A new report conducted by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims nationwide pigeon racing amounts to a staggering $15 million in illegal gambling and thousands of killed birds annually.
The Daily News reports PETA has taken the investigation to 17 law enforcement agencies, including the NYPD and FBI, on Monday.
The investigation specifically names the Bronx Homing Pigeon Club as the northeast's top pigeon racing facility, conducting three large, high-stakes races annually and giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash prizes for winning birds.
PETA's Jeffrey Kerr, the organization's general counsel and senior vice president, said the investigation was sparked by a reality television show starring Mike Tyson, which followed the former heavyweight champion raising pigeons and competing in races.
Although an Animal Planet spokesperson insisted the birds would be "cherished and respected by their owners," animal advocates criticized the show for promoting both animal cruelty and illegal gambling.
The races involve a grueling training program, which only 36 percent of birds survived through in a 2011 race, separating the social creatures from their mates and nests, banding them, and releasing the birds hundreds of miles away in a foreign environment.
According to PETA, more than 60 percent of birds either lose their way or die from extreme weather and exhaustion.
Pigeons with the fastest times that are able to survive and make their way back are then declared winners.
The 15-month investigation hopes to encourage law enforcement agencies to charge the industry with violations of federal gambling, racketeering, and tax-evasion laws.
PETA's undercover photos from the Bronx below:
As the video below explains, imagine a Boston Marathon where half of the race's competitors never return:
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