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Comcast cuts showings of anti-pigeon shooting commercial featuring Barker

Comcast cut the number of times it will broadcast an animal rights group’s commercial in which former game show host and animal advocate Bob Barker urges Pennsylvania voters to support legislation to ban pigeon shoots.

The Illinois-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, known as SHARK, bought about $8,000 worth of ad time on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Animal Planet to air the 30-second commercial, which featured Barker speaking over footage of pigeons being shot in the air and on the ground, bleeding and lying in piles of dead birds.

The ads were scheduled to air on Comcast in the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Bensalem and Berks County areas starting on Monday to coincide with when legislators returned to session, SHARK President Steve Hindi said. He said on Tuesday that the cable provider yanked the commercials because they are too graphic.

“Let’s get real about this — these service providers show programming that has blood and guts all the time,” Hindi said. “The difference here is that this is real; this is really happening in Pennsylvania.”

Comcast Spotlight spokeswoman Melissa Kennedy said the commercials have been delayed until Wednesday to give the group time, at Comcast’s request, to verify the legislation is up for consideration. They also would air between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., only in the Harrisburg region, and only on Fox News and MSNBC because of the graphic imagery.

“It’s a little unsettling,” Kennedy said.

The content was too graphic for the ad to run on CNN or Animal Planet, and it would have to be toned down for Comcast to air it outside the Harrisburg area, Kennedy said. Hindi said the group would be open to altering the ads to reach a wider audience.

SHARK devised the ads to support Pennsylvania House Bill 1750 of 2013, which originally banned raising and slaughtering cats and dogs for consumption. After the House passed the bill unanimously last year, the Senate amended it to ban using dogs, cats or other live animals, including pigeons, as shooting targets, said state Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, the bill’s sponsor. The amended bill passed a Senate Justice Committee vote in June by a 10-4 vote.

Maher said he supports the Senate’s amended version, and doesn’t know of openly advertised pigeon shoots in the Pittsburgh area that would be affected if the legislation passes the full Senate and a concurrence vote in the House before the Legislature adjourns.

Hindi said the pigeon shoots, which usually happen at private clubs, should be covered under the state’s existing laws on animal cruelty, but the group’s attempts to use existing law to stop shoots in the eastern part of the state had been ignored by local police and prosecutors.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action asked Pennsylvanians in June to oppose the bill, on the grounds that “pigeon shooting is a traditional shooting sport and has many participants throughout the commonwealth.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625.


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