While Queen Elizabeth's love for horses and dogs is legendary, Her Majesty has been, reportedly, facing a number of protests from the animal rights group, PETA, in recent weeks. On Thursday, July 16, they will once again be protesting at the Tower of London, as a follow up to their July 1 demonstration, to convince the Queen to drop her support for pigeon racing.
In a press release, PETA said that Queen Elizabeth should cut her ties with this "horrific sport" that kills a significant number of pigeons every year. Apparently, members from the U.S. branch of the organization learned that the monarch sent eight pigeons to join the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR) but the birds didn't make it since they died in quarantine.
A spokesperson for PETA said that had Queen Elizabeth's pigeons survived, they would still be in danger because they will be subjected to long training sessions prior to the race. Many birds also die during this training due to disorientation, dehydration, starvation and exhaustion. At least a quarter of pigeons make it through the actual pigeon race, where they also risk death.
This isn't the first time PETA has protested against Queen Elizabeth's pigeon racing. However, the organization has been increasing their demonstrations in London, as well as in South Africa, as the statistics of pigeon deaths, reportedly, continue to rise.
Apart from the physical stress, many pigeons were also hit by a virus. In the race last February 2020, only 22 percent of 4,000 birds, reportedly, survived. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, bird experts said that this should be a cause for worry. According to reports, the problem of pigeon racing has been underplayed because of money. This is apparently a billion-dollar industry.
The Royal Pigeon Racing Association stated in its official website that Queen Elizabeth's link to the sports is part of centuries of tradition, thus it's not easy for the monarch to give it up. Both King Edward VIII, the Queen's Uncle David, and King George VI, the Queen's father, had pigeon racing teams, and she has kept this alive during her rule as the monarch.
Her family has been keeping a pigeon loft in Sandringham for over 150 years. Its supervision is overseen by a loft manager and they have won in the races several times. Queen Elizabeth also visits the pigeon loft regularly whenever she's in Sandringham.