Group Finds Massive Losses of Birds From Sea Races, Alleged Involvement of Government Officials
For Immediate Release:
May 30, 2014
Shakira Croce 202-483-7382
Washington – PETA’s five-month undercover investigation into Taiwanese pigeon racing has uncovered a multibillion-dollar illegal gambling industry, a grueling system of ocean races, and the highest racing death rates in the world. Pigeons less than a year old are shipped out to sea and forced to try to fly back to their home lofts over a series of seven weekly races. Success rates of 1 percent or less per series are common, as thousands of young birds per race die as they fly through typhoons, are swept underwater by waves, and drown. Others are grievously injured by wires that snag their wings or sever their legs. Birds who return rarely receive appropriate veterinary care, and pigeons who fail to make it back within qualifying time often have their necks snapped. In one race, more than 11,000 birds flew out—and only 183 returned.
PETA investigators also recorded top officials at the largest racing club in Taiwan admitting to sponsoring illegal gambling and misrepresenting the amount of money at stake. A top racer provided evidence of concealed profits and reported the involvement of top government officials. Investigators also attended and filmed major races, in which birds are released from ships up to hundreds of miles out to sea.Racing participants pay entrance fees to the club and wager millions more, and the high stakes have prompted thefts of birds, extortion, and doping.
“Races often prove fatal for the pigeons, who are forced to fly with untreated injuries, without adequate rest, and through lashing rainstorms,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA’s investigators captured video of a single race in which tens of thousands of these highly intelligent birds likely died in a matter of hours in typhoon-strength winds.”
Taiwan pigeon racers import champion and pedigreed birds for breeding from all over the world. U.S. brokers of bird sales to Taiwan include Vacaville, Calif.–based Bieche Lofts, which sold a prize-winning pigeon for an undisclosed amount in April, and Oklahoma City–based Continental Breeding Station, whose owner is currently facing felony charges resulting from another PETA investigation. Idaho-based feed company Dynamite Marketing is developing a product specifically for the Taiwan pigeon market.
PETA filed a complaint with the Taiwanese government asking for an immediate investigation into the apparent violations of gambling and animal-protection laws. Previous government raids to collect taxes from clubs on unpaid earnings from races haven’t resulted in substantive reform.
PETA’s complaint is available upon request. Photographs from the investigations are available here, and a broadcast-quality link to video footage is available here. For more information, please visit PETA.org.