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Pigeon fanciers in a flap over Brexit quarantine flock-up, seek exemption from EU laws

It won't fly. 'We are collateral damage'

Things have taken a tern for the worse for the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, which is seeking an exemption from the EU for a law that takes flight tomorrow, so their birds can participate in a long distance European race.

In the trans-Channel races, the UK flying rats birds are released from France, after which they wing it across the water in an attempt to beat each other and previous speed records. The new EU animal control regulation [PDF], which comes into effect on 16 April, is in-heron-tly a problem for the fanciers because their feathered friends won't be in beak condition to participate. Under the hawk-ward new rule, the birds would need to be quarantined in France for weeks before the race. Participants feel they've been flocked over as their frequent fliers need daily exercise to stay in shape.

Prior to Brexit, Alan Todd, a member of Winlaton Homing Society in Gateshead, explained to the BBC: "They would leave here on Thursday, get to France on Friday and race back to Britain on Saturday."

He added: "It's got us all up in arms. I think it could kill the sport."

Pigeon fanciers, who will often be animal husbandry experts as well as keen participants in the races, are very committed hobbyists, often closely guarding special tweetments, such as "racing day" food mix secrets, training regimes and breeding tips.

And the hobby is far from cheep. Fanciers can spend thousands of pounds pampering their beloved avian athletes with special enclosures and expensive off the shelf supplements.

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As an additional bird-en, if you don't have your own "loft", you need to pay to house your little Steven Seagull in someone else's. A specially bred and trained pigeon can set you back thousands, even hundreds of thousands. Ruling the roost so far is "New Kim", a two-year-old female pigeon, who was sold for €1.6m (£1.4m, $1.9m), at a Belgian auction in November last year.

Todd added that the un-pheasant rules were for the birds and that they might mean an end to the sport: "A lot of people are planning of walking away from [pigeon racing] because of this."

Racing pigeons are a type of homing pigeon, so it's been suggested by some at Reg HQ that a few wise quackers might turn away from competition and go into the comms business.

Theoretically they could be used to carry messages under an IP over Avian Carrier (RFC 2549) system, although that would almost certainly fall a-fowl of the quarantine rules as well, not to mention a few others, commented a telco law supremo, who quipped: "If they wanted to build an IPoAC system, they - with their many birds - may be well placed to do so." The legal eagle went on to suggest that said businesses could be called SquawkSquawk, Birdish Telecom, or A&Avian, adding that however, "it would be highly unfortunate if, having built an IPoAC network, they were subject to the myriad rules and regulations regarding running even private communications networks."

Proving everyone is the centre of their own universe, Bob Mackie from Newcastle, who has been racing birds for 60 years, told the Beeb: "It's probably something that has fallen through the net in terms of negotiations for Brexit; we are collateral damage." ®

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