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
The Fund for Animals
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