The Ugly Truths Behind Pigeon Racing | Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
Last week, the Agra administration banned pigeon racing in the district. Lucknow’s administration followed shortly thereafter. These are very important landmark decisions.
Animal welfare folks run into trouble with those who refuse to look at the reality of things and believe what they have been fed. One of these areas is the racing of animals for sport; and from that, the pigeon races.
The pigeon was presented as an animated kite. Pigeon racing is touted as a traditional sport – and it is only now, when the animal movement has gained strength, thanks to the knowledge and courage that comes with it, that the horrible truth is surfacing.
Man likes to bet: whether with inanimate objects, such as cards and dice, or human sports. It gives him an adrenaline rush. But traditional games can get boring so it sets up new betting opportunities and these are usually animal based: dog fighting, dog racing, horse racing, cock fighting, pigeon racing, fighting. bulbuls, bullfights, buffalo races … even cockroach races. The animals, which do not have a drop of vicious blood, are turned into killers and competitors and all die. Some are killed by their owners because they lose races, others die from injuries in these competitions.
Pigeon racing, or kabootarbaazi, is a sport played by a society that believes it was practiced by Mughal rulers and shows their past glory. The rest of India paid little attention to it, believing it to be a harmless game and that the pigeons are coming home because they have a weird idea of what house is.
The carrier pigeon is unfortunately a myth.
Is it a sport or a hobby? For the birds, it’s just torture. The birds are kept in tiny cages in dirty dovecotes, only to be taken out for training and racing. Paratyphoid, canker, coccidiosis, E-Coli, ornithosis, crop sourness, diarrhea and Newcastle disease are common, and sick birds are not treated but killed immediately. Crowded for days in appalling conditions before being forced to fly up to 1400 km, the pigeons are subjected to horrific abuse. Their wings are cut to prevent them from escaping and tied together with safety pins. Each metal cage or cardboard box is crammed with birds unable to move.
Pigeons have no ability to survive – knowing nothing about the outside world – and do not know how to forage for food or avoid predators. These birds have been bred in captivity and cannot fend for themselves in the wild. Those who do not return home are likely to starve to death. They fly in objects that they cannot see, in darker weather conditions, such as electricity pylons or television antennas. Most pigeon fanciers will return their pigeons home with injuries or missing feathers; if they come back at all. When these pigeons fly over large bodies of water, they often get tired and, having nowhere to land, many drown.
Carrier pigeons are simply professional bettors who win thousands in each race.
Training begins when the bird is 3 months old, with trial runs starting at a distance of 2 kilometers and going up to 70 kilometers. 60% of birds get lost, eaten by hawks / kites or electrocuted by wires during training. Birds that survive, but have little chance of winning races, are “slaughtered in the basket” – killed by suffocation, drowning, neck breakage, gassing or beheading. A typical owner buys 12 youngsters before finding one he can use. The others are killed.
The races begin when a pigeon is 8 months old and continue until the age of 5, after which the pigeon is killed (and eaten). The training is called “throwing,” which involves bringing the birds to a place and releasing them. Training the birds involves restrictions on their diet for 45 days, during which they are mainly fed almonds, raggi (millet) and calcium tablets. Some pigeon racers use drugs to improve the performance of their pigeons.
Wing and tail feathers are cut for new ones to grow, as they are supposed to be lighter. Carrier pigeons are only fed once a day. The breeders are fed three times. Young pigeons are usually forced to fly 8 km and then lured back with scattered grain and a salt bar on the roof. A piece of cloth attached to a stick is waved to signal their take-off flight and again on their return. The birds are unable to return home in low light conditions, so in case they remain in the sky after sunset, the owners turn on halogen lights and keep a flock of flightless pigeons in captivity to help. the bird in the sky to locate the place where it should land.
Carrier pigeons are released in the distance with a coded token attached to their legs. The first to communicate the code to the organizer is the owner of the winning pigeon. One day before the competition, a seal is printed on the tail of the pigeons for identification.
Out of 100 pigeons, less than ten survive several races. These survivors participate in long-distance races for which they are taken on trains to the points of departure and released to return home. The distance from Gwalior to Chennai is 1165 kilometers. The pigeons must cover it in 68 hours. In this race, 50% lose their way and drag themselves home after a year.
A report commissioned by Scottish National Heritage and the Scottish Homing Union found that on average 56% of birds released each season do not return home. In 1996, over 34,000 birds were lost in Scotland and 8,000 returned injured. Between 2010 and 2012, PETA conducted a survey of pigeon racing in the United States. He revealed that there were death rates of 60% or more among birds during races and training due to weather, predators, power lines and hunters. At the 2011 American Racing Pigeon Union convention, only 827 of the original 2,294 birds returned from training flights. In some breeds in La Mancha, 90% of the birds are missing, presumed dead.
Why do the birds bother to come back?
Pigeons are monogamous birds. A couple is inseparable, sharing the same box, kissing and reproducing. Both male and female sit on the nest and both feed the newborns with the milk produced in their throats.
One of the terrible ways in which the pigeon is made to fly is to separate it from its mate and its children. In a process, known as widowhood, a bird is taken back to the loft. In very long races, the male often does not return. But female birds will fly with determination to their families, so it is usually the females who participate in long and difficult races that often result in the death of the pigeon, such as racing to the UK from Barcelona.
It is not a sport, because no bird participates in it voluntarily. Like cockfighting and dog fighting, pigeon racing is all about gambling. It generates lakhs of rupees on the black market in illegal gambling products and breaks gambling laws, racketeering and tax evasion. As the Indian government does not allow the importation of these birds, some people and organizations, such as the Central Madras Homer Club – which breed and train pigeons, import eggs from particular lines claiming that they are poultry and hatch them – flout the law and bring in disease.
Is the pigeon the only injured bird? No, in pigeon racing areas predators like hawks and kites are regularly slaughtered illegally by pigeon owners.
The Supreme Court has ruled that unnatural animal races for entertainment cannot take place. In the judgment of Abdulkar Mohamad Azam Sheikh against the State of Gujarat, it was held that it is a fundamental right of all birds to be free in the open and not to be illegally caged. By order no. 2243 / pts.DA from 09-27-11, all bird captivity is illegal and it is the fundamental right of all birds to be free in the open and not to be caged.
These are the clubs I know ‘that should be ceased by law or their members should be sent to jail:
the Calcutta Racing Pigeon Club; January pigeon race organized in Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi; The Hyderabad Homer Pigeon Club which started in 2012; 7 clubs from Tamil Nadu including Thanjavur, 5 clubs from Kolkata and 5 other clubs from Karnataka, Bengaluru being prominent. The Kancheepuram Homer Pigeon Association and the Ernakulam Open Pigeon Flying Tournament, in which pigeons belonging to around 200 people participate. If you know of any bands let me know.
To join the animal welfare movement, contact [email protected], www.peopleforanimalsindia.org