Duke Riley, an artist who strapped LED lights on the legs of 2,000 pigeons and forced them to fly in the dark, verbally assaulted animal advocates, calling them “racists,” “animal abusers,” and “animal haters.”
The Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund (ACEF), an animal advocacy group, staged three protests in front of Riley’s “Fly By Night” shows. At two of those protests, Riley brought in counter-protesters with provocative signs in an attempt to discredit the animal advocates.
“Duke Riley’s totally unsubstantiated accusations, in calling animal rights activists and protesters ‘racists’ and ‘animal haters,’ is beyond ludicrous,” said Nora Constance Marino, President of ACEF. “Mr. Riley has resorted to baseless and meaningless defamatory name calling in an apparent ill-conceived and feeble attempt to defend his actions.”
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 funded the pigeon show, claims on its website that the show took 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.