It’s not like I actually read the New York Post. Well, in this one instance I did. But someone left it on the subway, so it’s not like I paid for it or anything. You still respect me, right?

Well, with that out of the way, I have to thank the Big Apple’s Yellow Press Express for bringing it to my attention that today is National Pigeon Day. The event honors the ubiquitous Columba livia in all its guises. Great domestic pigeons of the past – mostly messenger pigeons used to carry dispatches in wartime – are lauded. Pigeon poaching is decried.

Pigeon poaching?

Yes, one of the aims of the day is to raise awareness about pigeon poaching, and I have to admit, it worked on me, because I was not aware of that problem at all. Apparently, there are individuals in this fair city who make it a practice to go out, spread seed, net the pigeons who gather, and sell them.

Which raises, inevitably, the question of who is buying?

The Post alleges that some of the birds are sold for racing – which strikes me as wildly improbable, since raising pigeons are specially bred from specific domestic strains. They also claim that some are shipped to Pennsylvania for pigeon shoots, while others may end up as chow – more plausible, to be sure.

Now, poaching implies illegal. Feeding street pigeons to unwitting consumers would be mad illegal, or at least I dearly hope so. Transporting pigeons across state lines, as to a pigeon shoot in Pennsylvania, apparently requires a license which these miscreants haven’t got. That too makes good sense from an animal welfare and disease control point of view. But the actual taking of pigeons – the poaching – is it poaching? Pigeons, being non-native and non-migratory, aren’t protected by law any more than House Sparrows or Starlings.

However, if there’s a demand for them, then the supply ought to be properly regulated. A sensible, humanely conducted pigeon harvest could balance pigeon control, animal welfare, sustainability (not that I think Rock Pigeons will be hunted to extinction, but people didn’t think that about the last Pigeons I posted about either…) and public safety; it could create revenue for the city (perhaps we could get a punning headline in the Post by earmarking it for statue and park maintenance or something) and who knows but maybe they are safe enough to eat, in which case, hey, cheap, locally-grown, free-range protein!


Happy National Pigeon Day!

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