The sport of pigeon racing is alive and well in New York City — and is rife with illegal gambling, the killing of unwanted birds and abusive training methods, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleges.
PETA announced today it conducted a 15-month undercover investigation into pigeon racing by infiltrating the Bronx Homing Pigeon Club and other similar organizations around the country. As part of their covert pigeon probe, PETA even found that performance-enhancing drugs are used on the helpless birds.
The organization found that the birds are often forced to race for distances up to 600 miles, and that 60 percent of birds in those races typically succumb to such things as extreme weather and exhaustion, or fly into electric lines and are killed.
Even those that survive the race are not treated well, PETA alleges. Many birds that make it home but fail to win their owners cash are then suffocated, drowned or decapitated, according to PETA. The group called on the New York Attorney General’s office and the New York Police Department to look into the pigeon club.
Pigeon racing is not prohibited in and of itself, but betting on those races violates a number of laws. High-stakes gambling is involved, PETA alleges; pots can climb to more than $200,000.
“Birds who are suffering and dying by the thousands and bundles of illegal gambling loot right under the noses of law-enforcement officials should be an embarrassment to the city and the state of New York,” Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA, said in a statement.
At one point, PETA videotaped the Bronx club president talking about a race in New Jersey, in which only 41 out of 769 birds returned within two days. At another race in Queens, only four out of 213 returned, PETA claimed.
“The first thing you have to learn – how to kill pigeons," one racer allegedly told PETA’s investigators.
The Bronx club president also allegedly admitted to killing federally protected birds of prey.
A member of the club declined to comment when contacted by Metro.
Steroids given to birds
The Bronx club president told PETA’s undercover investigators that four racing pigeons tested positive in 2010 for performance-enhancing substances.
Those drugs included the anabolic steroid boldenone, morphine and a cocaine derivative.
The drugs were administered either by injection or by mixing them into the pigeons’ food and water, PETA said.