In March of 2010, I spoke with Stu Chaifetz, a friend of mine and an animal rights activist with SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, about Pennsylvania's pigeon shoots. Pennsylvania is the only state in the United States that still allows pigeon shoots.
What is a pigeon shoot?
In a pigeon shoot, they take living pigeons, live birds, and put them into small boxes, with the shooters lined up. They pull strings on the boxes that launch them into the air, and then the birds are shot. Some die immediately. Many die within the next couple of minutes. Then you have another group that will be wounded but can fly away, but then they die over the next couple of days. Then there are those very few who manage to survive and they escape. One shoot can wind up killing thousands of birds. It is a relentless, endless procession of birds being shot as targets.
Why should pigeon shoots be illegal?
They are the absolute definition of cruelty and barbarity. We outlaw dogfighting because there is a common recognition of the absolutely cruelty of it. 99.99% of people, if they saw a live pigeon shoot, would agree that it is something that should never be allowed to happen.
Why is Pennsylvania lagging behind the rest of the country in banning them?
That’s because of the National Rifle Association. One of the pigeon shoots that we’re fighting is run by one of the Board of Directors of the NRA. Now, the NRA has a lot of power in Pennsylvania and they don’t want to see any restrictions of any kind, even something as horrifying as this. That is why it’s so difficult to stop them in Pennsylvania, even though most hunters and most people who own guns would agree that it’s horrifying. There’s enough power in play that the NRA uses its resources to protect pigeon shoots.
What should Pennsylvania residents do to support a ban on pigeon shoots?
They should contact the governor, the attorney general and their legislators. Visit www.PAshame.com and there’s information on how to contact all these individuals. On the one hand we want legislation to ban pigeon shoots. On the other hand, we want prosecutors to charge pigeon shooters with animal cruelty.
Why was the Hegins, PA pigeon shoot so notorious?
The Hegins pigeon shoot was held every Labor Day for decades. There were literally thousands upon thousands, literally five to ten thousand birds, would die in one day. Morning until late afternoon, non-stop shooting. There was money changing hands. There would be money betting, gambling on it. It was a whole disaster. It was notorious because it happened at the same spot every Labor Day. This was an annual event.
Why did the Hegins pigeon shoot end, while others are continuing?
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acknowledged that pigeon shoots are very cruel but they didn’t make an actual ruling. The supreme court looked like they were going to rule against pigeon shoots. The people who were running the Hegins pigeon shoot, instead of allowing the supreme court to rule against pigeon shoots, made a deal with the prosecutor and it never went to a final ruling.