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Carrying on from my last post about the feral pigeons in my garden, I noticed a larger and suspiciously “noble” looking pigeon amongst the flock. Upon closer inspection I saw that the pigeon has a white ring around its leg. This threw me a bit since I’ve never seen a checkered racing pigeon before, only blue bars, although I know racing pigeons can come in a variety of colours.

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Checkered racing pigeon

The racing pigeon looks healthy and strong (and very beautiful!), with no signs of any problems with his flight and I can only speculate that he became lost during a race and decided to team up with the feral pigeons for safety, companionship and intel on the good food locations. I don’t know how long he’ll stay with the feral pigeons before deciding to return to his home. He may never return if he falls in love with a feral. :)

Racing pigeons generally do well in the wild if they join a feral pigeon flock, unlike fancy pigeons that may have some unusual feather shapes that make it hard for them to fly away from predators quickly (please read my post about the welfare of fancy pigeons). This is one reason why you should never release a fancy pigeon into the wild. Racing pigeons, however, are bred to fly fast and strong, and I’ve seen racing pigeons stick with feral pigeons so I believe that they are capable of surviving in the wild. Maybe their genetic contribution to the feral population helps with the overall genetic health of wild pigeons? I have seen feral pigeons that look like they have racing blood in them (it’s often the shape of the head and beak that gives them away: very “Roman nose”).

I wonder: If I go out into the garden and hold some food in my hand, would the racer fly down to me?

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Can you spot the racer?

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology were conducting research into feral pigeon behaviour and colour distinctions/morphs, however, they have now discontinued it. I don’t know what the results of their research is, but I’d be very interested to know. However, this website has taken up the challenge of finding more about pigeon colour variation: Feral Pigeon Project

Pigeon colour morphs:

pigeon color morphs


We’ve recently had a few people (racing pigeon people by the looks of it) contact us on our YouTube account who are critical of us and our two tame, disabled pigeons, Elmo and Georgie.

We have been told to get homer pigeons instead since they are smarter and better looking than Elmo and Georgie (who are feral pigeons).

How superficial!! As if we care what pigeon is the best looking or the smartest. We love our pigeons because of their loving nature and amazing character.

We have also been told that our pigeons are not as happy as we think they are because they are ill.

Let me first state that neither Georgie or Elmo are ill. They both were affected by disease when they were babies – 11 years ago in Elmo’s case and 4 years ago in Georgie’s case – but are now perfectly healthy. However, according to one man (who has 34 years of experience keeping racing pigeons), our pigeons are not happy, we are spreading disease and we should euthanise them.

Our pigeons are very happy. I may not have decades of experience, but I do know my two pigeons. Georgie I have known since she was a baby; I’ve cared for her and learnt to read her behaviour and needs. Elmo is an open book. We can see the contentment and love in his eyes when he’s snuggled up to us – there is absolutely no doubt in our minds.

I find it hard to understand how anyone who views our videos of Elmo and Georgie can possibly think that they are unhappy. For someone who has 34 years of experience keeping pigeons he’s not very perceptive.

I will not engage in further conversation with these people since I have found them unwilling to listen, so I won’t get upset and drawn into a protracted argument, however, it does upset me to a degree to know that there’s someone out there who thinks I should put my pigeons to sleep because, according to them, they are unhappy and diseased.

:(


I’ve received and read the three pigeon books I ordered a while back (see: Pigeon books on order). I now have eight books solely about pigeons and although a few of them have the same things written in them, they are all good books for information and references. The following books are the ones I have:

For information about fancy and racing pigeon housing and care:

  • Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds by Wendell M. Levi (1965)
  • Fancy Pigeons by Aad Rijs (2006)
  • Pigeons: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Matthew M. Vriends and Tommy E. Erskine (2005)
  • Understanding Pigeon Paramyxovirosis by H. Vindevogel and J.P. Duchatel (1985)

For information on the history and current situation between people and pigeons:

  • Pigeon by Barbara Allen (2009)
  • Pigeons by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (1997)
  • Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird by Andrew D. Blechman (2006)
  • Superdove: How the Pigeon took Manhattan… and the World by Courtney Humphries (2008)

Big Bob

Big Bob

This year we sadly lost another resident pigeon at work. Big Bob was an older, disabled feral pigeon (he had a broken wing and couldn’t fly) and had been living in the resident aviary for many years. One day in February we noticed that he was hunched and shivering. He was brought into the heated unit for observation and care, as well as to receive medication. Sadly, a few days later he died. He will be sadly missed.

We kept an eye out for any signs of illness in the other pigeons in the aviary, and thankfully, none of them showed any signs of illness or have died. We believe that it was simply Big Bob’s time to go. He had a good life with a mate (who sadly died in August last year) and was a real sweet pigeon. He wasn’t tame but he tolerated my presence whenever I went into the aviary to talk to Dora and Pidge.

After such a sad depature we had some pigeons that were waiting to join the gang in the resident pigeon aviary, being unreleasable for one reason or another: One is fancy, others are disabled, and two are racing pigeons that needed a new home after their owner had passed away.

To see all the pigeons in the aviary please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pigeonsaspets/sets/72157623805901094/

Please welcome the following pigeons to live with Dora and her mate, Pidge:

Lumi

Lumi is a white pigeon that had been caught by a cat when she was a baby. She had extensive injuries and her left eye is shrivelled. She became very tame due to her long-term care. Lumi means "snow" in Finnish.

Turk

Turk is a Turkish Takla breed. He does backflips when he flies.

Mousie

Mousie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Gertie

Gertie is a racing pigeon that had to be rehomed.

Speckles

Speckles is a feral pigeon. She had a broken leg and broken wing, which have healed, however, she has limited flight.

Davey

Davey is a white feral pigeon. He has a broken wing and cannot fly.


Very interesting story. It’s amazing that this pigeon kept trying to return to her hatch-home despite all the signs that she wasn’t wanted. Poor dear! Thankfully now the owner realises that he shouldn’t try to give her away anymore, otherwise she’d be making the journey again and again.

Boomerang the racing pigeon returns to the owner who gave her away TEN years ago

By David Wilkes
Last updated on 19th June 2008

She is no spring chicken, and appears to have spent a few years roosting rough. But Boomerang the pigeon has lost neither her homing instinct  -  nor her sense of occasion. After ten years away, she suddenly turned up at the home of the man who raised her. And on Father’s Day, no less.

Loft and found: After ten years of cooing and fro-ing, Boomerang flies back

Loft and found: After ten years of cooing and fro-ing, Boomerang flies back

At first, Dino Reardon thought the bedraggled bird running towards him at his home in Skipton, North Yorkshire, was a stray.

‘I checked the tag and nearly collapsed when I saw who it was,’ he said. ‘I just couldn’t believe it. She could barely stand up and couldn’t even make it into the aviary, she was just exhausted. I spent all Sunday feeding her glucose and honey to try and get her energy back from the journey.’

Her return was not completely unexpected, however  -  as her name suggests. Boomerang’s homing instinct is the stuff of legend among pigeon fanciers.

The 13-year-old bird first made headlines back in 1998, when Mr Reardon gave her to a friend in Algeciras, southern Spain, after retiring from breeding racing pigeons. Boomerang promptly flew the 1,200 miles back home.

Boomerang the pigeon

Home to roost: Boomerang is the daughter of famous racing pigeon Bluey

Mr Reardon immediately gave her to another breeder in Filey, North Yorkshire  -  but she returned to his pigeon loft again. Finally, still in the same year, Mr Reardon gave her to his friend Alf Pennington in Lancashire. Mr Reardon had not seen her since… until Sunday.

It is not known exactly where she had flown from, as Mr Pennington is thought to have died five years ago.

‘I don’t have a clue were she’s been since Alf died but I’m glad she’s home,’ said Mr Reardon. Boomerang’s feats are all the more remarkable because she is not a racing bird. The daughter of Bluey Champion, a winner of 17 national titles, she was kept for breeding.

She must have inherited her homing skills from her father, who was once ‘birdnapped’ and had his wings clipped by thieves, but escaped and walked 60 miles back to Mr Reardon’s home. Pigeons have a lifespan of three to five years in the wild, but live to around 15 in captivity.

Boomerang’s return has attracted interest from breeders as far afield as South Africa, who have been phoning constantly since her reappearance. But yesterday Mr Reardon – whose pigeons come from stock which have been in his Italian family for 200 years – said that she will be staying put.

‘She will be going nowhere from now on,’ he added. ‘She is staying here and will be looked after for the rest of her life. She has already paired up and if she lays any eggs they will be staying with me.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1027484/Boomerang-racing-pigeon-returns-owner-gave-away-TEN-years-ago.html#ixzz19nyuyUHK


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Such a handsome pigeon!

Racing (or homing) pigeons are bred to fly home in a race against time. Some get lost and land in gardens, tired and hungry. Some get attacked by sparrow hawks and are found injured.

I love racing pigeons. They’re big, chunky birds with lovely faces. The ones that I have seen are mostly healthy and just tired and hungry from getting lost. I’ve also seen ones that have been attacked by sparrow hawks and have injuries and feather loss. A few I’ve seen are seriously ill and thin and require longer care.

The saddest case that I’ve come across was a racing pigeon that appeared with a feral pigeon to the garden at my work. At first glance it looked like it was a healthy lost racer that had paired up with a feral and come down for food and water. But after watching them a moment I realised that the racer had a horrific injury to its crop – a gaping hole from which all the seed the racer picked up fell out of. It was horrible to watch. We set up a humane cage trap to capture the racer, and after a day and a half we finally caught it. The crop injury was too big and the vet was unable to repair it so the poor racing pigeon was put to sleep. I was very upset about it because I kept thinking about how much the racer had suffered: it had been so hungry and kept trying to eat but the seed just fell out as soon as it was swallowed.

The guidelines for finding a racer is to check the numbers on the leg band and contact the owner. It is their pigeon and should be returned – if they want it back, that is. Some racing pigeon owners want their lost or injured pigeons back, but some don’t. If you find a racer and have contacted the owner, please let them know that you will find an alternative home if they don’t want the pigeon back (e.g. at a pigeon friendly rescue centre). Give them that option. Some people say that the owners will just kill the pigeon if it is returned because an injured racer or a racer that gets lost is not worth anything (since it did not or is not capable of winning the race). Other people say that the owners will give the racing pigeon a second chance (e.g. it may be a young pigeon that needs more training). Since I have only ever once personally spoken to a racing pigeon owner (who did want his bird back), I cannot state anything as a fact – only what I have heard from others who have had contact.

This post tells a positive tale: Pigeon Rescue

The following racing websites advise you what to do if you find a lost racer:

http://www.homingpigeons.co.uk/straypigeons.htm

http://www.homingpigeons.co.uk/lostpigeon.htm

http://www.pigeonbasics.org/lostbirds.php

I am intruiged about racing pigeons – about the race and how they train them, etc. And I guess I would visit a racing pigeon loft and meet the people behind it all – just to see for myself what it’s all about. On the one hand I can understand the fascination, dedication and interest in the art of racing pigeons, on the other hand, however, I don’t like the exploitation of the birds. Are they racing them solely for money and prestige? Or do they really like pigeons and want to be with them? I guess, as with any hobby, activity or venture,  it can be either, neither or a little bit of both. It takes all sorts.

But, as I said in the beginning, I love racing pigeons because they are big and chunky with lovely faces. And they usually have a great personality to match. Some are feisty and tell you off, and others I’ve held just sit calmly in your hand with not a care in the world. Wonderful creatures!


This blog is called “Pigeons as Pets”. I just want to clarify what we mean by this.

We are not advising or advocating taking pigeons from the wild and keeping them as pets in an aviary or cage. Not at all! Healthy, flight-abled pigeons in the wild should be left to live their life naturally.

If, however, you find a baby pigeon that needs hand-rearing then of course this needs to be done (preferably by the experts) – with the aim that it can be released as a wild pigeon when it is ready. This is not always possible, as many of you know. Sometimes the baby is injured and cannot be released because of it; sometimes the baby becomes tame and bonded to humans and therefore unreleasable (especially if it has no predator avoidance instincts). In these cases the baby pigeon would need to be housed in a safe and suitable environment for the rest of its life. This also applies to adult pigeons that are disabled (e.g. blind or cannot fly).

  • Safe environment = safe from predators such as cats, dogs and sparrowhawks. Safe from the elements (e.g. severe weather).
  • Suitable environment = an area where the pigeon can fly (if it physically can), walk about, have suitable food and access to drinking and bathing water. Also, preferably, an area where it can have a mate. Pigeons are gregarious and require company.

Disabled adult pigeons may learn to tolerate your presence or they may become tame over time. Each pigeon is individual in its behaviour and character. The key is to understand what it needs and to not force anything.

  • Feral pigeons are one of the most common pigeons you’ll see and are perfectly capable of living in the wild in a variety of environments around the world. They can become very tame around humans if fed regularily.
  • Fancy pigeons are human bred pigeons and many would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. Some have physical features that make them dependent on humans.
  • Racing pigeons are also human bred but if they become lost and hungry they usually find food in people’s gardens and may even join a feral pigeon flock instead of flying back home.
  • Wood pigeons are a completely wild species and adult woodies generally do not cope well in captivity (there are always exceptions). Hand-reared wood pigeons may remain tame and friendly.
  • Collared doves are also a completely wild species and are in many ways similar to woodies in their relationship with humans.

Since pigeons are largely monogamous, if a flight-abled pigeon bonds with a non-flighted one then it will stay with its mate despite its disability. Some people would be tempted to release the flight-abled pigeon, however, you would then be seperating two bonded pigeons, which I consider to be an unkind act. Most feral pigeons are happy as long as they have a mate, food, water, shelter, room to fly and a place to nest – whether this is in the wild or in captivity. This does not mean that you can justify taking pigeons from the wild – I stand by my belief that healthy, flighted pigeons should live in the wild in their natural state. What I am trying to say is that if you have nursed a flight-abled pigeon back to health but it has bonded with a disabled pigeon then you can keep the two together in a safe and suitable environment.

Then there is the question as to whether you should release a flighted tame pigeon. I think the answer to this is whether the tame pigeon knows enough about predators and has predator avoidance instincts. If it does not then it should not be released since it would be easy pickings. Some tame hand-reared pigeons have no predator awareness – some don’t even know what a predator is.

So what do we mean by “Pigeons as Pets”? We mean tame, imprinted or disabled pigeons that would not otherwise survive in the wild.


Is there a difference between a dove and a pigeon? Technically, no. There is no difference. “Dove” and “pigeon” are just names used to call the different bird species of the Columbidae family. In the simplest understanding, smaller species are called “doves” and the larger species “pigeons”, however, this is not a hard and fast rule.

The word “dove” has purer connotations, whilst “pigeon” can arouse a variety of reactions, ranging from indifference to disgust, fear to hatred. This is a shame since they are one and the same. But as Dr. Jean Hansell so nicely put: “People just don’t make the connection between the dove of peace and the pigeon in the street.” *

(For many people, though, the word “pigeon” will make them smile with love.)

It is quite funny how the so called “white dove” can be considered cleaner and nicer than a feral pigeon – considering that the white dove is in fact simply a white coloured racing pigeon. These white pigeons are commonly released at events such as weddings and graduations. (Not to be confused with the white ringneck dove species that has no homing instinct and should never be released at events!) It may simply be that the colour white is associated with kindness, purity and cleanliness in people’s minds – regardless of what type of bird it is.

Some people make a difference between racing pigeons, fancy pigeons and the common feral pigeon, however, when you strip away their seperate names, you’re simply left with a pigeon – albeit ones bred for different purposes. But neither type are better than the other. Some come in fancy shapes and colours, some can race, and some can clean up the food litter dropped by careless humans. They all deserve respect and in many cases, admiration.

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Some may call this a dove, others may call it a white pigeon

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Diamond dove

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Feral pigeons - in many different colours

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Collared dove

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Stock dove

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Archangel breed of fancy pigeon

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Some may call this a dove due to her petite features, others may call her a fancy pigeon

* Blechman, Andrew D. (2006). Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird. Grove Press, New York.


A review of the book “Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird” by Andrew D. Blechman (2006).

I must admit I had high hopes for this book. I’ve read a lot of books in this style and have liked them, but this book let me down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it had some good information and writing in it – touching on a wide range of pigeon related subjects, such as pigeon racing, pigeon fanciers, pigeon shooting and pigeon control, however, it didn’t quite hit the mark with me. Maybe it is because I’m so pigeon crazy that I couldn’t help notice the lack of emotion on the author’s part. Maybe I’m wrong in saying this, since I know that his involvement with this book and pigeons has turned him into a pigeon advocate – and I love that!! However, this book feels more about the people who love and hate pigeons, rather than about pigeons themselves – therefore the title of the book is a bit misleading.

I felt that there were a few things that could have been left out of this book – particularly the chapter in which the author tries to talk to Mike Tyson about pigeons. That was a useless chapter; more about celebrity chasing than about pigeons. And although I was horrified to read about squab farming and how they are killed (I think the image the author has pushed into my brain will stay with me forever. It brings tears to my eyes now thinking about how these helpless birds are killed) – I think it is necessary for readers to hear about the horrific practice of squab farming. However, I think it was very tasteless to add a recipe on pigeon pot pie at the end of the chapter.

The author got some good quotes from pigeon people, such as the one by Dr. Jean Hansell, “People just don’t make the connection between the dove of peace and the pigeon in the street.” How true is that?! If everyone simply realised that a dove and a pigeon are one and the same then maybe they’d not view feral pigeons as vermin and dirty. I thought it is interesting how some pigeon fanciers think feral pigeons give their fancy pigeons a bad name. Fancy pigeons came from ferals so where’s the logic in that?

Then one of the pigeon fanciers, a man nicknamed Dr. Pigeon, states that maybe pigeons don’t feel pain since pigeons often don’t act like they are in pain after being hurt. No offence, but that’s a ridiculous statement. Pigeons have to have a strong survival instinct because of all the dangers in the world and cannot show weakness when hurt, so they don’t make a fuss about it. A lot of animal species are like this. Just because they’re not wailing and crying out in pain doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain.

One breed of pigeon I hadn’t heard of before I read about them in this book was of Parlor Rollers. These pigeons are bred to somersault backwards on the ground. People compete to see which pigeon can roll the furthest and the longest. I’ve seen a few videos of this on the net and have taken an instant dislike for such practices. Why breed a pigeon that has a need to roll on the ground for no purpose whatsoever? What’s the attraction? On top of that, I think it is inhumane. Poor pigeons – humans have bred this trait in them to the extreme. They don’t have much choice in the matter.

One good thing about this book is how he highlights the cruelty and uselessness of pigeon shooting. You can really see the ignorance and small-mindedness of the people who consider pigeon shooting as sport. I will never understand how the minds of these people work. How can someone consider shooting an animal as a victory?

As well as writing about pigeon shooting, the author writes extensively about pigeon pest control and the ineffective and inhumane methods pest control companies use. He talks to two prominent people who fight against these methods and promote humane and realistic methods of pigeon control. One such person, Dave Roth, who runs the Urban Wildlife Society, says something (talking about his loving relationship with one of his pigeons) that I wholly agree with: “If everybody could experience this kind of relationship with a bird, then we wouldn’t have all the problems we have today with the pigeon haters.” This is exactly how I feel about my pigeons.

Another pigeon advocate is Guy Merchant, the founder of the Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS). He states, “We are the only independent source of unbiased information out there. By comparison, the pest control industries are only motivated by greed. They invest millions of dollars each year on anti-pigeon propaganda and misinformation. It’s entirely unethical. In fact, there are no ethics involved at all. Believe you me, the world hates pigeons because of them.”

On the subject of pigeons and disease, Dr. Nina Marano (an epidemiologist) states that “Pigeons are no more filthy than any other wild bird or animal,” while Dr. Arturo Casadevall (an expert in pigeon faeces) states, “Pigeons are no different than other animals. When it comes to spreading disease, they don’t stand out.” Good solid statements that they can back up since they are the experts. Hooray!

The author writes about the dangers of over-feeding pigeons, how we can do more harm than good. I do agree. By supplying huge amounts of food we are helping pigeons breed in vast numbers that attract unwanted attention. That’s when pest control companies are called out. Good intentions can also be the problem.

I’m not sure I can describe why I am disappointed with this book, it could be because of the horrible things people do to pigeons that he’s written about. It’s left me feeling sad and maybe that has tainted my feelings about the book. If I am to be objective then this book has a good array of information of the positive things about pigeons and the negative side of humans, however, reading it may leave you a bit depressed if you are against animal-abuse and exploitation because the author has written about these more than anything else. Maybe a bit more about pigeon loving should be in the book.

Ps. Some might view this post as an attack on pigeon shooters, fanciers, etc., and I admit it is (although a much restrained attack). These are my views and many pigeon people might not like them but my interests in pigeons have nothing to do with how fast they can fly, how ‘pretty’ they look, how long they can roll or how good they might taste. I love pigeons simply because I have the good fortune to know that they are unique in character, have wonderful personalities and have a rich and diverse social life. They are unique beings and should be loved for just being themselves – not how much money they can make us.

Note: All quotes in this post are from the book: Pigeons: The fascinating saga of the world’s most revered and reviled bird, by Andrew D. Blechman, 2006.


A while back I came across a photo of a flock of pigeons that were multi-coloured – painted vibrant reds, greens, pinks and purples. It was a beautiful photo. It struck me as something fanciful and playful. The photo didn’t have a caption so I didn’t know who or why the pigeons were dyed as they were and I soon forgot about it.

A few days ago I came across another photo of painted pigeons and my curiosity was awakened. I needed to find out the story behind the photos so I googled ‘painted pigeons’ and ‘coloured pigeons’ to see what would pop up.

To my disappointment only a few photos appeared with little to no information, however, after careful searching through the internet I managed to find a link to a website that explained the photos. Finally!

But first I had found a site with photos of coloured racing pigeons from the Murcia region of Spain: http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-15248305/stock-photo-coloured-racing-pigeons-from-the-murcia-region-of-spain.html

As well as these photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/staffy/3345022740/in/set-72157604833950737/

After more googling I found this one:

Image from: http://oreneta.com/kalebeul/

Two people had commented on the photo explaining everything, with a link to the following website: http://www.cichlidlovers.com/birds_pica.htm

So basically the Picas (Spanish Modern Thief Pouters, Palomas Deportiva) are flown in a competition – the cock pigeons chasing a hen. The cock pigeons are painted so that the judges can identify which pigeon is whose and score them according to how close a cock pigeon gets to the hen and impresses it with its courting abilities. The one that gets the most points wins. (To read more on this go to: http://www.cichlidlovers.com/birds_pica2.htm)

While I find the painted pigeons very beautiful it was quickly pointed out to me (by my lovely husband) that it must not be a nice experience for the pigeons. Most pigeons don’t like to be held and have their wings and feathers manipulated for any length of time (even Georgie, who’s extremely tame, doesn’t like it) so I can imagine that the painted pigeons must experience discomfort and distress from being painted.

And then to tease the cock pigeons by depriving them of hens and finally release them to chase a single hen pigeon for hours (even days in some cases)! I have to admit that I feel very sorry for both the cock pigeons and the hen. It’s not really fair for them. Why should they be treated in such a way just to satisfy human beings desire to ‘compete’ and win money?

Some people might think that I’m being overly judgemental and idealistic, however, I don’t like animals being used for human gain unnecessarily – especially for so called ‘sport’. I believe that animals should be admired and respected and seen for what they truly are – incredible beings that can feel and experience life in ways we do not.