There is a recurring theme throughout all corners of the state – the time to end live pigeon shoots is now. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette characterized live pigeon shoots as “ghoulish proceedings” and as “a pastime that mocks the sporting instincts of the many legitimate hunters” in our State. The Times Tribune noted that pigeon shoots are “reminiscent of old-time cock-fighting and dog-fighting.” It continued by writing that Pennsylvania lawmakers “should drag the Commonwealth into the 21st Century by passing the ban on pigeon shoots.” And, the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a March 7, 2013 editorial, characterized live pigeon shoots as a “hideous practice” and “fake sport.” In urging the passage of the bill to end live pigeon shoots, the newspaper further noted that “the Commonwealth deserves better than to be known for this disgusting display of mass animal cruelty.”
Live pigeon shoots were outlawed in England almost a century ago. The 1900 Olympic Games in Paris held a live pigeon shoot demonstration event which was met by public outrage at the cruelty of slaughtering about 300 birds. By 1902, the Olympics replaced live animals with clay pigeons, never to repeat such cruelty. What was tacitly acknowledged in both England and the Olympics is that pigeon shoots are not hunting and are not sport. It is indeed puzzling that many Pennsylvania legislators seems to have so much difficulty grasping these facts.
The country of England, the Olympics and major Pennsylvania newspapers all correctly recognize two fundamental facts that, to date, seem to elude the Pennsylvania legislature: live pigeon shoots are cruel and should not be tolerated. It is that plain and simple.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed first-hand the carnage wrought by live pigeon shoots. Many years ago, standing on property adjacent to the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem, I watched in helpless horror as grown men and women – and even a few children – aimed shotguns at close range at fluttering and dazed birds. The air was filled with feathers. Wounded pigeons flew up and then fell from trees as they succumbed to their injuries. Others were shot as they flew off of Club property, over the Delaware River, which runs along the back part of the Club grounds. Wounded pigeons – and lots of them – struggled to reach the rocky shoreline, but most slowly drowned. I last witnessed a live pigeon shoot about three years ago and it is as fresh in my mind as if it was yesterday. These shoots are still held regularly at the Philadelphia Gun Club and elsewhere.
And while I was helpless to rescue the vast majority of birds victimized at the various shoots I witnessed, I am not helpless to prevent others from suffering such a cruel fate – and neither are you. We can end this cruelty. All of us who care about the humane treatment of animals can collectively raise our voices and instruct our legislators, who are in office because we voted them in, that enough is enough. It is time to end this cruelty and we want it ended now.
Senate Bill 510 was introduced at the beginning of our current legislative session and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2013, where it sits. At Humane PA we recognize what has been recognized over and over again in newspaper after newspaper: Senate Bill 510 should be passed through the Judiciary Committee, then passed in both Chambers of the legislature and signed into law. The time to end live pigeon shoots is now and we urge our lawmakers to act – finally.
Learn more about pigeon shoots and what you can do to help: Support SB 510 to End Barbaric Live Pigeon Shoots
Elissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, Gaudioso & Newlin, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), assisting with cat care and adoption applications at an adoption site. She is also a board member of The Humane League.