Pennsylvania is one of the last states where so-called sportsmen can hold pigeon shoots, competitions in which captive fowl are used as live targets that are either released from spring-loaded boxes or tethered to a block.
This "game" originated as a gentlemen's amusement in England, where the wealthy preferred the thrill of shooting the real thing to firing at the less exhilarating clay pigeon.
House Bill 1411 and Senate Bill 843 would ban this archaic practice, prohibiting sportsmen from shooting live fowl that are released from traps or otherwise tethered and shot at. Turning one of those measures into law would let Pennsylvania join 45 states that bar live pigeon shoots.
The Humane Society of the United States reports that over 22,000 birds are used for targets at Pennsylvania pigeon shoots each year. A grim 70 percent of those birds, which are peddled on the black market, are maimed and suffer an excruciatingly slow death.
Live pigeon-shooting competitions are scored based on how close a fallen fowl lands within the center of a ring that surrounds the traps from which they are released. The fact that clay pigeons would be just as satisfactory for scoring purposes shows the sadistic side of those who derive more pleasure from killing an animal than winning a game in which no life is sacrificed.
To end the bloodlust, the Humane Society has even made a startling offer. "If legislation passes that ends live pigeon shoots, the Humane Society of the United States would fund trap shooting machines for the gun clubs that are hosting live pigeon shoots so they can still have their contests without harming live animals," said Heidi Prescott, senior vice president of campaigns for the Humane Society.
If this "sport" is truly about shooting accuracy rather than the pointless killing of trapped animals, then the gun clubs will have no problem with the Legislature enacting one of these bills. It's time to put an end to a barbaric practice reminiscent of amusements from the decadent days of the Roman Empire.