Hegins 1995: love and mayhem
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:
HEGINS, Pennsylvania––If law enforcement
officials really believed, as some said, that locking
up Rod Coronado killed the Animal Liberation
Front (Court Calendar, September), they got notice
to the contrary on August 27 when persons claiming to
be the ALF briefly freed 500 pigeons who were to be
killed at the 52nd annual Hegins pigeon shoot. An
ALF communique said the pigeons were taken from
Mike’s Feed Barn in Weishampie, near Hegins, and
released in a park.
But whoever purports to be the ALF these
days learned a lesson about rehoming pigeons––no
quick job––when according to shoot organizer Bob
Tobash, “All but about 50 came back.”
The pigeons who returned were among 5,106
released before the guns on Labor Day, of whom 13%
were killed outright; 63% were wounded and killed by
“trapper boys”; 14% were wounded but not captured
by the trapper boys; and 10% escaped harm. The
totals compared closely with those of 1994.
Fund for Animals volunteers have kept the
records for the past three years, hoping to build a case
that the Hegins shoot is prosecutable cruelty. They
also treat the injuries of any pigeons they recover, and
humanely euthanize those hurt too badly to recover.
About 300 pigeons “were transported to rehabilitation
facilities for further care” this year, said Fund director
of campaigns Mike Markarian.
Chicago Animal Rights Coalition founder
Steve Hindi, who practically single-handedly revived
interest in the shoot in 1990 after the major national
groups had given up trying to halt it, said he thought
this year’s shoot might have marked a turning point.
No demonstrators were cited, Hindi explained, but
Hegins police chief Steve Lohr cited three shoot supporters
for slamming Hindi’s video camera into his
face, and was likely to cite two more, captured on the
video footage, for throwing rocks at protesters. In
addition, Lohr confirmed on September 5 that he was
investigating the presence of 13 banded pigeons
among those who were stored for the shoot. Shooting
banded birds is illegal in Pennsylvania.
Lohr succeeded longtime Hegins police chief
Earl Stutzman last year.
“The spectators were very drunk and violent
this year,” said Fund representative Michael Chiado.
“I was assaulted as well as a number of others, and we
are pressing charges. One activist was almost run over
by a tractor driver who lowered the front shovel of the
tractor and charged her.”
“This was my fourth year there,” seconded
activist Stuart Chaifetz, “and I think this was the most
violent year.” Lingering , he said, were memories of
the smiles on the faces of shoot supporters who killed
wounded birds or tried to take them from
activists––the smiles, Chaifetz said, “that normal people
have when in love.”
“These are farm boys,” Tobash told
Associated Press. “They love their animals before
they go to the slaughterhouse.”