Romanian association urges not to cull racing pigeons

A racing pigeon association urged authorities Monday not to cull the country's 800,000 racing pigeons, arguing that the birds were not carriers of the deadly H5N1 strain of the flu virus. "Racing pigeons have a strict diet and are vaccinated against all diseases," said a statement from the Union of Federations of Romanian Pigeon Enthusiasts. There are about 6,000 breeders in Romania who have 800,000 pigeons which take part in national and international competitions.

Petruta Radu, secretary of the union said by telephone that some racing pigeons in eastern and southern Romania had already been among the birds culled amid fears of the spread of bird flu. Romania has reported more than 40 clusters of H5N1 cases since the virus was first detected in October in the Danube River's delta. Authorities have culled more than 150,000 domestic birds as a precaution. No human cases have been reported in Romania.

The statement cited studies carried out on racing pigeons in the U.S., Canada and Belgium showing that the risk of the birds carrying the virus was very low. Pigeons are worth from Ђ 300 (US$358) to 10,000 (US$11,900) the statement said. Radu said members of the racing pigeon union would meet Romanian animal health authorities to discuss the problem, reports the AP.

N.U.