Homing Unions respond to PETA –

News Items 03 Apr 2013

This statement is issued on behalf of the following Organisations which represent pigeon racing in the UK:

RPRA – Royal Racing Pigeon Association
WHPU – Welsh Homing Pigeon Union
NWHU – North West Homing Union
SHU – Scottish Homing Union
NEHU – North of England Homing Union

As representatives of pigeon racing within the UK we are extremely concerned by findings from PETA’s investigation into pigeon racing in the UK.

All pigeon racing unions work hard to promote positive animal husbandry. We are committed to safeguarding racing pigeons’ welfare in all aspects of life – including, but not limited to birds which take part in the sport. We advocate that all racing pigeons in the UK are well looked after at all times – and promote the highest possible standards in training and racing.

We offer advice, carry out regular health checks, campaign for changes in law to protect our birds and enforce existing welfare guidelines through education and monitoring. Poor husbandry is frowned upon by fanciers and not accepted or tolerated by any of the racing pigeon unions. Individual acts of animal cruelty are not exclusive to pigeon racing or sports in which animals participate. None of the UK homing unions condone acts of cruelty against pigeons regrettably it remains a societal problem, carried out by an irresponsible minority.

Racing pigeons offer company, affection, comfort and fun and in the vast majority of cases, they receive the care and respect they deserve. UK pigeon fanciers love their birds and their birds love racing – pigeons compete and race naturally every time they are released from their lofts.

Losses do occur during races for a myriad of differing reasons – wire or other such hazard strike, predation by raptors and in the past few summers rapidly changing weather conditions on route. The last few summer’s very strange weather patterns has resulted in higher than normal losses when compared to the historic norms, this being despite shortened races, the improvements in weather forecasting and improved race communications.

Lost racing pigeons can easily be reported and reunited with their owner. It is a requirement that every racing bird have a ring with a unique identification number. The RPRA, for example, has four designated phone lines for the reporting of lost pigeons and an established pigeon courier network. All unions have a similar method of repatriating stray pigeons.

Pigeon racing is a long-standing British tradition. There are about 43,000 fanciers in the UK who race their pigeons from April to September, using the winter months for breeding and husbandry.

The sport of pigeon racing is practised in all areas of the UK and the five unions representing the sport can be contacted should further information be required.

March 2013

PETA’s UK pigeon racing investigation

Anyone who picks up the phone, responds to emails or has direct contact with the public on behalf of pigeon racing should be made aware of this memo.


PETA’s 15-month undercover investigations into pigeon racing in the US and UK mean we need to be ready for any media and possibly, public enquiries concerning welfare. The animal rights organisation has branded pigeon racing a blood sport.

PETA’s investigation, documenting mass casualties of birds during races and training and highlights the widespread killing of unwanted birds and training methods it describes as abusive. The two films should be watched to fully explain the first is the UK film – the second is the USA film produced by PETA



We need to be proactive and helpful in any instances of public or media enquiry. Adopting an emotional, defensive or rude stance will escalate the problem.

What to do:

Any enquiries concerning this issue received by a fancier, club or union should be forwarded immediately to their respective Union.

If you do receive an inquiry of this nature:

Do not be tempted to engage in conversation – explain that their enquiry is better handled by the Unions press officer and:

– Ask politely for their name in full

Ask what it is they want to know

– Ask the name of the publication or media title they are working for

If it is a journalist, ask if they have a deadline by which they need a response

– Obtain an email address and direct contact number

– Tell them that you will pass on this information straight away and they can expect contact from the press officer.



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About the author

Willie Reynolds

Covering the sport in Ireland for several years, scribe for both BHW & RP and a number of local newspapers including the News Letter (Farming Life Supplement) each Wednesday. Secretary of Ballymena & District for a number of years and currently PO for the Mighty NIPA & INFC. Watch out for the many articles/news items penned by HOMER.

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