Million dollar pigeon race cancelled due to NSPCA intervention

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Organisers of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDR) disregarded the NSPCA’s warning, and reports of inclement weather, when they transported birds to the release site with the undoubted intention of proceeding with the race. Warnings of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall had been forecast along the route that the birds were due to fly.

Personnel from the NSPCA’s Special Projects Unit and the SAPS were present in Colesberg the night before, and in the morning when the race was planned to start. Our intention was to prevent the release of the birds to race if there was no drastic improvement in the weather. SPCA personnel and SAPS officials were on standby in places along the planned race route to monitor the weather and to respond in case of need.

Fortunately, under pressure from NSPCA, the organisers eventually made the decision to cancel the race and to return the birds to the loft, which was approximately 570km away.

The 21st annual Million Dollar pigeon race was scheduled to take place on 04 February 2017 from Colesberg in the Northern Cape to the new SAMDR loft, which is situated at the Heron Banks Golf Estate in Sasolburg, Gauteng.

2,432 pigeons had been placed in baskets and transported to compete in the final race, but the number of pigeons originally entered into the loft is currently unknown.

NSPCA Special Projects Unit Manager Meg Wilson stated that, “The confinement and long distance transportation of these birds is irresponsible and unnecessary, given the adverse weather conditions leading up to the event.”

In previous years, the NSPCA drew attention to the loss of a substantial number of birds. In 2014, over 6,000 birds were entered into the loft, but by the time the final race took place, only approximately 3,500 birds remained, as 40% of the birds originally entered had disappeared during training events.

Statistics regarding the number of birds returning after the race are equally shocking. In 2014, only approximately 1,400 birds completed the race, indicating that just 25% of the birds entered made it back. The first 100 birds to return were sold by auction.

There are valid concerns for the welfare of these birds. Historically, 75% never return. All this in the name of sport.

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(Featured image: screenshot from bigtykie, “New Home of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race,” YouTube. Fair use)

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The NSPCA was founded in 1955 as the Federation of SPCAs to provide a forum to bring uniformity to welfare legislation and standards. The SPCAs in South Africa are governed by the SPCA Act 169 of 1993 which is administered by the NSPCA, constituting us as a statutory body. Inspectors are authorised in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 and the Performing Animals Protection Act No. 24 of 1935 with the SPCA movement collectively undertaking over 90% of all animal welfare investigations and prosecutions in South Africa. The NSPCA operates on a national basis with a team of dedicated Inspectors, who are specialists in their fields. We work tirelessly to protect animals from neglect and abuse and enforce the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 when deliberate cruelty takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of animals are improved because of our passion, our intervention, and our commitment to bring about long-term positive change for farmed animals, wildlife, research animals, domestics and animals used in entertainment and sport. In a country that spans over a million square kilometres, there are areas where there is no SPCA, no animal welfare organisations and no veterinary services. The NSPCA plays a vital role in bringing extraordinary support to these people and their animals. Click to see author's profile.

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