakes of $200,000 or more per race. One of those states was Oklahoma, and as a result of the criminal investigation that followed, the Oklahoma County district attorney has charged three race organizers—including the executive director of the American Racing Pigeon Union—with felony commercial gambling and conspiracy to violate the state’s anti–commercial gambling act.
Racing Toward Death
Until PETA’s investigation broke, the shadier aspects of pigeon racing had attracted little attention, but it’s a blood sport that deserves to be as condemned as cockfighting or dogsled racing. In a typical race, 60 percent of the birds will never make it back to their lofts and mates because of extreme weather, predators, electric lines, foul play, and exhaustion.
Out of more than 1,500 baby pigeons shipped to Oklahoma City for just one event attended by the investigators, the 2010 American Racing Pigeon Union race, a little more than 1,000 birds survived training. Of those thousand birds entered into the final race, a mere 420 made it back from Arkansas by nightfall—and many of those who returned still likely had their necks wrung if they failed to finish “in the money.” As one pigeon racer told investigators, when starting out in pigeon racing, “The first thing you have to learn—how to kill pigeons.”
What You Can Do
There’s nothing sporting about forcing animals to risk—and often lose—their lives so that someone can win a prize, a title, or some money. Please never attend or support these sadistic blood sports, and if you witness cruelty, never be silent.