That’s the contention, at least, of an animal rights group that has notified Oklahoma County prosecutors of alleged illegal activity related to racing pigeons.
Oklahoma City just might be the epicenter of the niche hobby, with the World of Wings Pigeon Center and the American Racing Pigeon Union both based here.
PETA — that’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, not People Eating Tasty Animals — alleges there’s a lucrative and illegal underbelly to pigeon racing that violates federal racketeering and tax laws.
“Pigeon racing is a surprisingly cruel enterprise driven by money, but the birds pay the ultimate price,” said Jeff Kerr, general counsel to PETA. “These clubs kill off birds by the thousands and handle bundles of illegal gambling loot right under the noses of law enforcement officials in Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma.”
Out of more than 1,500 baby pigeons shipped to Oklahoma City for an ARPU race, only 1,044 birds survived training. When those 1,044 survivors were released from Conway, Ark., only 420 made it back by nightfall. PETA claimed the birds are not acclimated to the wild, and fall victim to extreme weather, raptors, electric lines, foul play or exhaustion.
Undercover PETA footage shows people describing the hazards and tactics of the industry. One unidentified man explained a trick to get the birds to return to home lofts even faster: “They just use the baby to get the bird to come home from the race, and they discard the baby.”
Are the allegations true? Considering Oklahoma was among the last states in the union to ban cockfighting, color us unshocked.