Rescue Worthy?
An Animal Rights Article from


Elizabeth Young on


By accident, Iíve become a king pigeon rescuer. I spend many hours every day working on their behalf. I racked up over 3,000 pigeon transport miles last year. Iíve spent a few thousand dollars of my own money and almost as much donors' money on avian vet care. I care for foster birds; recruit, review, approve and support adopters; maintain a website and a blog, do tons of data-entry and even more outreach and PR and fundraising. Iím good at king pigeon rescue and, in not quite two years, Iíve helped more than 150 avoid euthanasia and get into top-quality adoptive homes.

I love doing it. It cracks me up that I have twenty-something white king pigeon fosters in a loft and that I can tell them all apart. They are almost all all white. I love finding out who a bird is and getting to know its personality and quirks. I have thousands of pictures of king pigeons stored on my hard drive and almost every day I still grab my camera and run to photograph them doing something funny or interesting or beautiful. Every time I hear about another one (or ten) whose time in a shelter is about to run out, Iím motivated to drop everything and send out the urgent e-mails looking for space for one (or ten) more. I love meeting other people who want to help and getting their support through the letdowns and sharing the good times.

But the thing is, these are domestic meat birds bred to be butchered and served as squab. Theyíre neither rare nor endangered. Itís as if I decided to rescue Foster Farms' chickens, one at a time. I've spent many, many hours helping them and have saved 150. Squab plants process 50 an hour. When polar bears and tigers and gorillas are going extinct, when kids are starving and refugees fleeing wars, does my work as a king pigeon rescuer make any sense at all? Is this a worthwhile effort? Should I be redirecting my energy to something more important to the world? And, to make matters worse, Iím not tackling the source of the problem. Iím just helping those lucky few birds who escape the butcher and beat the odds to survive the streets long enough to get taken to an animal shelter.

I know that what I do matters to the birds Iím able to help save. They didnít ask to be born but they want to live. And Iíve been happily surprised by the amount of support and encouragement Iíve gotten. Iím not the only one who cares about these disposable birds.

I didnít start out looking for a cause. I worked thirteen years on the frontlines of the war on poverty and, while I loved it, I wasnít ready to re-enlist. But I met a king pigeon named Gurumina and she needed and deserved help. So I helped her and every king pigeon thatís crossed my path since (and a lot of other stuck-in-shelter birds, like quail and chukars and roosters that I've met along the way). I canít say for sure that, if I wasnít doing this, Iíd be fighting for polar bears or renewable energy or libraries or equal rights. So maybe itís just good that Iím doing something. Is it good enough?

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