Reading, PA – The Reading Eagle
May 9, 2014
Editorial: Bill would legitimize bird bloodbath
The Issue: A state lawmaker plans legislation that would regulate live pigeon shoots. Our Opinion: The only law needed is one that would prohibit the practice.
Although three of four Pennsylvanians in an October survey said they support legislation to ban live pigeon shoots in the commonwealth, one lawmaker is searching for co-sponsors for a bill that would codify the practice and put it under control of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“In the near future, I will introduce legislation that seeks to amend Title 34 (Game and wildlife Code) of the PA Consolidated Statutes as it relates to regulated hunting grounds to place bird shooting activities involving rock doves, known more commonly as pigeons, under the regulatory authority of the Pennsylvania Game Commission,” Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry County, wrote in a memorandum to fellow legislators.
“Regulated shooting activities of this type would then require a permit from the (commission) in a similar manner as regulated shooting activities for chukar partridge and other bird shooting activities currently held on regulated hunting grounds, with enforcement conducted by (the commission) under their authority,” he continued. “The legislation also establishes strict parameters under which these shoots may be conducted, as well as establishing the permitting, acreage and other requirements for the regulated shoots.
“This legislation aims to address concerns we have heard for many years over the manner in which some unregulated shoots are currently conducted within the commonwealth.”
Less than six months ago, the Humane Society of the United States conducted a poll among 625 registered voters in Pennsylvania. When respondents were asked if they supported or opposed legislation to ban live pigeon shoots, 75 percent said they favored such a bill. An even greater percentage, 80 percent, said that such competitions in the commonwealth should be required to use clay pigeons.
When given the choice of describing live pigeon shoots as a tradition that has been around for centuries that should be preserved or as being examples of animal cruelty that are unnecessary competitions, 83 percent of those interviewed picked the latter.
For more than two decades, legislation has been introduced in every session of the Legislature that would ban pigeon shoots, but state lawmakers haven’t had the courage to stand up to the small minority – 15 percent, according to the October Humane Society poll – of residents who believe this is some sort of acceptable sport.
Advocates for live-animal shoots have claimed they are a good way to raise money. That certainly was the case in Hegins, Schuylkill County, site of arguably the most famous of the Pennsylvania shoots until 1999, when community officials decided it was cheaper to hold a picnic than it was to defend themselves against lawsuits that had been filed in an effort to end what was known as the Fred Coleman Memorial Pigeon Shoot.
According to the Humane Society, Pennsylvania is the only state in the union that still permits live-animal shoots.
As we have said many times, it is long past time that Pennsylvania joins the rest of the civilized world and outlaws this bloodbath, which cannot be considered a sport.
But if lawmakers are unwilling to do the right thing, at the very least they should bypass the opportunity to write regulations for pigeon shoots into the laws of the commonwealth.
Scranton – The Times-Tribune
By the Editorial Board
July 16, 2014
Shot to end cruel relic
Imagine what would happen if some self-anointed “sportsmen” decided to use live cats and dogs for target practice.
Never mind. The state Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill, 10-4, that would outlaw that practice along with consumption of dogs or cats. The committee also parlayed the cultural affinity for our favorite pets into an attempt that finally would end the abject cruelty of live pigeon shoots, a deep embarrassment to the commonwealth that, shamefully, remains protected by state law.
There is no justification for using live animals for target practice. Allowing live pigeon shoots is terrible public policy, protecting an extremely narrow interest that is backed by a powerful one, the gun lobby.
Pennsylvania should ban live pigeon shoots, which the rest of the states did in the 20th century, before the 21st century gets much older.
Lebanon – Daily News
July 19, 2014
Pa. endlessly gunning for end to pigeon shoots
By Rahn Forney
I know pigeon shoots — a little. I know the Hegins Labor Day Pigeon Shoot — better than I would wish to. I know hunting and guns, personally and by long family association.
In Hegins, we’re talking about my home valley; though I never participated in the shoot, but for covering it for a couple years back when it was making national headlines (and a mess, what with blood and feathers and yelling and guns and booze and all manner of things that don’t particularly work well when mixed).
We’ve held the editorial position for years that such pigeon shoots should not be legal, hanging our opinions on various legislative hooks as they try to gain traction in Harrisburg but invariably are shot down.
Pigeon shoots, as the Hegins shoot and others were constructed, are not sporting events; they are not measures of shooters’ skill; they’re not hunting. They are animal cruelty masquerading just enough as an issue of hunters’ and gun rights to keep them alive — if only on life support — in just one state in the nation. Welcome to Pennsylvania.
So, when I heard from my regular contacts on this issue in the Humane Society at various levels, that, specifically, language banning the shoots for once and all had been appended to a piece of legislation that was in the offing, I agreed to take my roughly annual shot at trying to have legislators engage their brains and spines and dump the shoots for good.
But that thin masquerade to which I referred means that whenever outlawing pigeon shoots comes up, the usual suspects come out of their duck blinds to threaten politicians with all manner of bad press should they take the dangerous first step toward outlawing hunting and confiscating everyone’s weapons.
Again, pigeon shoots are not hunting, and they are not a gun rights issues. They are a political issue that can be raised in only one state: Pennsylvania.
And state politicians appear to turn into frightened geese — or deer in the headlights — when the NRA rattles its holsters.
Pigeon shoots have been outlawed in recent years in places like Texas and Colorado. Pardon me for doubting that the folks in those states are overly worried about losing their guns or their hunting rights. The phrase “lock and load” springs to mind.
The issue is not about guns or hunting but animal cruelty, because, stripped of its faux trappings, pigeon shoots are nothing more than that. Nothing associated with a pigeon shoot could not be undertaken easily (and more sportingly) with machine-fired artificial targets. Let those who would, blast away. No harm; no fowl.
The irony this year is that the pigeon-shoot ban was attached to another bill, H.B. 1750, that would outlaw the slaughter of cats and dogs for consumer sale of the meat. While I possess the same cultural sense that Fido or Fluffy fricassee will never show up on my menu, my libertarian ethos warns me away from government dictating such a thing.
That part of the legislation is, to my mind, more for the markets and consumers to decide. The pigeon shoot legislation has usually lived (and died, every time) more or less on its own. Those seeking the ban are trying something different, and who can blame them?
There was supposed to be a vote on this bill, including the pigeon shoot language, before the budget was passed. Political pressure and budget concerns delayed that vote. It might still be on the calendar for a fall vote. It’s overdue. So inexplicably overdue.
Forney is the opinion page editor of the Lebanon Daily News.
Chambersburg – Public Opinion
August 13, 2014
Editorial: Sen. Alloway heeds advice of moms everywhere
If your best friends at the NRA told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it? That variation on mom’s old think-for-yourself admonition comes into play with the NRA’s renewed pressure on state lawmakers to reject a proposed ban on live pigeon shoots.
(The reaction from sensible people who haven’t been following the live pigeon shoots issue closely probably is, Haven’t we stopped doing that yet? The short answer is nope, we’ve had regular live pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania this year, including a three-day shoot in Berks County this month.)
It’s doubtful a ban, which has been debated in the state Legislature for years, will pass as the legislative session wanes, although we can always hope. But one development this year deserves special note: State Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Chambersburg, a hunter and NRA member, refused to follow the NRA over the cliff.
As reported by the Times-Tribune of Scranton on Monday, Alloway, who is chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, voted for a ban when it came before the Judiciary Committee of which he also is a member. Alloway reportedly gave emotional remarks, describing himself as a lifelong hunter who eats game but doesn’t kill for sport.
“When I see this blood sport pigeon shooting, I reject it,” the newspaper quoted him.
Well aware of the potential consequences of independent thought, Alloway noted that it’s laughable the NRA would label him as anti-Second Amendment because of his support for the ban. We agree — after all he championed expansion of the state’s Castle Doctrine and many hunter-friendly ideas.
Good for him for knowing when to say when, in the case of live pigeon shooting — we hope and expect that sportsmen in the true sense of the word will thank him for standing up for common sense and ethics regardless of the bullies shouting in his ear to just jump.
We won’t rehash most of the self-evident reasons that live pigeon shooting as a “sport” in Pennsylvania has got to go the way of dog-fighting, chained bear-baiting and other once-popular animal abuse for entertainment.
But let’s address one oft-repeated defense of pigeon shooting — it’s tradition — which may hold sway with some lifelong hunters in this tradition-bound state.
Says the NRA on its website: “Pigeon shooting is a traditional shooting sport and has many participants throughout the Commonwealth and around the world. Shoots have been held in Pennsylvania for more than a hundred years, and their participants are law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts, hunters, and sportsmen.”
Leaving aside the bunk about “ethical shooting enthusiasts,” we must point out:
It was also once tradition for “sportsmen” to line up shoulder-to-shoulder on Pennsylvania’s Hawk Mountain, a major migratory route for raptors, and mow down hawks and eagles by the hundreds — until a woman stepped in and leased the mountain in the early 1930s and installed a warden. There are plenty of historical photos of the hunters (encouraged by the PA Game Commission) with their bounty. You can look it up.
Even that sad display was arguably more sporting than today’s live pigeon shoots. Today Hawk Mountain is an internationally known destination for scientists and true outdoor enthusiasts.
The fact is, unworthy traditions have no place among intelligent people, who able to learn something with the passage of time.
Becky Bennett is editor of the Public Opinion and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BeckyBennettPO.
Luzerne County – The Citizens’ Voice
August 13, 2014
Time to put an end to pigeon shoots
A true sportsman or sportswoman cringes at the thought of blasting away at pigeons released from cages only yards away. Gun enthusiasts and average citizens should join in the rejection of this “sport,” one with no sense of fair chase as should be the case when hunters go into the woodlands and fields of Pennsylvania in search of game.
The arguments against live pigeon shoots are sound. The birds often are only wounded and they must be dispatched.
At the infamous Hegins, Schuylkill County pigeon shoots of the late 20th century, youngsters would race onto the field and wring the necks of wounded birds. That scene helped doom the Hegins shoot, which was the site of anti-pigeon shoot demonstrations for many years.
The use of trapped animals also is an issue. It is the antithesis of animals in the wild, including pheasants rising from the cornstalks.
Now, the state Senate has before it a bill that would ban such shoots. A live pigeon shoot was held only days ago at the Wing Pointe Resort in Berks County. Again, there is outrage that live birds are being shot when clay targets would suffice, the same clay targets tossed before thousands of shooters who agree that it is inhumane to shoot pigeons out of the air.
The Humane Society of the United States endorses the ban. The National Rifle Association supports live pigeon shoots.
It is another example of the NRA, which advocates for Second Amendment rights, going over the top and actually hurting its own cause and harming the very sportsmen and gun owners that it counts as members.
The comments of Humane Society spokesman John Goodwin carry weight. Shooting live pigeons released from cages, he said, “is no more sport that shooting chickens coming out of a henhouse.”
Should the Senate pass the bill, it is expected the state House would concur. The hope is that a bill will pass during the session that runs through October. The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee voted 10-4 for the bill. We urge the full Senate to promptly pass the legislation and send it on to the House.
Shoot down bird slaughter
By the Editorial Board
Published: August 14, 2014
State lawmakers often leave abundant unfinished business behind when they flee Harrisburg for most of the summer. But when they get back to their offices this year they finally should act on a matter that they have evaded for decades.
For years the highest-profile such event in the state, the annual Hegins Pigeon Shoot in Schuylkill County, became the national face of animal cruelty. Public pressure ultimately put an end to that slaughter for fun and charity nearly 20 years ago, but the barbaric practice itself still is legal in Pennsylvania. A live pigeon shooting event was conducted just two weeks ago in Berks County.
The Senate Game and Fisheries Committee has voted, 10-4, to send a bill banning pigeon shoots to the full Senate for a vote. There is broad bipartisan support for it in the House.
This isn’t a matter of protecting gun rights or hunting. And there are better ways to raise money than cruelly abusing animals. Live pigeon shoots are an embarrassment to Pennsylvania that the Legislature should eliminate.
Cumberland County – The Sentinel
Our View: There is no sporting chance here
The National Rifle Association is big on pushing buttons — panic buttons. Its philosophy of sounding Second Amendment alarms whenever the mood strikes is essential in keeping those dollars rolling in and membership levels high. But state Sen. Richard Alloway of Chambersburg, a Republican whose 33rd legislative district includes portions of Cumberland County, has the NRA’s number when it comes to the gun group’s near-paranoid opposition to a proposed state ban on live pigeon shoots. Alloway, chairman of the state Senate Game and Fisheries Commission, and himself a hunter, struck back emotionally, and with his vote, in June in response to a personal attack by the NRA terming him a Second Amendment opponent because of his support of the bill. Alloway voted for the ban as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “When I see this blood sport pigeon shooting, I reject it,” he said. Good for him. The legislation would outlaw the despicable practice of shooting live birds for target practice, leaving those wounded to die slowly, inhumanely in the field. Pennsylvania is the only state that allows such egregious blood sport. It’s an embarrassment for the state and for a legislature to allow such barbarism to stand. The NRA, never at a loss when it comes to seeing threats around every corner, calls live pigeon shoots a “slippery slope” down to other restrictions and “shooting sport tradition” in Pennsylvania. But as a Humane Society of the United States spokesman observed, it’s ”no more sport than shooting chickens coming out of a henhouse.” Live pigeon shoots are not sport — it’s a stain on Pennsylvania. The sooner the legislature outlaws such shameful activities, the better.
Allentown – Morning Call
August 18, 2014
Wayne Pacelle: Pigeon shoots are not a sport and should be banned Live animals are not meant to serve as targets or afternoon entertainment. Using these feeling, breathing animals as animated targets is not a right, or even close to a right. It is a medieval wrong. I’m speaking of Pennsylvania’s throwback pigeon shoots. That we find ourselves still arguing about them in the summer of 2014, alas, brings shame to their defenders within the commonwealth. The vast majority of Pennsylvanians think the tolerance for this practice is shameful, and a terrible example for our children.
“Daddy, is it OK to catch an animal and then kill it because it’s fun to watch them suffer and die?” Imagine what most people would say to such a youngster. Yet Pennsylvania finds itself answering, “Well, child, sometimes it is OK, actually.”
Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania it is OK to go catch pigeons, let them loose in front of crowds, and then blast away at them with guns, wounding some and killing many. Enough is enough. It’s time to draw the curtain closed on cruel pigeon shoots. It’s time to end the conversation and set our clocks to the 21st century.
In the Pennsylvania Legislature, the Senate Judiciary Committee in June voted 10-4 to do just that — passing House Bill 1750 to outlaw the shooting of live dogs, cats and pigeons. The measure also would ban the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption. I shake my head in wonder. How could controversy still exist anywhere about whether it’s right to ban this spectacle of cruelty that causes obvious pain and suffering to animals? A spectacle that cannot be called hunting because there is no licensing, no hunting season, no bag limits and no consumption of the animals shot.
More than 20 years ago, I was horrified to see my first Pennsylvania pigeon shoot. The rest of the world was already a century ahead in finding worthy targets other than living animals — paper silhouettes, clay pigeons, tin cans and the like. The skills of the very best target shooters were glorified with medals at the Olympics.
In Pennsylvania, gore, not glory, was the reward shooters sought. I watched and protested the release of captive pigeons from boxes just yards away from a line of waiting shooters. Blam! All day long. Boys dashed into the fields to twist off the heads of the wounded, flailing birds.
Live pigeon shoots are blood sport. But once again, lobbyists for the National Rifle Association scurry across the corridors of the Capitol, threatening lawmakers, misusing the proxy of their rank-and-file hunting membership and seeking to prevent a Senate floor vote on HB 1750.
We wish the best to Sens. Stewart Greenleaf, Dominic Pileggi, Pat Browne, Lisa Boscola and Richard Alloway in their efforts to end this cruelty and dispel the misguided idea that pigeon shooting has anything to do with traditional hunting.
We applaud the tireless efforts of state Rep. John Maher, the prime sponsor of HB 1750. We thank the many lawmakers who will be standing up for common sense in the days ahead.
No lawmakers have ever looked back, despite opposition at the time, and wondered whether they should have voted to outlaw dogfighting or cockfighting or malicious cruelty to animals. When it comes to pigeon shooting, the rest of us have only to wonder why it has taken this long.
Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.
Pittsburgh – Post-Gazette
September 12, 2014
End the slaughter: Unsporting pigeon shoots should be outlawed
By the Editorial Board
When it comes to the treatment of animals, Pennsylvania has a shameful history.
Before a new law in 2011 tightened regulations for commercial kennels, the state carried the dubious distinction of “puppy mill capital of the East.”
Pigeon shoots are another blot on the state’s reputation.
For 64 years, Labor Day in Hegins, Schuylkill County, was observed with a sickening display in a public setting, where birds were released from traps to an orgy of gunfire that killed a small portion of them cleanly and left the rest to suffer from grave wounds that eventually led to their deaths, too.
It was not until 1999 that the state Supreme Court ruled that the Hegins display constituted cruelty to animals under existing law, and the public shoot was disbanded. Private shoots continues, however, which demonstrates the need for a change in the law to explicitly ban the practice.
House Bill 1750 would do that, but the measure has hit a typical Harrisburg-style snag. It dealt with slaughtering and selling of dogs or cats for human consumption when it passed in the House, but the Senate added language addressing pigeon shoots. If it is passed in that form, as it should, the bill would have to go back to the House, where its prospects are unclear.
What stands in the way of outlawing of this blood sport? The National Rifle Association and other sportsmen’s groups object on the grounds that a ban would infringe on a traditional sport. But pigeon shoots are not hunting; they are slaughter, and they should be outlawed.