September 3, 2018
Labor Day means different things to different people. For SHARK President Steve Hindi, it represents his transition from someone who killed animals to someone who saves them. In a very real sense, it is the anniversary of SHARK itself.
It was twenty-nine years ago today that, on the way to a fishing trip, Steve stopped by Hegins, PA, to see the infamous live pigeon shoot he had read about in a publication called The Animal's Agenda. Even though Steve had killed many animals during his thirty years in bloodsports, the carnage he witnessed in Hegins was so horrendous and heart-breaking that he resolved to stop the nightmare.
A young boy tearing the head off a pigeon at a Hegins pigeon shoot
For those who are not aware, the Hegins Labor Day pigeon shoot was an annual event that had been held for many decades. In the mid 1980s a group called Trans-Species Unlimited began to organize protests against Hegins that eventually attracted hundreds of protesters from around the nation. However, after shifting their focus from being at the shoot to being at the state capital to try to outlaw such events, the media and protestors began to lose interest.
This is where Steve came into the picture.
The best way to explain what happened next is to quote a story originally written by Merritt Clifton for Animal People in 1992, "That's when Hindi, a newcomer to the cause, revived the protest bigtime by challenging shoot organizer Bob Tobash to a no-holds-barred bareknuckles brawl for a winner-take-all purse of $10,000--which Hindi posted.
The prize fight was to replace the pigeon shoot as a fundraiser for the Hegins park and recreation association. While Tobash declined to fight, the offer drew newspaper and TV attention across the U.S.”Clifton went on to show Steve's challenge became a turning point in the fight against the Hegins pigeon shoot."Having virtually ignored Hegins to that point, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals suddenly made the protest a top priority. Not to be outdone, the Fund for Animals began holding its annual convention in Harrisburg on the weekend before the shoot, making the protest the climactic event of what became, in effect, a three-day rally.”
The Hegins pigeon shoot was such an abhorrent event that the KKK came out in support of it and against the activists protesting the slaughter
The Hegins pigeon shoot would end a few years later as the end result of a lawsuit brought against it by the Fund for Animals. However, neither that nor the interest of other large animal groups would have happened if Steve had not re-ignited the attention Hegins received.
It was very good that all those people and groups rose up against the Hegins slaughter, but Hegins was just the tip of the iceberg. What most people didn't know is that there were numerous live pigeon shoots being held around Pennsylvania, and in other parts of the country. What is unfathomable is how those same people and groups that raised so much money and their personal profiles off the pigeon shoot, subsequently either ignored, or merely payed lip service to the plight of pigeons and pigeon shoots once Hegins and the resulting media attention ended That’s not the path Steve took. Once back home in Illinois, and now a former hunter, he formed the precursor to SHARK called CHARC - the CHicago Animals Rights Coalition. When Steve discovered that his home state allowed pigeon shoots, he immediately took action. By filming and protesting the newly formed CHARC shut the shoots down throughout Illinois within a couple years! This was a major victory for a newborn organization, but it was just the beginning.
Hindi holding a wounded pigeon he had just rescued at a pigeon shoot
In the nearly three-decades since Steve's arrival at Hegins, SHARK has never forgotten its dedication to fighting pigeon shoots and we have scored a series of victories that have saved literally millions of birds from horrendous suffering.
Some battles were considered impossible to win. Such was the case when we took on US Senator Jim Inhofe, who held annual pigeon shoot fundraisers in his home state of Oklahoma. While some great grassroots groups and individuals joined us, the battle was considered too controversial and unwinnable by large animal groups. They didn’t want to upset a powerful politician like Inhofe, so they ignored our call for help, and stood by while thousands of animals died.SHARK said to hell with them - and in just three years, our unyielding efforts were so effective and overwhelming that we forced Inhofe to abandon holding pigeon shoots.
A shooter at Senator Inhoe's dove hunt, which accompanied the pigeon shoot, assaults Steve Hindi
That specific campaign - considered impossible to win by the mainstream - defines what SHARK is. We go where others fear to go, and do what others won’t, because politics and fundraising don't factor into our decisions. We win where others fail because we only consider the animals who desperately need our help.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe tried, but failed to elude our cameras
The Inhofe victory is just one of our recent successes fighting pigeon shoots. In early 2018, we shut down an annual pigeon shoot in Alabama. During the summer the Maryland legislature banned pigeon shoots after we exposed a shoot at a club called Schrader's Outdoors. In Pennsylvania, while legislative efforts begun three-decades ago to ban pigeon shoots have constantly failed, SHARK has waged an epic battle against multiple pigeon shoot clubs that has seen shoots either shut down or attendance at shoots dwindle to a fraction of what they used to be.
A worker at Schrader's Outdoors shooting pigeons in front of a SHARK investigator. This undercover operation helped lead to pigeon shoots being banned in Maryland
The shooters have gone into hiding to avoid our drone cameras. When we find these cowards anyway, as we did earlier this summer, they look like this guy (below), appearing to be consumed with hatred and rage that once again, SHARK was there to film his cruelty and defend pigeons.
This fight has not been easy. There is an emotional toll to watching so much cruelty firsthand, over and over, year after year, and decade after decade. The campaigns are costly in equipment, for just this year the shooters have shot down four of our drones, costing us tens-of-thousands of dollars in replacements and repairs. We have had our blood spilled when pigeon shooters react violently to us.
LEFT: A pigeon shoot supporter pulls a loaded firearm at Steve Hindi and Janet Enoch. RIGHT: Steve Hindi after being hit with a metal dog leash at a PA pigeon shoot
The killers have tried to stop us with frivolous lawsuits that have tied us up for years, and cost more tens of thousands of dollars, but we're still here, fighting for the forgotten animals. For SHARK, losing is not an option.There have been many, many more campaigns besides the pigeon shoots, including other canned hunts, rodeos, bullfighting, dog fighting, cockfighting, pig wrestling, slaughterhouses, animal scrambles, deer slaughters, cormorant slaughters, and more than we care to list.Please help us celebrate SHARK’s 29th birthday by supporting us with a generous donation, because you are the final piece to our battle plan, without whom we cannot continue. You put our vehicles on the road, our boat, the Bob & Nancy, on the water, and our Angel drones in the air.Thank you for all your support, and now let’s move on to the next 29 years of saving lives.Sincerely,
You can read the more about the story of Steve's transformation from hunter/fisherman to animal protector HERE.
• Special thanks to Merritt and Beth Clifton of Animals24/7.