Friday, September 10, 2010

Pigeon Shoots: A Promise Broken

As this is written, my understanding is that Pennsylvania is the only state still permitting live pigeon shoots. That disgusting distinction almost came to an end recently; but it seems the legislature broke a promise to vote these "sporting" events out of existence at the end of their most recent sitting. True, they had to attend to a budget matter before they went home; but how much would it have hurt them to stay on an extra half hour? They could have taken an action that would not only have been right in itself, but that would have pleased 80 per cent of the Pennsylvania electorate.
After all, a ban on pigeon shoots is not an attack on guns, gun ownership, or the Second Amendment. Pennsylvania voters, many of whom grew up eating venison or wild rabbit and take the first day of deer season off as a holiday, understand this. The National Rifle Association wants to confuse the issue, but has evidently succeeded in confusing only members of the legislature.
Why? It's hard to figure out. In this case doing the right thing wouldn't seem to take any special courage. The NRA has only about 200,000 members in the state; the Humane Society just about 670,000. And the two NRA members I know--I live in an urban setting--find the pigeon shoots detestable. You'd think people who get and hold on to their jobs through elections would be more conscious of the numbers, and go with the majority. But perhaps NRA members who ARE fans of the shoots are better at applying pressure than the rest of us. If so, we need to change that.
News that the shoots would continue was profoundly saddening to Heidi Prescott, the national Humane Society official I introduced in my previous post. I do not know her personally, but wish I did. I do have the good fortune to know one or two others like her. They, too, have seized on a small part of life as theirs to defend --all they can encompass, since they are not God. The world needs more of them; but as a rule they are treated very badly.
Ms. Prescott is no exception: she has been slammed against cars, had her feet stepped on, and been imprisoned, among other things. But for her no punishment can compare to the horror of seeing innocent animals slaughtered while she is powerless to stop the proceedings. She has attended some 50 of these horrific spectacles, steeling herself to report this cruelty back to those of us who have not been paying attention.
Born in Buffalo, NY, she graduated from Pennsylvania's Edinboro University (then Edinboro State College) and later got an Master of Fine Arts. In addition, she studied psychology, specializing in domestic violence. She began her working career as an artist.
Her life changed, though, when her then-husband placed a dying woodpecker in her hand. She could not save it, but the experience of trying led her to become a trained wildlife rehabilitator. Later she went to work for the Humane Society, where her efforts helped cut back on the fur trade and promote other programs to benefit animals.
Not until 1990 did she center her attention on ending Pennsylvania's pigeon shoots. That was when, during the Hegins shoot, she was handed a pigeon whose legs had been shot off. It needed to be euthanized by her colleagues. She remains haunted by the memory of its fight for life and breath.
Within a few minutes of reading Walt Brasch's newsletter about the pigeon slaughters I had decided to give Ms. Prescott all the support I could--and I was on the phone to my state representative. If you agree with me that these shoots misrepresent Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians, why not call YOUR state representative and express your own view?
Be prepared to keep at the issue. Lawmakers really do have a full plate, and because of that can have a short memory for what they may regard as a small issue. But gratuitous cruelty can never be a small issue for a society that aspires to be healthy.

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