The exquisitely-civilized All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club at Wimbledon has been assessed penalty points in the press for unsporting behavior, to wit: killing pigeons (Rock Doves, Columba livor, “Rats with Feathers”) with gun-toting sharpshooters.
Wimbledon has heretofore controlled pigeon pests with a pair of hungry hawks, but raptors can only eat so much and pigeons breed rapidly. Flying feathered objects and free-falling guano are thought to distract the world-class ladies and gentlemen engaged in the venue’s Grand Slam tennis championships.
Journalist Johan Lindahl says the cooing critters “dive-bomb centre court during the heat of matches” and render the upper-level outdoor restaurant somewhat insanitary. Rather bad form, that.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has called for an end to the “Death Squads,” questioning their legality. Editors world-wide have had a field day (Officials give pigeons the bird; Wimbledon under fire; An Unimpressive Volley; Trouble with the birds and bees; Pigeon Patrol At Wimbledon; Die, You Filthy, Winged Demons; Wimbledon Calls Out Big Guns ).
The sporting press reveals airguns were used on the surplus birds. We await hardware details. There are four million air rifles in the UK, and pellet guns are classified as firearms. Historically, Wimbledon was known for competition rifle shooting well before this tennis fad started in 1877, so we wonder what all the fuss is about.
Despite a distaste for firearms, 7,999,988 out of 8 million New Yorkers would certainly favor assassinating feral pigeons. Managers of American sports venues are no doubt jealous of the British pigeon plinkers.
Wimbledon has pledged to drop their guns and return to use of hawks for pigeon harvesting, and the Guardian has a short feature about a newly resident Harris Hawk named Rufus. It is not know if PETA is attempting to breed vegan hawks.
After the season, Wimbledon officials might inquire about pigeon birth control. We have heard no explicit objections to this practice from religious authorities, but it is true that the squares of Vatican City are famous for flocks of feathered families.
Top-spin image: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Bottom image: Collecting Tokens