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)