PETA worries a new Animal Planet show featuring Mike Tyson racing pigeons will “showcase cruelty and profiteering at animals’ expense,” the animal rights organization’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, tells PopEater.
The program, tentatively titled ‘Taking on Tyson,’ is set to begin filming in New York City this spring and is slated to air in early 2011. “I may have stopped fighting,” the one-time world heavyweight champion tells the New York Post, “but I never stopped flying birds. It’s my first love. I feel a great pride acting as an official representative for all the pigeon fanciers out there.”
But Tyson’s love of pigeons isn’t sitting well with PETA, who question Iron Mike’s intentions with the show.
“One wonders whether Mike Tyson — as a self-appointed ambassador of and ‘rookie’ to pigeon racing — realizes that just as losing racehorses end up in the glue factory, these gentle, loyal birds who race their hearts out in order to get home to their life mates often become lost in storms or have their necks wrung for failing to beat their competitors’ time,” Newkirk’s statement reads.
In a PR Newswire press release, Animal Planet president Marjorie Kaplan marvels at Iron Mike’s passion for pigeons. “It takes my breath away,” Kaplan says. “Tyson has raised pigeons all his life. In fact, his first-ever fight as a child was in defense of his birds.”
The former boxer who spent jail-time for rape in the 1990s tells the Post he owns several hundred birds. The show should give a new dimension of insight into a man who already bared much of himself as the focus of the 2008 documentary ‘Tyson.’
The press release says the show’s premise will revolve around Tyson, a novice racer despite his longtime pigeon ownership, facing off against other pigeon fanciers, hoping to be “crowned a champ all over again.”
Newkirk disparages the cable channel’s judgment, saying, “Animal Planet needs more programs like ‘Whale Wars‘ and ‘Animal Cops‘ in which people go to bat for animals and fewer programs that showcase cruelty and profiteering at animals’ expense.”