One should not make light of the current situation surrounding the new strain of H7N9 bird flu in China, which has so far claimed 13 human lives.

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But the recent press release from lobby group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling for an immediate ban on cross-Channel pigeon racing does seem a bit OTT, not to mention opportunistic.

“Aside from risking the pigeons’ lives, pigeon fanciers may be putting human health at risk, by taking British pigeons across the Channel,” it says.

“Birds who survive the gruelling cross-Channel races may be returning to the UK after being exposed to diseases if they have landed on foreign farms, consumed contaminated water or come into contact with pigeons originating in other countries.

“We hope the government will take action now rather than wait and see if people get sick.”

It is understandable that PETA disagrees with pigeon racing. But they seem to underestimate the durability of the average pigeon. A cross Channel race hardly seems onerous, or even that dangerous – unless of course the birds take a 10,000 mile diversion via Beijing….