Duke Riley, an artist who strapped LED lights on the legs of 2,000 pigeons and forced them to fly in the dark, recruited counter-protestors to discredit animal rights advocates who were demonstrating at his “Fly By Night” show, which took place from May 7 to June 19 over the East River in New York City. The counter-protesters wore pigeon masks, held provocative signs and attempted to blend in with the activists.
“The fact that counter protesters appeared is quite suspect,”said Nora Constance Marino of the Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund (ACEF), the animal protection group that organized the demonstration. “They claimed to be there because they disagreed with our position regarding animal cruelty; yet, they made no intelligent statements to support this position. They merely brought nonsense signs and yelled silly chants in an obvious effort to distract. In my opinion, this is evidence that there is no real defense to our claims of animal cruelty.”
Pigeons, who are strictly daytime animals, have poor nighttime vision and only fly in the dark if disturbed. “Fly By Night” potentially subjects them to stress, disorientation and drowning in the East River.
Creative Time, the arts organization that is funding the pigeon show, claims on its website that the show takes place “when there is still daylight.”
However, photos and video taken during “Fly By Night” demonstrate that the pigeons are, in fact, in the air after dark.
In a post on the Facebook page of Creative Time, Karen Davis, President of the national avian advocacy group United Poultry Concerns, condemned the event: “Perhaps what strikes me most significantly about this Fly By Night exhibit is the part where the pigeons are trying to land and get rest, but are forced to fly even though they are bewildered, scared and exhausted. . . No one who respects pigeons and empathizes with them as fellow creatures would dream of mistreating them so meanly, strapping gadgetry to them, and putting them in danger.”
The use of live animals in art exhibits was recently addressed in a CounterPunch article critical of the practice written by Elliot Sperber, a New York-based writer and lawyer.