British Film Censor Wanted Cut In Emir Kusturica’s Latest Film

Emir Kusturica was outraged recently by a demand from the British Board of Film Censors that he cut a very short scene from his film set during the Bosnian war, “Life Is a Miracle.”

The scene, which apparently lasts for a couple seconds, shows a cat pouncing on a pigeon. Apparently under a 1937 law, the Cinematograph Films Act, it is against the law in Great Britain to show any scene that depicting animal cruelty that was produced or staged simply for the making of said film.

Kusturica maintains that the pigeon was already dead (though its wings apparently flap in the scence), but also took the time to blast the film board,

I just don’t get it. The pigeon was already dead, we found it in the road. And no other censor has objected. What is the problem with you English? You killed millions of Indians and Africans, and yet you go nuts about the circumstances of the death of a single Serbia pigeon. I am touched you hold the lives of Serbian birds so dear, but you are crazy. I will never understand how your minds work.

Ultimately, the controversy was resolved with a wink-and-a-nod. Kusturica suddenly remembered that yes, the birds wings were flapping but only because he rigged it with bits of strings to make the wings move and appear as if it were alive. He produced a letter saying that no pigeons were harmed in the making of “Life Is a Miracle” and the BBFC withdrew its objection.


Filmmaker says will not cut pigeon killing scene. The Guardian, March 4, 2005.

Film director flummoxed by dead pigeon ban. Index for Free Expression, March 4, 2005.

“It Is An Ex-Pigeon”. Channel 4, March 2005.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Turns Back Challenge to Pigeon Shoot

On January 2, 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a one-sentence ruling denying efforts by a Pennsylvania human officer who had sought a preliminary injunction against a planned pigeon shoot at the Pike Township Sportsmen’s Association.

Humane officer Johnna Seeton argued in court that the pigeon shoots violated Pennsylvania animal cruelty laws, but the Superior Court of Berks County had previously ruled that the pigeon shoots did not violate the animal cruelty statute. Seeton is the chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Animal Network, which over the years has worked for a wide range of animal rights causes and projects.

Animal rights activists succeed in shutting down the large Hegins pigeon shoot in 1999, but a number of smaller pigeon shoots continue in Pennsylvania.

The Fund for Animals, which crusaded for years against the Hegins shoot, issued a press release following the Supreme Court decisions saying,

The Fund argues that pigeon shoots violate Pennsylvania’s anti-cruelty statute because thousands of birds are intentionally injured and left to suffer with their wounds, sometimes for days, without any medical treatment. “We are able to stop this barbaric and inhumane practice in Hegins and it should be stopped throughout Pennsylvania,” said [Fund President Heidi] Prescott. “Unfortunately, although hundreds of violations of Pennsylvania’s cruelty statute take place at these live pigeon shoots throughout the year, several pigeon shoot cases have been languishing in the courts for over a decade. If the courts are not going to take action to stop this cruel and illegal practice, the legislature must step up and bring the Commonwealth in line with the vast majority of states that already [sic] bans such barbaric practices.”


Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal to Stop Cruel and Inhumane Pigeon Shoots. Press Release, Fund for Animals, January 8, 2004.

Appeal To Halt Cruel Pigeon Shoots Rejected. Animal News Center, January 17, 2004.

Military Replaced Chickens With Pigeons

When the military tried to use chickens as an advanced warning system against biological or chemical attack, almost all of the animals died within a week and a half. Not to be deterred, the Marines decided to try again only this time using pigeons.

The Marines were doing everything they could to keep the pigeons fro meeting the same fate, including giving them bottled water and finding people with experience caring for pigeons to take care of the birds.

But even if chemical or biological weapons are used in Iraq (which, obviously, looks like it’s not going to happen at the moment), pigeons likely have the same flaw as chickens — biological and chemical weapon are going to affect the birds differently than human beings.


Marine pigeon force may detect attack. Ravi Nessman, Associated Press, March 16, 2003.

ALF Activist Stole Pigeons

Over the weekend Animal Liberation Front activists broke into an animal breeding facility in Glenwood, Iowa, and stole 215 pigeons. The Double T Farms was raising the pigeons for use in medical research. Most of the pigeons were released near the farm, though about 60 of the pigeons were apparently driven out of state and released in Nebraska.

On August 28, ALF activists released 179 birds from a research lab in Wellington, Colorado. The animals at Genesis Labs were being used as part of toxicity experiments.


Three Major ALF Actions in U.S. Midwest in Past Two Weeks. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office, press release, September 10, 2000.

Attack on University of Minnesota Worst Lab Attack in Recent Years

On April 5, the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for a raid on a University of Minnesota lab
that released over 100 animals and vandalized the lab doing more than
$2 million in damage.

The lab was conducting experiments
with rats, pigeons, salamanders and mice on a variety of research projects
including efforts to better understand cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Walter Low, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, said the
raid set back studies being conducted on Alzheimer’s by at least two years
(the University of Minnesota is well known for developing a strain of
mice that mimic the traits often found in Alzheimer’s patients.)

Along with freeing the lab
animals, the ALF operatives smashed computers, wrecked microscopes and
photocopiers and even destroyed human tissue that were part of a research
program to find a vaccine to attack brain tumors. As Low pointed out,
this is rather ironic since the animal rights activists insist tissue
cultures should be used to replace animals in medical research.

Several people in the Minnesota
area, including a cancer patient, are offering a reward of $10,000 for
information leading to the capture and conviction of the perpetrators.

The reaction from animal rights
groups was predictable. Lisa Lange of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
was quoted in New Scientist as saying, “We do things in a very different
way, but I understand their frustration. The real crime is that millions
of animals are being tortured and killed.”

On the other hand Freeman Wicklund, executive director of the nonprofit Animal Liberation League,
told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that such actions hurt the animal rights
cause. “We hope everybody realizes that the visible minority within
the animal-rights community doesn’t represent the broader movement,” Wicklund said. “A
lot of people who care about animals are upset about the actions.”

Although it is nice to see
Wicklund oppose such raids, he is ignoring reality when he implies
his view is in the majority. In fact he has been widely denounced by animal
rights activists for his stance against terrorist activities.


Animal activists suspected in lab damage. Jim Adams, Minnesota Star Tribune, April 6, 1999.

Activists up the ante. Kurt Kleiner, New Scientist, April 17, 1999.

Research labs vandalized, 75 animals taken. Associated Press, April 6, 1999.

NC A.L.F. Liberates 116 from Vivisection Lab. No Compromise, Press Release, Arpil 9, 1999.

Doctor refutes claim animal experiments have brought us closer to cure for Alzheimer’s disease, call such claims “exploitative” of stricken families. New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

Veternarian charges U of M experimenters exaggerated claims of research progress. In Defense of Animals, Press Release, April 9, 1999.

ALF tactics condemned. Letter to the editor, Minnesota Daily, April 9, 1999.

More lost U lab animals found in Woodbury field. Jim Adams, Minnesota Star Tribune, April 9, 1999.

Minn. research labs vandalized. Associated Press, April 6, 1999.

Animal Liberation Front claims responsibility for liberation of 116 animals from University of Minnesota, while destroying violent research. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, April 5, 1999.

A.L.F. Raids University of Minnesota Animal Lab. North American Animal Liberation Front Press Office, Press Release, April 5, 1999.

Vigil for lab animals. Animal Liberation Front, Press Release, April 7, 1999.