Countless hunters are currently taking to the fields to blast songbirds from the sky and poison the earth with lead. Meanwhile, some shooters in Pennsylvania can’t even be bothered to go after birds in the wilderness. No, they prefer killing semi-tame pigeons in the comfort of private clubs.
Here’s how the editors of a local paper describe this so-called sport: “Pigeons are put into mechanical launches and placed about 30 yards away from shooters. The birds are propelled, in some cases they are shot while they are still in the air, other times they fall to the ground and are shot. In another type of contest, the birds, including turkeys, are tethered in place, so they cannot escape, and shot.”
Pennsylvania is the only state where this sort of thing is both condoned and legal. While Pennsylvania’s bird blasters — who can be quite hate-filled — defend their love of avian massacres, there are those fighting to end pigeon shoots and bring the state into the 21st century. One such person is Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States.
She was recently profiled by syndicated columnist Walter Brasch. No stranger to pigeon shoots or Pennsylvania politics, Brasch has covered both since 1990. He describes Prescott as a “compassionate but tough lobbyist” who drives over two hours from her home in Maryland to Harrisburg, where she spends anywhere from five to ten hours at a time at the state capitol. “She seldom eats, rushing from office to office, sitting, waiting, and talking,” writes Brasch. “To staff. To elected officials. To anyone who will listen.”
Prescott has spent over 20 years trying to convince lawmakers in Pennsylvania to ban pigeon shoots. She’s up against some tough, entrenched forces. Many politicians are cowed by the power of the National Rifle Association, which supports pigeon shooting as a “sport” and fights against efforts to outlaw the practice. And, as always, there are those who justify cruelty with buzzwords such as “tradition” and “culture.” As Prescott herself rightfully observes, “Just because people do it, or have done it, doesn’t make it a ‘tradition’ worthy of upholding. To argue the case merely tarnishes a fine word.”
There are others who would like to see an end to pigeon hunts in Pennsylvania. State representatives Eugene DePasquale, Frank Shimkus, and John Maher and state senators Roy Afflerbach and Patrick Browne have offered bills in the past to outlaw them. The editors of the local paper The Patriot–News have called on legislators to “end this cruel practice.” Even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court called the shoots “cruel and moronic.”
Heidi Prescott is hopeful that the voices of kindness will finally drown out the voices of cruelty in Pennsylvania this year. “Plain and simple, it’s a matter of when Pennsylvania will join the civilized family of America’s other states and stop allowing live animals to be used for nothing more than target practice,” she says. “It’s time for the Legislature to honor the best of Pennsylvania’s traditions — those that make us hold our heads high.”
Add your voice to those calling for an end to pigeon shoots.
Photo Credit: Dori