Newsletter - Animal Writes © sm
22 August 1999 Issue

Hegins Pigeon Shoot Canceled
By [email protected]

What would have been the 66th annual Hegins Pigeon Shoot was canceled this last week by the event's organizers. The moronic event, which was begun in 1934, has been the focus of animal rights activists for the last decade. Each Labor Day, thousands of pigeons were released from boxes and fired upon at close range by shotgun wielding participants who paid a fee to compete for prizes and cash. The annual event raised over 40 thousand dollars a year for this Pennsylvania town. The “sportsmen” and 10 thousand spectators brought in even more money each year in tourism revenue to the city of Hegins which valued those bucks above their growing reputation as the site of one of the cruelest ritual animal slaughters in the world.

The Fund for Animals has documented that only 25% of the birds were killed immediately by the gunfire. The wounded birds were retrieved by youth of the community called "trapper boys” who dispatched the wounded pigeons by tearing the birds' heads from their bodies, smashing them against the ground, stomping on them or tossing them into a barrel filled with other dead and dying pigeons.

For the last few years the confrontations between animal activists and participants have grown more strained resulting in the arrests of hundreds of protesters on the usual catch-all charges of trespass, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. In 1995 the Animal Liberation Front freed 500 pigeons which were to be part of the event. In 1996, the Fund for Animals presented to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge petitions signed by Hollywood producers, screenwriters and actors, urging him to stop the event. Mr. Ridge sidestepped the issue and said he didn’t want to interfere in local decisions. In 1997, seven activists formed a human road block by linking their arms within 10-gallon containers of concrete. This action closed the primary road leading to the pigeon shoot and delayed the event. In 1998 the Fund for Animals decided that the protests were not making progress and changed their tactics, opting to stay away from the 1998 shoot.

Last year the Fund for Animals called for a boycott of Pennsylvania and campaigned to persuade tourists to plan their vacations for other destinations. The Fund also backed the legal actions being waged by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s SPCA did have the authority to seek a court order to halt the event. Faced with the very real possibility that injunctions would shut down the shoot, the event’s organizers canceled this year’s slaughter.

Robert Tobash, a member of the committee that sponsors the pigeon shoot, was disappointed that outside interference forced the event’s cancellation. "We are not willing to subject our townspeople to additional violence and terrorism by a group of out-of-state individuals who feel they are morally superior to our local citizens," he said. Perhaps he feels the citizens have created all the violence they need. "We feel this is our right to have a pigeon shoot. This is a hunting sport. There are certain people that like this and we're providing a sport to them.” Tobash added, “It isn't that we hate pigeons, we treat them well until they get shot."

The SPCA of Pennsylvania is moving ahead with their lawsuit to make sure that the Hegins Pigeon Shoot doesn’t ever happen again. It appears that the final chapter is being written on this long standing barbaric festival and the movement for animal rights has achieved an important victory.

For more information visit the website of The Fund for Animals at...

The Fund for Animals
Email: [email protected]

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