The fight against pigeon cruelty is alive and well

I respond to Vyfer Krog’s letter ‘No substance to cruelty lawsuit’ (23 & 30 December 2011, pg 10) as a counter to his ‘talking unabated’.

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As he was not involved in the court case against the Transvaal Racing Pigeon Federation (TRPF), his letter illustrates the ignorance of a grossly misinformed partisan, and his little knowledge makes his publicly stated inferences dangerous. The court case he refers to is far from settled and will proceed in due course.

What was settled was an interim and subsidiary application brought as an urgent application to stop the Leeu-Gamka and Matjiesfontein races in the meantime, pending the finalisation of the main case. In the main case, which will proceed in due course, a permanent interdict is sought to prevent cruelty when forcing pigeons to participate, not only in marathons, but also in any long distance race where adverse weather conditions exist.

The problem with the urgent application was the technical procedural requirement relating to any urgent application – reasons for ‘jumping the queue’, so to speak. Because the applicant had delayed too long (it was not a decision taken lightly to institute the action against his pigeon organisation), he was advised that the court would probably not allow him to jump the queue – which meant that it would have been postponed to a later date. The question as to cruelty was not heard.

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The settlement was agreed to only on the basis that a scientific investigation is to be conducted as to whether these races are offences in terms of the Animal Protection Act. The TRPF agreed to pay half of the investigation costs. If the TRPF had such a good and unanswerable case, why did it settle at all – and then on the basis that it would pay half the investigation costs, conceding the possibility that these races could indeed constitute offences?

The contention that these races constitute cruelty was supported by the official veterinarian of the TRPF, the well-known pigeon vet, Dr Rob Conradie.  The facts also showed that these are the only races with regular disastrous results. It is a known fact, never denied by the TRPF, that the Matjiesfontein race is used by some fanciers as the end-of-season loft ‘clean out’ – where they get rid of all the unwanted birds. Is this not cruel?

Not ‘natural’
The South African National Pigeon Organisation has, in principle, decided that a race should not be longer than 1 000km (for yearlings not longer than 850km). Why – if these marathons are not cruel? And Krog knows it. His giveaway is the mother nature argument.

He tries to justify cruelty by stating that what is done to pigeons in the marathons is not as cruel as what mother nature does to swallows. He ignores the fact that swallows have not been bred for generations in a safe loft with food and water where they don’t have to fend for themselves.

When pigeons are sent to a marathon in the summer heat and only arrive home after four or five days, it is cruelty. In fact, a pigeon would have been better off in a wire cage outside in the sun for four days (and longer) without food and little water.  Krog’s reference to the democracy of the decision to hold these races is a further illustration of his ignorance.

Apart from the problem of many democracies – the fictitious majority caused by a lethargic non-voting majority (only 48 members out of a possible 200 voted in favour) – no member would ever be bound if the implementation of a decision would constitute an offence, in this case cruelty to animals.

Krog’s reference to expensive pigeons is likewise misleading. The marathons take place once or twice a season and birds bred from these expensive birds are seldom sent to these races. The race from Matjiesfontein to Johannesburg has been proved to be cruel. The eradication of this cruelty will eventually be the saving grace of pigeon racing.

Unlike Krog, I have  the contents of the court case and application as I am the plaintiff/applicant. I shall gladly, at the request of any fancier, provide, by email, a copy of the papers filed in the application. I make this offer in the belief that interested fanciers will contribute to the investigation.