The new series, "Taking on Tyson," which debuted Sunday on Animal Planet, follows Iron Mike around as he immerses himself in the world of pigeon racing. But PETA members think the series is a birdbrained idea and protested Monday outside of his Las Vegas home.
As far as pigeon racing goes, PETA officials claim that racing pigeons are forced to fly hundreds of miles in all weather extremes as they attempt to get home, and are are vulnerable to both natural predators such as hawks and cruel humans who view them as "pests."
However, Karen Clifton, executive director of the American Racing Pigeon Union, says pigeon racers are, more than anything, animal lovers and take great care with their birds.
"Pigeon racers spend a lot of money giving their birds special diets to maintain health, including minerals in their water and ground-up oyster shells to help their digestion," she said.
The pigeons in this sport are bred to travel distances up to 600 miles at 45 mph.
"Every care is taken with the pigeons," Clifton said. "They are even basketed in a very specific manner."
In addition, the ARPU rules are very stringent. For instance, steroid eyedrops have been banned from the sport for the last 20 years.
Bill Mitiu, a pigeon racer who lives in Spring Hill, Fla., says pigeons are carefully picked before being trained.
"You look for a bird with muscles on the breast and a tight back end, or vent," he told AOL News. "You also want a short forearm and a long wing, and narrow feathers for the wind to pass through."
But Mitiu says there is also a personal aspect to raising pigeons. "They're smart," he said. "After a while, they'll fly around for a while and come to you when they call."
Tyson hasn't commented on the protest, but it could be argued he is as much a supporter of animal rights as the organization is. In fact, he got into his first fight at age 11 when a bully ripped the head off of one of his pet pigeons.
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