Skip Reading Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman
Content of Pigeons by Blechman
Pigeons, that is rock doves (Columba livia), certainly cause a reaction to most people who have had to deale with them. Blechman takes the reader on an intellectual journey into the polarized world of pigeon lovers and so-called “haters.” On the lover side, he explains the sub-cultures of breeders and racers. Breeders are those who carefully manipulate the mating activities of pigeons in an attempt to create birds for show. Show birds have incredibly unusual feather formations and postures. But these traits are deliberately bred for in an attempt to create a bird that achieves an aesthetic ideal, at least in the mind of the breeder. Racers also breed birds, but they are looking for birds that have heightened homing skills and the ability to fly fast. I had no idea the competition was so fierce.
On the so-called “hater side”, Blechman visits Pennsylvania in order to learn about Pigeon shooting. Pigeon shooting involves placing pigeons inside crates that are then randomly opened before the shooter. Lest you think that this activity is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, think again. Pigeons are very good flyers and it is rare for even the best shooters to achieve perfect scores.
Readers will be impressed with Blechman’s review of the pigeon through history. He notes that the pigeon was the “dove” Noah used to determine if the land was dry enough to leave the ark. Pigeons, particularly those with exceptional homing and flying skills (beyond what the average pigeon has), were used to carry messages in various wars and even used by the Intelligence agencies to transport secrets.
Negatives of Blechman’s Pigeons
Regrettably, the work is a bit thin on the life history of pigeons and the negative impacts they create. Blechman spends too much time trying to rehabilitate pigeons in the eyes of readers rather than providing a balanced approach. For instance, he is quite right that pigeons are no more “dirty” or disease ridden than any other animal. But this ignores the legitimate question of whether pigeons and food establishments mix. With so many people with compromised immune systems (due to AIDS, chemo-therapy, etc.), the question of pigeon control required a fuller discussion. In addition, Blechman, like many people ignorant of working with animals, blurs the semantic range of
cruelty to include simply death. In this regard, he has adopted the rhetoric of the so-called animal protectionists groups of the HSUS and PETA, which he conveniently joins forces with at the end of the publication.
Wildlife Control Operators and those interested in learning more about the biology of pigeons should probably spend their time elsewhere. Others will find good material on the various activity groups involved with pigeons. While Blechman had a good idea, his failure to properly reflect on all sides of the pigeon debate hurt the value of this book. Too many times, he appropriates the rhetoric of the animal protectionists groups without providing sufficient evidence that their claims are actually true. One example is his assertion that avicides are cruel (p.135). He asserts this but provides no evidence. If he believes that killing a pigeon is cruel that is his business. But that is a personal definition and not one that does justice to the mainstream language and asserting that new definition is nothing more than inflammatory and prejudicial.
In light of those issues, reader beware. There is much of value in this work, but much needs to be evaluated before swallowing.
About the Reviewer
Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP specializes in wildlife damage management and is based in Lincoln, NE.
Book was reviewed July 10, 2011.