Prior to this past weekend I had never heard of pigeon bowling. Who has? Even upon learning about it, I thought it was a joke. But then I saw the footage, from the Harrow Fair in Essex, Ont., shared across social and news media over the last few days.

And there it was. Fair-goers, including children, intently watching as competitors roll live birds into balls and toss them along the ground. The birds flutter and flap to a stop, their place marked by a judge.

It could be comical if not so dumbfounding, so disturbing. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Not surprisingly, the footage and news stories went viral. The shock was immediate and the online vitriol continues today.

How could such an obviously ridiculous — obviously wrong — event be taking place, not in some foreign place we can chalk up to different cultural standards, but right in our own backyard?

I am not a pigeon expert, and those who claim to be, in this case, state this particular type of bird rolls naturally, that they are bred for this and are treated well. I’m sure most of these folks aren’t actually animal abusers. They’ve likely been watching and participating in this event their whole lives. And now, to have their wholesome event infiltrated, their traditions exposed for all to see, it must be jarring.

But it’s certainly necessary. Because the time has come for country fairs to change.

Another classic fair event, the pig scramble, has also come under well-deserved scrutiny in recent years. The event, which typically sees children frantically chasing and capturing terrified piglets, was cancelled at one PEI fair in 2017. The famous Sonoma County Fair in California also cancelled its recently, due to animal welfare concerns. Instead, pig chasing has been replaced with a slippery watermelon obstacle course.

As a culture, we are waking up to the fact that using animals in these ways is wrong.

And just as keeping captive whales and dolphins was recently banned in Canada and animal circuses are being barred by more and more municipalities across the country, it’s time for unethical fair events, including pigeon bowling and pig wrestling, to also go the way of the dodo.

The issue is not even whether or not these types of events are cruel. The issue is, whether it’s a massive whale at Marineland, or a small pigeon at the Harrow Fair, there simply is no ethical argument to justify exploiting animals for our silly entertainment.

Not anymore. We just know too much now. We know animals can experience stress and fear. We know animals are individuals with their own natural needs and desires.

This may be a tough pill to swallow, for the farming-4H-country crowd, but ultimately, this change is good. Values and traditions and knowledge can evolve for the better. You can, too.

Try rolling a watermelon, instead.


Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor or bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Bird Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.

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