It is not uncommon to see flocks of white and grey pigeons in fashionably public places in metros like Delhi and Mumbai. They are serving a purpose here: Giving sensory pleasure in otherwise bleak concrete jungle! Cut to a residential area where such flocks are being reared maybe for a wrong reason? How do I claim so? The reason being that the area is generally occupied by a section that may find it hard to keep such a huge number of pigeons just for a hobby. Do not get me wrong. Many of you must have seen some people in a slum adjoining your colony keeping flocks of pigeons and wondered how they get the means to rear them. You may even have been disturbed by all the zealous screaming, whistling and din created by these people early in the morning and then again in the evening under the pretext of exercising (flying) these pigeons just when you wanted to walk peacefully or meditate. Well, it could be that these people are involved in illegal sale of pigeon flesh!
I must point out here that killing a pigeon for the purpose of consuming its flesh is totally banned in India. They are protected under Section 428 and 429 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Wild pigeons are further protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Pigeon meat is not included in the list of edible poultry in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Animal Preservation) Act of India. In fact, pigeons are not supposed to be caged or kept as pets. However, the illicit trend of rearing pigeons in cages on rooftops is gaining popularity in urban low income class. It is indeed shocking as this is being done right under the very nose of the law (police) and goes unnoticed as the law enforcers are themselves clueless about its illegality. Just imagine a man claims it to be a hobby when he is jobless or penury-struck! Pigeon rearing may not be as costly as hen keeping but it nevertheless involves money. What gain is coming to the keeper? Why not let the birds roam free or feed the local birds for happiness? It is evidently a profit making venture and not just a hobby. The pigeons (culled or live) are sold to unscrupulous restaurants or food stall owners. This is a very serious issue that needs our attention.
Besides cruelty to animals and birds, pigeons (droppings, feathers etc.) may cause allergic/respiratory reactions in some people. Pigeons can host numerous parasites like ticks, flies, fleas, mites and biting lice which also carry diseases. Psittacosis is an infectious flu-like disease which spreads to humans from infected birds like pigeons. It is caused by bacteria and may lead to pneumonia or lung infection. In fact, they may cause what is known as environment-related lung fibrosis. So, keeping these birds in congested, unhygienic cages in the midst of highly populated areas is a health hazard too. The additional responsibility of disposing of bird waste is not shouldered by the keepers and it is dumped along roadsides or just anywhere for that matter. It may be a sight to behold to see flocks of beautiful pigeons flying over our heads but we must give it a thought who they belong to, whether they are naturally bred or are being reared for their meat. And then, we must act- report the matter to the local police and request them to investigate the matter thoroughly. The police, for their part, must also take such complaints seriously and keep their eyes open while policing their areas. The municipalities can also be given a major role to play here by the administration/government. After all, we live in an interconnected world and each should help ease the life of others- birds and beasts included!