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Pigeon racing ban debated

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The pigeon racing industry has been around for over a hundred years. Many racers have found this a sport and a hobby but the future of the sport and the business may come to and end, or possibly be banned. According to Fadiel Hendricks, the president of the Fancy Pigeon Association in South Africa, the sport is more about the love of pigeons than anything else.

“Yes it is a big business but the fanciers themselves say that it is not lucrative but it is more about the love of the sport,” he says.

But the NSPCA and the Department of Water and Environmental affairs are saying something different. The department’s spokesperson Zolile Nqayi says that they are not talking about the racing being banned but rather that the species of the pigeon used in the racing are alien to the environment.

“We are not talking about it being banned but we are talking about the pigeon species being invasive and it includes some birds”.

Nqayi also says the department is still discussing the matter with the different stakeholders.

However, Hendricks who has been at the Association since 2007, says the legislation was passed in 2004 but the Department of Environmental Affairs did not play their part in the matter.

In terms of the Government Gazette of 01 August 2014, activities including the importing, breeding, trading in and translocation of pigeons are now listed as prohibited activities in the Invasive and Alien Species List as published by the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs. The prohibition includes the “releasing of any specimen of a listed invasive species” which effectively means that releasing pigeons to race or as homing pigeons is now illegal.

Hendricks says that it was a law passed for a certain type of pigeon and not the race pigeon. He says that the NSPCA is only speaking up after seven years since the law being passed.

“The law refers to the wild dove (feral pigeon). It’s like comparing a wild donkey to a race horse and the SPCA wants to make a noise. They are cared for and you can’t compare the domesticated pigeon to the wild pigeon”.

Faunty Gilmer, the president of the SA Pigeon Association said the NSPCA’s Alwyn Marais sat on the board for many years and that he does not know why Marais sent out a statement about the Pigeon racing.

In a press release by the NSPCA last week, it said it had welfare concerns regarding the sport of pigeon racing. These include but are not limited to the rate of attrition during races. That is, the high number of pigeons who simply do not ever reach their race destination for various reasons including exhaustion and racing taking place in inclement or extreme weather conditions.

Both Hendricks and Gilmer insisted the pigeons have been well looked after.

“On behalf of myself, SANPO has a code of conduct and we treat the birds in the most humane way possible. Individual people may have been earmarked but my wife says I take care of the pigeons more than I take care of her,” quipped Hendricks.

Gilmer says the pigeon racing has been a hobby rather than a business and will be missed if banned. They are still in discussions with the department. The NSPCA’s Alwyn Marias is yet to make a statement on the matter. VOC (Nishta Sookdiyal)

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  1. i am a young racing pigeon fancier that absolutely loves the sport. i find it extremely unfair that the fanciers that care and race pigeons for the love of the sport, the ones who don’t harm their pigeons by injecting steroids and other disgusting substances into their birds (their pets), are the ones who are suffering from this. The people that only race for the money and don’t care for their birds should be the ones kicked out of the sport because the give pigeon racing a bad name. they are the reason that this law was passed. i honestly don’t care if my pigeons perform a top 50 position because i do it for the love of the sport. theres nothing like watching your birds come in after a race and perform to the best of their ability. i care for my pigeons. anyone who says a street pigeon is healthier than mine is a fool and is terribly misinformed. as a fancier, the slightest detection of a bacteria or disease in a pigeon is dealt with immediately.
    i do think that the people who mistreat their birds should be banned for life and fined. just as in the same way a person who does dog fights should be punished. Horses are also put through the same treatments as pigeons. they are cared for and trained to prepare for the races.
    The SPCA should rather stick to their jobs and help the abused, abandoned, mistreated and sick animals. they shouldn’t make pigeon racing illegal, they should get rid of the bad pigeon fanciers.
    In terms of the invasive alien species, i don’t see anyone complaining about the jacaranda trees, the carp, etc. Also they should get rid of all zoos. racing pigeons aren’t trapped in small cages for their whole lives. they are let out and well looked after… that’s just like taking your dog for a walk.

    1. It’s not the same as taking your dog for a walk, but rather leaving your dog alone in the middle of a forest and waiting for it to come home…

      A high percentage of racing pigeons never make it back, many of which meet painful ends – no amount of pampering prior to release can erase that. Actions speak louder than words, and in this instance even though the words are “I love my pigeons!”, they can’t really be taken seriously when you’re releasing these domestic animals into the wilderness where they face very real risks of experiencing pain and death.

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