Muscle Sport Magazine

Mike Tyson PETA Pigeon Racing Probe for the Birds

It is not too often that sports and politics get mixed together (at least in MuscleSport Mag), but in this case we must make an exception. Both PETA and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office are wasting their own and the taxpayer’s money by making an issue out of Mike Tyson’s soon-to-come pigeon racing reality show “Taking on Tyson” on Animal Planet. It is crystal clear that they are merely doing this to break the former heavyweight champions’ balls because he has made a habit of getting into trouble nearly as often as he did knocking opponents out in the first round.

The show brings the world of homing pigeon races, a long-time tradition in the borough of churches, to the small screen. The men involved in the various racing clubs around Brooklyn tend to place wagers on their birds, but we are not talking about a large bookmaking operation like what takes place every weekend during football season. What is more important than the few bucks made by the men are the large trophies they get when their flock finishes first, so just let your imagination run wild and figure on the size of the pot we’re talking about.

I know this first-hand because I was raised in a household run by a pigeon racer. My father – the most inspirational man in my life – was involved in the game long before I was born 42 years ago and my brothers and I were assigned the duty of taking care of the pigeon coop when my parents were away on vacation. As a child, I would spend lots of time with Dad up there (the coop was hand-built by him on top of our detached garage in Brooklyn) and have him explain to me all the ins and outs of the pigeon game. To this day when I see one of these birds flying around the city, I can tell you which one is a Blue Bar or a Checker. He also let me in on the secret that was the small bets they would make and the good natured trash-talking that went on in their storefront clubhouse on 63rd street off of Bay Parkway.

So when I first heard about this Tyson/PETA/DA nonsense, I had a quiet laugh and thought back on not only my childhood, but also the fact that Tyson – himself a Brooklyn-born man in his 40s – has been involved in pigeon racing for decades and practiced it when he was living in the Catskills with the late Cus D’Amato. For all the bad steps that he has made since those early and innocent years, isn’t it refreshing to see ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ doing something positive for a change?

But the dramatic members of PETA felt the need to notify Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes – a man who has made his bones by going overboard prosecuting high profile defendants for self gain – that Tyson is violating New York’s anti-gambling laws not only in the friendly wagers that are usually placed on pigeon races, but the salary that he will garner from the show, one that is based on racing.

If that didn’t sound ridiculous enough, the fact that a representative from Hynes’ office said, “We’re looking into it” multiplies the nonsensical aspect of this entire escapade. On PETA’s website, the following appeared about pigeon racing:

“Considering its inherent cruelities, there’s no question that pigeon racing should be illegal. Birds who are forced to race often struggle to survive extreme heat, hail and thunderstorms, dodging both predators and cruel humans through grueling races that can be as long as 500 miles. Those who somehow do not succumb to exhaustion or injury and make their way home may still have their necks wrung by unsatisfied trainers.”


I suppose that these do-gooders have never seen pigeons surviving in the ‘wild’ making perches under the ‘El’ and other overpasses throughout the five boroughs. Commonly – and wrongly, in my opinion – called ‘rats with wings’ by the residents of our great city, pigeons have somehow managed to survive throughout the summers and winters without proper shelter or food. I can’t speak for every pigeon aficionado out there, but the birds in my father’s care were treated well.

Don’t get me wrong – I love animals very much and there are many things that are done to them by the vermin of society that turns my stomach. I am the proud owner of two beautiful dogs and those animal cruelty commercials make me wish that I could have five minutes alone with the perpetrators who did harm to those innocent little cats and dogs. My sensitivity does not waver when it comes to other animals, such as birds, for instance.

So while I do agree with PETA’s intentions, I have to disagree with what has become overkill in their methods. For all the positive things that they do, they lose the average Joe (in this case, Joe Pietaro) when they portray pigeon trainers in the same light as animal torturers, taking advantage of their natural talent to find their way back home over far distances. What PETA does not see is the day-to-day contact between the birds and their owner, the nurturing and friendship that they foster with their flock.


Is it a coincidence that this story has been plastered all over the tabloids and Internet today? Absolutely not, and PETA knows just how to play the media to bring attention upon themselves. I, as a member of the media, have many questions that of course they will answer predictably and safely.

Are they just doing this because Tyson is a public figure and an easy target? Where have they been for all of these years when guys like my dad were the ‘law breakers’ in their opinion? Did they pounce on this story because it was an automatic attention-getter with Tyson involved as opposed to Jimmy P?

Being the nice and fair guy that I am, I will send this article to PETA and give them a chance to reply. I had no problem with them protesting Michael Vick because what he did was totally inhumane, but this Tyson case is taking it a bit too far. This is merely a publicity stunt on their part and all the ‘save a pigeon today’ talk will not change that.

So how about it, PETA? I welcome any and all responses. My dad will get a kick out of all of this when I tell him about it.


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