Friday, July 18, 2008

STILL POLISHING BIRDS IN PENNSYLTUCKY: Hardcore pigeon shooters cling to psychopathy and gambling

From time to time your host has mentioned the Fred Coleman Memorial Labor Day Hegins Pigeon Shoot in Pennsyltucky. It was an abominable event in which the locals came out to cheer as shooters blasted thousands of pigeons with shotguns at close range. Animal cruelty protesters would show up, to be set upon by pigeon shoot boosters who liked nothing more than administering beatings and trouble to outsiders. (See here and here.)

In 1999, after years of steadily increasing societal hostility, the pigeon shoot was cancelled. Rationalized as a way for the community of Hegins to make money for the funding of public services, it evaporated when organizers became exposed to potential arrest for animal cruelty.

Walter Brasch, a journalism prof at Bloomsburg College in that state, covered the shoot five times and has devoted some time to the study of pigeon-shooters in the state explains in a recent essay:

"The organizers of the Hegins shoot finally cancelled the contests in 1999, 66 years after they began. It had nothing to do with a realization that killing domesticated pigeons is cruel. It had everything to do with a unanimous ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that humane society officers could arrest participants and organizers under state anti-cruelty charges."

Pigeon shooting still goes on in Pennsylvania but more privately, Brasch writes. It is relegated to the hardcore fringe of the hunting community in the state and conducted at closed events. In his article, Brasch estimates there are a few hundred pigeon-shooters still clinging to the sport, one regarded as indefensible animal cruelty.

"Children ripping the heads off live birds or throwing them into the air like footballs, adults cheering and laughing when crippled birds flop up and down in pain, and spectators parading around the park with pigeons’ heads mounted on plastic forks," one woman tells Brasch.

Read the entire piece -- and it's a good one -- here.

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