- He might be a bird, but this case just goes to show how important the due process is.
It’s not every day that a state issues a national death warrant on a single bird. But Australia is a place where rules of normal life don’t apply.
Meet Joe, a pigeon named after the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. Yesterday, on January 14, Joe was sentenced to death.
Joe had done nothing wrong – he hadn’t pecked the prime minister or pooped on some cherished national landmark. No, his only crime was that people thought he was American.
Luckily for Joe, the question of his nationality was cleared before his blatantly xenophobic execution could take place. In the light of all the facts, it had been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he is indeed a full-blooded ‘Strayan.
But why on Earth did Australia want Joe dead? Wouldn’t they be more interested in eradicating any of their more pressing wildlife issues, like the spiders or the snakes or any number of other things out to get you?
Let’s find out how Joe landed on the death row.
An Invasive Species?
Our story begins last year, on December 26. That’s when Kevin Celli-Bird, a resident of Melbourne, discovered Joe in his backyard.
He seemed like an ordinary pigeon, apart from one thing. Joe had an identity tag on his leg.
This is where his troubles took off. Joe’s leg tag suggested that he was a racing pigeon and that he was registered to an owner in Alabama.
Based on the ID tag, Joe had last been seen in Oregon in October 2020. That would’ve meant that he had by some miracle crossed the entire Pacific Ocean and landed in Australia.
Somehow, Australian authorities were made aware of Joe. And they didn’t like what they heard one bit.
You see, Australia has incredibly strict biosecurity laws. Bringing any animals to the country without a proper permit is simply not allowed.
“Birds arriving from outside Australia can carry a range of diseases of concern for domestic birds—including our $3.7 billion poultry industry, pet birds as well as our unique native birdlife,” Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment says.
“Protecting the health of Australian bird populations against potentially devastating losses to disease remains the department’s top priority in these cases,” the DAWE adds.
‘Fly Home or Face the Consequences’
So, it seemed that Joe was an illegal alien on Australian soil. And to put it mildly, the Australian government was not about to stand for that.
In fact, Australia’s Prime Minister Michael McCormack straight up said Joe was about to get a trip to the executioner’s block.
“If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe, either fly home or face the consequences,” McCormack said according to AP News.
The DEWA showed a bit more tact in its response. The agency isolated the bird for further investigation and said it was cooperating with Celli-Bird, Joe’s finder.
Still, they weren’t exactly working toward saving Joe’s life, either.
“Humane destruction of the bird is the best safeguard for Australian poultry and wildlife,” the DEWA said.
While the authorities were thirsting for some avian blood, the public rallied to support Joe. Soon, a change.org petition to spare his life popped up and started attracting signatures.
Not all officials believed it was right to execute Joe, either. Andy Meddick, a lawmaker in the state of Victoria where Joe was found and a member of the Animal Justice Party, called for a pigeon pardon.
“Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk,” Meddick said according to AP News.
Even Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley, weighed in.
“I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” Foley said.
Celli-Bird also thought that executing the beautiful pigeon he’d found was simply wrong.
“I thought this is just a feel-good story and now you guys want to put this pigeon away,” he said. “It’s not on, you know, you can’t do that, there has got to be other options.”
Victim of Fake News
Being a man of action, Celli-Bird took it upon himself to find those other options. Since Joe’s leg tag was American, he decided to contact the American Racing Pigeon Union.
Their response saved Joe’s life. It turns out that Joe was not American at all.
“The pigeon found in Australia sports a counterfeit band and need not be destroyed per biosecurity measures, because his actual home is in Australia,” the ARPU said on its Facebook page.
“It is a disappointment that false information spreads so quickly, but we are appreciative that the real pigeon did not stray from the U.S.”
After its investigation, the DEWA agreed with the union’s statement.
“The department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” the DEWA said, adding that the leg band was a fake and that it would take no further action.
Celli-Bird was happy with the result, but felt that he may need to come up with a new name for the bird.
“I might have to change him to Aussie Joe, but he’s just the same pigeon,” Celli-Bird said.
Luckily Joe got his due process and wasn’t wrongfully put to death. But how he ever got the fake American leg tag remains a mystery.
Let us warn this person, though: don’t be surprised if you find your car covered in obscene amounts of pigeon poop. Beware the vengeful wrath of Joe.