Is it cruel to release white doves ?

Firstly, let me make it quite clear that our doves are our beloved pets and their welfare is of utmost importance to us.

That said, I am invariably asked, on occasions, whether it is harmful to the birds’ welfare to use them in such a manner. Most certainly not….at least not by us as we are experienced keepers and breeders of these fine creatures and would not do anything that would cause them distress or harm. What we do love to do is introduce those of you that would otherwise never come into contact with a bird, to the joy of being up close & personal to a beautiful, warm living creature that also just happens to be the most renowned symbol of true love. Added to that, like most domesticated animals, they love all the attention they get from everyone.

” But you keep them shut up in little cages”

Is a phrase I have heard before and I take great delight in explaining to people just how they are usually kept at home.…..that cage is merely a temporary travelling box, rather like your car, in which they are kept safe from home to venue until their release. Where they are really kept is a birds’ answer to The Hilton! Warm watertight lodgings with aircon, skylights, individual sleeping quarters, seating areas ( we call them perches) daily housekeeping ( that’s hubby’s job) top quality food and all drinks included, regular vitamin supplements, fresh clean baths and…..


the hilton for doves
No vacancies at this hotel!

Yes, total freedom. The doors to their home are invariably left open for long spells to allow the doves to do what comes naturally…….fly out in the open; but with the added knowledge that they have a warm, loving home to return to whenever they want. Naturally, with all good hotels, there are security measures in place to stop any unwanted intruders……those pesky hawks and cats do like to gatecrash a party! The doves have their own little windows to get in if they happen to be late back and the main doors are locked – the cats don’t have a pass key.

So you see, if the birds were not totally with their home and their work, they can merely pack their bags and find another place to live.

Dove release service

Now I’m not saying that ALL people offering a dove release service are such loving owners; after all, sadly, we find cruelty in all walks of life – so it’s up to you to make sure that the dove company you are using is as caring and experienced as us.

Ask if you can see the doves at home…we love to show off our pets in their natural state. Ask whether the company is a member of any recognised organisations; we belong to the Royal Pigeon Racing Association or RPRA and have to abide by very strict rules of husbandry. All of our doves have rings on their legs with individual numbers on which enable them to be identified by this association if they are found injured so that we can be notified and can fetch them home to be attended to. Ask how much experience they have with the birds….we have been keeping and breeding these birds for over 40 years. Make sure the doves being used are actually a strain of racing pigeon….yes, pigeon! Dove and pigeons are all part of the same family but are bred differently to achieve different qualities and colour – a bit like dogs. Dogs are all dogs but some are big, some are small,some are black, some are white, some are ugly and some are beautiful. The doves have to be the right variety to enable them to fly back to their home and if anyone uses the wrong type i.e. garden doves or fantail doves they would be unable to fly home and would no doubt perish in the wild at the mercy of predators.

Dove release baskets
Caistor Hall promotional photographs 068
Ready to go

Now, back to the “little” cages. The beautifully decorated cages that we use for event releases are of a specific size to provide comfort and  prevent harm to our birds during travel. Too big and the bird may be tempted to flap its wings and cause injury to itself, too small and the bird could become cramped which would impede its ability to fly out properly for the journey home. So don’t just assume we purchase any attractive cage for our doves, we search long and hard for the correct cages and  make very careful selection from what we find; in fact many of our cages or baskets are custom made to ensure our standards are met.

We have kept pigeons for many, many years – my husband being a well versed “pigeon fancier”……where did that name come from? Another story for another day.He has been racing pigeons for over 40 years and not beaten them yet! His knowledge & love of these wonderful birds is immense. The idea of displaying them at weddings and funerals is a relatively new one to us, only having introduced it in the last nine years. In pigeon racing, the birds are taken many hundreds of miles from their home to a race point whereupon they are released to fly home; this is a practice that dates back hundreds of years and is something that comes naturally to the birds. Taking white birds to a wedding is no more than encouraging the natural instincts of the birds to fly home……..and if they aren’t happy, the ideal opportunity to fly somewhere else! However, I am happy to say that in all the years we have been releasing the doves at weddings and events, I can count on one hand the number of birds that haven’t made it back and that of course can be due to any number of natural occurances that could beset them anytime whilst out flying & not because they didn’t like their home with us.

So, to recap, is it cruel to release white doves at a wedding? Not if the service is carried out with the birds’ welfare first and foremost and done by fully experienced professionals (like us) that love the birds and their job.

I do hope that I have allayed any of your concerns and educated you a little in the wonderful world of the dove. I would love to hear from anyone that has any interest in the doves or any questions you may have about them, please contact me or find me at  

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