“……this is the monstrous truth about Pennsylvania’s infamous live pigeon shoot, which murder hundreds of thousands of pigeons annually. These victims are tossed out of boxes and are shot by the most cruel and cowardly people on the planet. These killing contests are supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are complicit in allowing these slaughters to continue, despite more than a quarter century of efforts to stop them.”
Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau, ALF, SHARK, In Defense of Animals, The Examiner
HARRISBURG (Oct 2012) – The images are stark: men and teenagers drop-kicking wounded pigeons like footballs, stomping on them, slamming them against their heels until they explode.
The Illinois-based group SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) says the images from a Berks County pigeon shoot last month are evidence that the shoots – the topic of a decades-long debate in the Capitol – violate state animal cruelty laws and that legislators and law enforcement should stop them.
For the past year, SHARK has been fighting against live pigeon shoots in PA. And while our focus has been on shoots held by private gun clubs such as the ones held at the Philadelphia Gun Club, Erdman Sportsman’s Association and Pike Township Sportsmen’s Association, there was one place the shooters thought themselves safe: the Wing Pointe commercial hunting grounds in Hamburg, PA.
“This is the worst cruelty I’ve seen in 20 years of doing this,” said SHARK spokesman Stuart Chaifetz.
Live pigeon shoot contests are vile events where hundreds to thousands of live birds are shot at to win prizes. A typical 3-day shoot contest can kill and injure up to 15,000 birds.
The pigeons are captured and collected for weeks ahead of time, then released from trap boxes only yards away from the so-called “sportsmen”. The birds are generally dazed and suffering from dehydration or starvation as they are sprung out of the boxes.
Rather than mercifully being given a quick death, 70% of the birds are injured when shot and either left to suffer slow deaths or collected and killed by pigeon shoot “trapper boys” or “wringers”, traditionally children, who break their necks, step on them, tear off wings, suffocate them, or cut off their heads with garden shears, among other abuses.
Cindy Neel, general manager for Wing Pointe, the hunting resort where the shoot took place, said Wednesday that the owner, Joseph Solana Jr., was out of the country.
The fight to ban pigeon shoots is one of the longest-running issues in the state Capitol, dating to the late 1980s when the first protests over the infamous Hegins pigeon shoot in Schuylkill County appeared in national headlines, eventually leading to its closure in 1998.
Since then, pigeon shoots, which usually involve launching birds from battery cages to be shot at close range, have been held at private hunting clubs like the Philadelphia Gun Club in Bensalem.
In 2010, retired game-show host and animal activist Bob Barker donated $1 million to SHARK to help stop the shoots. Since then the group has filed lawsuits, lobbied the legislature, and documented activities at the clubs.
The National Rifle Association defends the pigeon shoots as a Pennsylvania “hunting tradition” has effectively blocked legislation to bar the shoots, animal-welfare advocates say, although this year for the first time a bill won approval by a Senate committee.
Despite the committee vote, there are no “set plans” to bring the bill to a floor vote before the session ends Wednesday, said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).
Heidi Prescott, a senior vice president with the Humane Society of the United States, said lawmakers won’t vote to stop the shoots because they fear losing the NRA’s endorsement. “The cruelty at live pigeon shoots continues to escalate because our courts don’t enforce the law and the legislature will not act, empowering the pigeon shooters to think that they can act with impunity,” she said.
Meanwhile, efforts to bring charges against those who run pigeon shoots have been blocked by district attorneys in Bucks and Berks Counties. “We don’t make the laws in this office, we enforce them,” said Berks County District Attorney John Adams. “The law says pigeon shoots are legal.”
Adams said he would enforce an order by Berks County Common Pleas Judge Scott Lash regarding what constitutes the humane killing of wounded birds. In his 2002 order involving a challenge to another pigeon shoot, Lash wrote that “at no time shall anyone kick, swing, stomp or otherwise abuse any bird.”
Chaifetz said those are the actions he and others documented at Wing Pointe on Sept. 30.
Cowardly Pigeon Shooters For too long, pigeon shooters have enjoyed their killing contests in relative obscurity. Supported by the National Rife Association and the Ku Klux Klan, pigeon shooters are among the lowest form of human.
“What we (SHARK) found was a complete nightmare. Hundreds of dead birds, dumped like garbage, yet within this mound of death and cruelty were three sparks of life. Two did not survive, but one did and is receiving medical care. What Wing Pointe did was not just vile and immoral, but we believe illegal, and we are going to ask District Attorney John Adams to hold them accountable under the law for that.
D.A. Adams, who has received campaign donations from pigeon shooters, has previously directly interfered with and killed any attempt to have cruelty citations filed against pigeon shoots. If he uses his power to kill this complaint, we will expose this injustice and hold him to public condemnation.”
Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Maria Finn said the video would be reviewed by the trooper who handles animal crimes for the agency.
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), called the activity he saw in the video “gratuitous cruelty.”
“This shoot has absolutely nothing to do with hunting or sportsmanship, or any proud tradition,” said Leach, who is chairman of the legislative animal-rights caucus and watched the video with his staff. “This is just a cowardly slaughter by people with no respect for animals, nature or themselves.”
As barbaric as the shoot itself was, what SHARK discovered the next day, truly monstrous: Wing Pointe dumped the pigeons they had shot into a large pile, but not all of the pigeons were dead; three wounded but still living birds were found amongst the corpse pile.
Rescue fro m the death pile, This video documents the monstrous truth about Pennsylvania’s infamous live pigeon shoot, which murder hundreds of thousands of pigeons annually. These victims are tossed out of boxes and are shot by the most cruel and cowardly people on the planet. These killing contests are supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are complicit in allowing these slaughters to continue, despite more than a quarter century of efforts to stop them.
Self-described as being “Resort Luxury for the Sport Shooting Enthusiast,” this last bastion of pigeon shooting cruelty thought themselves immune to the public scrutiny that has engulfed the other shoots. But that all ended this past Sunday as SHARK’s “Octocopter” – a remote controlled flying machine, with it’s high-tech video camera, recorded their terrible cruelty for the world to see.