Date: Sun, 30 Nov 2008 12:11:01 -0500
Subject: National Rifle Association Opposes Pigeon Bill in Pennsylvania!
Hello fellow pigeon and animal activists,
Here is the latest article in the Lancaster newspaper concerning legislation that would end pigeon shoots in the state of Pennsylvania once and for all. Pennsylvania is the LAST STATE IN THE USA WHERE PIGEON SHOOTS TAKE PLACE. And note the involvement of the powerful National Rifle Association -- they are opposed to the Bill for fear that it will prohibit all hunting.
Today, it's pigeon shooting, tomorrow it could be deer hunting."
Read on and please distribute.
The article is posted on Pigeon Politics
FOR THE BIRDS
Animal activists push bills in state legislature to outlaw shoots involving pigeons, other animals; NRA and hunters return fire
Published: Nov 30, 2008
By GIL SMART, Associate Editor
Her husband called: He was taking her to a club picnic. He was a hunter; she knew there was a "turkey shoot" scheduled. She figured the archers would be firing arrows into polyfoam targets.
Instead, the targets were made of blood and feathers.
The Elstonville turkey shoot, which made front-page headlines and last year resulted in a $400 fine for the Elstonville Sportsmen's Association, turned Fitzkee into an activist. "When I started e-mailing [state officials] for information to help with the charges, I learned more about how Pennsylvania's laws on animal cruelty compared to other states - and realized how weak they are," said Fitzkee, of Manheim.
The legislation, first introduced in both the state House and Senate last year, initially focused on banning pigeon shoots like the infamous Hegins shoot, which was discontinued in 1999. The Humane Society of the United States, one of the bills' biggest backers, says a handful of pigeon shoots still take place around Pennsylvania each year. Some of the birds may be bought and sold here in Lancaster County.
The bills would also outlaw shoots like the one in Elstonville, where the live turkeys were tethered to hay bales.
The proposals are opposed by some sportsmen's organizations, including the National Rifle Association, which fears the legislation could ultimately lead to further restrictions, perhaps even the prohibition of hunting itself.
The bills got bottled up in committee last year, but backers say they expect a vote in the new legislative session, scheduled to begin in late January. "With every election," said Heidi Prescott, vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society of the United States, "more animal-friendly legislators are elected and they recognize that people who care about animals are a growing constituency."
Said Deb Fitzkee: "I wasn't able to save any of the turkeys that day [in Elstonville].
"But seeing this bill passed will help, knowing it won't happen again."
Indeed, animal activists feel they've got momentum on their side.
Last month, Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law a measure to crack down on puppy mills. "Now that the No. 1 animal cruelty [issue] in Pennsylvania has been addressed," said Fitzkee, "we are focusing on No. 2."
Activists say up to a dozen pigeon shoots are still held in Pennsylvania each year. One of the biggest happened at the Strausstown Rod & Gun Club, near Reading, last July.
Opponents expected that 4,000 to 6,000 birds would be killed or wounded in the event. Because the club wouldn't comment, and that day permitted no one but invited guests on the grounds, activists don't know how many birds were actually killed.
But the event attracted national attention after the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Post published articles - including allegations that some of the birds used for the shoot were taken from the streets of New York City.
Because of this, the New York Bird Club also backs the proposed Pennsylvania legislation, as does an animal advocacy group called SHARK, for "Showing Animals Respect and Kindness."
The Humane Society's Prescott told the Post that the birds are "illegally netted by poachers from New York City parks and sidewalks and sold to a retailer or go-between for $2 a bird. That retailer generally wholesales the pigeons for up to $4.50 each to a broker, who then resells the birds for $9 each to a gun range."
Local activists say some of the birds may be sold at local auctions, including Roots Market in Manheim.
But Earnest Hoover, manager of Greystone Small Animal Sale - which runs the animal auction at Roots - said he's unaware of anyone buying or selling pigeons to be blasted at shoots.
"As far as I know, that's not happening here," he said. "I see all the checks, and most everything is for people in Pennsylvania."
The Strausstown shoot in particular steeled the resolve of animal activists who want to outlaw such events.
Already, two bills were languishing in the Legislature. In November 2007, Senate Bill 1150 was introduced; it would have prohibited the use of live animals or fowl for target at a trap shoot or block shoot. Anyone organizing, operating, conducting or participating in such an event could be found guilty of a summary offense. Two weeks later House Bill 2130, identical to the Senate measure, was introduced.
That bill superseded House Bill 73, which would have banned live pigeon shoots only - and which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Mike Sturla.
Sturla, though not a co-sponsor of the new bills - no representatives or senators from Lancaster County are - continues to support its aims.
"I never found there to be much sport in shooting caged animals," said Sturla. "I'm not against hunting by any stretch of the imagination. But this isn't hunting."
Fitzkee lauded Sturla: "Mike Sturla is a hunter but one of the few that is willing to go against the NRA. That is a rarity with our Reps & Senators," she wrote in an e-mail.
Still, opponents of the measures say it may lead to the criminalization of hunting; and their clout was instrumental in making sure neither bill - nor subsequent amendments to other bills that would have achieved the same end - were voted on in 2008.
Two phone calls to John Hohenwarter, the National Rifle Association's Pennsylvania state liaison, were not returned. However, in a message posted on the NRA Web site and dated Sept. 12, the organization warned that sportsmen's rights were in jeopardy:
"Pigeon shooting is an historic and legitimate activity steeped in tradition with many participants throughout the Commonwealth and around the world," the organization asserted.
"Make no mistake; this isn't just about banning pigeon shooting, but banning all hunting species by species. Today, it's pigeon shooting, tomorrow it could be deer hunting."
Similarly, the Pennsylvania Flyers Association, in a statement e-mailed to the Sunday News and other media outlets Nov. 10, stated that, "Though thinly guised as an attack on pigeon shoots, make no mistake; this is about banning all hunting species by species. ... If legislators tread down this slippery slope, Pennsylvania hunting camps will be deserted and hunting season will turn into just a bunch of memories."
Both organizations charge that the campaign to end the live bird shoots does not originate in Pennsylvania: "Of course, opposition to pigeon shooting does not come from within the Commonwealth but from outsiders," stated the NRA on its Web site. "National 'animal rights' extremist groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States, have organized and funded efforts in Pennsylvania and around the country to ban this longstanding traditional shooting sport."
Still, the HSUS thinks opposition might not be as strong or resolute as it has been:
"We have strong support for the bill and even legislators inclined to vote against the bill won't defend the practice of launching or tethering live animals for a contest," said Prescott. "I have been lobbying this issue for over a decade and I now see a general sense that the time has come to rid Pennsylvania of these archaic and cruel practices.
"We do expect it to get a vote this session."
Gil Smart is associate editor of the Sunday News.
E-mail him at gsmart@..., or phone 291-8817.