Releasing doves as a symbol of peace may be an age-old tradition, but the Pope and his followers learned the hard way that this ritual is not as innocent as it seems. After the Pope and visiting children let loose a pair of doves out of a Vatican window this past weekend, larger birds promptly attacked the two doves.
Photographers captured the startling moment when a gull and a black crow assaulted the doves.
Though some spectators worried that the bird-on-bird violence indicated a lack of peace in years to come, animal activists are more concerned over how dangerous these ceremonies are for the doves. In fact, it isn’t the first time Catholics have witnessed “peace” doves get mauled after a special papal release. In response, Care2 member Chris Wolverton wrote a petition to call for Pope Francis to stop releasing doves and thereby putting them at risk.
Of course, the Pope is hardly the only one to release doves; all around the world, groups “free” the birds because of their supposed symbolism. The momentary beauty, however, is counteracted by elements for which the doves are entirely unprepared. Sadly, even doves that aren’t quickly attacked by birds of prey aren’t likely to survive much longer anyway.
For starters, the doves’ color is not natural. These birds have been bred specifically to achieve a bright white shine, making them stand out to predators that don’t normally see this color in the wild. On top of that, having never experienced this type of threat while in captivity, the doves are unaware of how to hide or defend themselves from attacks.
Being bred and kept in captivity makes the doves unaware of most survival skills, actually. Many of them end up starving since they don’t know how to find food. Without a flock to protect them, the doves remain vulnerable to unfamiliar elements.
Granted, not all dove release companies are this thoughtless with their birds. Some enterprises train “doves” (which are often actually specially-bred white pigeons) to fly out at an event and then return to their owner. At least these birds are generally well cared for as they are considered an ongoing investment. In most cases, however, companies have no intention of rounding up the doves after releasing them, thereby essentially leaving them for dead.
Considering the ultimate outcome, dove releases should be discontinued at weddings and funerals, as well. It’s not peaceful, it’s not romantic, and it’s not celebratory – it’s just sad.
While Pope Francis has demonstrated a lot of wisdom about the world’s economic inequalities, releasing doves appears to be one issue about which he could stand to become better educated. Be sure to sign the petition to make sure he hears the message.
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