Investigation Reveals Royal Loft Pigeons Die at Intl Race; Queen Urged to Cut Ties With Cruel Sport

For Immediate Release:

15 June 2020

New Video Footage Shows Birds Die by the Thousands in South African Million Dollar Race

Sydney – PETA US has conducted an investigation into the fate of birds used in the gruelling South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR) and exposed mass suffering and death, causing PETA and its affiliates to urge the Queen to sever ties with the race, end her involvement in pigeon racing, and convert her breeding loft into a sanctuary for pigeon “refugees” from the industry.

The exposé shows that, in 2020, only 44 of the 373 pigeons sent to South Africa for the race by British fanciers survived. Only five of the 42 pigeons the Queen sent to South Africa in the last six years survived. Every one of the eight birds sent by Her Majesty to participate in the 2020 SAMDPR died during the quarantine period, during which stressed birds from all over the world are grouped together in the same loft with the potential to transmit diseases, including zoonotic ones, to one another. Many birds die during this time, and the survivors are forced into long training sessions under the blazing South African sun. Many become disorientated and die from exhaustion, dehydration, or starvation. Only about 22% of the pigeons who originally enter the race series complete it, at which point, if they are “winners”, they’re locked up for life for breeding – what pigeon racers term “prisoners” – or, if they finish poorly, their necks are broken.

In addition to documenting extensive cruelty to animals, the casual killing of pigeons deemed unfit, and high death rates, the investigation recorded admissions by fanciers of apparent financial crimes, including illegal gambling, tax evasion, and money laundering, as well as contravention of environmental laws.

“Exploiting the extraordinary homing abilities of pigeons in this cruel manner so as to win a prize purse is extraordinarily callous,” says PETA spokesperson Emily Rice. “PETA most respectfully urges the Queen to remove the royal loft birds from these deadly races and turn her Sandringham pigeon breeding mill into a sanctuary.”

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – notes that pigeons have their own culture, mate for life, and are devoted parents, both making crop milk for their babies. They also pass the “mirror test”, demonstrating self-awareness and intelligence, and have earned more Dickin Medals – animals’ Victoria Cross – than any other animal for saving the lives of civilians and members of the armed forces during World War II and in subsequent conflicts.

PETA US and its affiliates have exposed cruelty to pigeons used for racing on a massive scale – including huge numbers of casualties, the unregulated release of birds from international locations, and forcing birds to take dangerous flights over large bodies of water – and revealed that those deemed insufficiently valuable as racers or breeders are often killed by neck-wringing.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.au.

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