OpEds—Why are Pennsylvania animal advocates not helping to stop pigeon shoots?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2013: (Actually published on October 8, 2013)
In 1989 I drove from Illinois to Montauk Point, New York to indulge in shark fishing, then my favorite pastime. I had no idea that a detour to the small town of Hegins, Pennsylvania would change my world forever. I vividly remember to this day my shock and disgust at what I saw in that bloody Hegins park. I also remember the terrific people I met who nonviolently fought against the abuse. The people I would formerly have considered to be on “my side,” the creeps with the guns, were completely outclassed by the people who stood for compassion. It took a while first for me to realize, then accept, that I was on a new course, and would soon be leading a whole new life. I went from being a prolific animal killer who aimed guns and other killing tools at animals, to being an activist who aims cameras at animal abusers. There was never a question in my mind that the Hegins pigeon shoot would be stopped, though it took 10 years. The ethics, energy, intelligence and dedication of those fighting on behalf of the animals could not be defeated. But 13 years into the new millennium, 14 years after the Hegins shoot ended, live pigeon shoots continue elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Damn the evil and corrupt National Rifle Association. Damn the corrupt police and district attorneys who refuse to enforce Pennsylvania Humane Law 5511. Damn Pennsylvania’s corrupt legislatures who dance to the NRA’s tune, and are led around by the nose to do its bidding. Damn Pennsylvania’s media for not reporting these wanton slaughters. While we’re at it, how about we give a double damn to those who just might have more to do with the continuation of pigeon butchery than all the other guilty parties combined? I am speaking about Pennsylvania’s humane movement. Pennsylvania’s live pigeon shoots have for decades been the most blatant animal abuse issue in the state, if not the country, but you wouldn’t know it from the paucity of Pennsylvania residents actively involved in efforts to stop these wanton slaughters. Pennsylvania has a population of well over 12 million people, yet I can count the number of Pennsylvania citizens actively involved in documenting, exposing or protesting pigeon shoots on two hands, with fingers to spare. A trip to China a couple years ago reminded me of what real activism looks like, and hasn’t looked like in the U.S. for two decades. Chinese activists with far fewer freedoms take great risk in their efforts, but they don’t flinch and they don’t quit. The U.S. animal protection movement needs to pay attention. The effort to expose Pennsylvania’s live pigeon shoots is being conducted mainly by people from Illinois and New Jersey. Pennsylvania’s so-called humane “leaders” not only ignore pigeon shoots, but actively avoid even mentioning them. I recall with disgust a planned rally of PA “activists” at the capitol in Harrisburg a few years ago, whose organizers adamantly refused to bring up pigeon shoots until I threatened to expose their cowardice and do everything I could to scuttle the posturing opportunity for Pennsylvania’s so-called humane leaders. NRA lobbyist John Hohenwarter brags publicly about keeping pigeon shoot slaughters going. Pennsylvania humane “leaders” should be in his face and fighting. Instead they tiptoe around as if trying not to be noticed.
Pigeon shoots certainly are not the only cruelty issue in PA. As anywhere else, there is plenty of other abuse. But the shoots stand alone in torturing and killing animals by the thousands for no reason other than the thrill of killing. SHARK will continue to expose Pennsylvania pigeon shoots and the corrupt officials who allow them. SHARK stands ready to work with any and all in Pennsylvania who are ready to work to stop pigeon shoots. But besides the six to eight Pennsylvania residents who have actually been doing something, is there anyone else who is serious about this humane issue? ––Steve Hindi, President, SHARK P.O. Box 28, Geneva, IL 60134 Phone: 630-557-0176 Fax: 630-557-0178 <SHARKintl@SHARKonline.org> <www.SHARKonline.org>