September 5, 2019 11:07 pm
Updated: September 7, 2019 12:28 am

‘Pigeon rolling contest’ at Ontario fair has some calling for change

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An animal rights activist is speaking out against a “pigeon rolling” contest at the Harrow Fair in Essex County, Ont, about 36 kilometres southeast of Windsor.

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The contest is a tradition at the fair that dates back many years and features roller pigeons, a special breed of pigeon “known for their acrobatic abilities,” according to the fair’s website. Contestants try to toss the pigeons as far and with as many tumbles as possible in an attempt to win a trophy.

But when Jolene Bulmer witnessed the event on Friday, Aug. 30, she was not amused but “appalled” at the activity.

She posted a video on Facebook of one bird being tossed with wings aflutter and asked her followers to request the pigeons not be used “as bowling balls.”

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“[The problem] is the exploitation of the animal itself,” she said. “We still need to find ways not to use animals as entertainment, as if we don’t have anything else to do or to use.”

After posting the video, she says she contacted the fair the next day but was hung up on as soon as she mentioned the word “pigeon,” and others have told her they have had the same experience.

However, fair president Luke Korcok says that the activity does not hurt the birds and there is no intention to harm them.

READ MORE: Ontario launches animal-cruelty hotline, new chief inspector appointed

“We all love those birds,” he told On Point host Alex Pierson. “None of us would like to see the pigeons get hurt.”

He says that roller pigeons roll for fun and it’s like any other animal sports, like racing horses or dogs.

The controversy over the practice is due to the term “bowling,” Korcok says, which makes it sound like the pigeons are being used to knock something down.

“[People] are misinformed,” he said. “Rolling and bowling are two different things.”

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However, the Harrow Fair website calls the pigeons the “bowling balls of the avian world,” and does call the activity “Pigeon Bowling” at least once.

Korcok says that there are currently no plans to cancel the event.

While Bulmer understands it is a tradition, she insists that traditions do become outdated.

“We can move on from this and move forward,” she said. “It does not have to be an attraction for the fair, it can be changed.”

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