Open Letter

Dear Australia, Please Don’t Kill the Oregon Pigeon

A bird named Joe just flew 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. Authorities down under have deemed him a killable quarantine risk.

By Conner Reed January 14, 2021

G'day 'Stralia, 

First of all, let me say that I am a huge George Miller fan. You will not find a more ardent defender of Babe: Pig in the City on Twitter dot com than I. Thank you also for Proud Mary on Alberta, the site of more weekend cappuccinos than I can count—in the interest of diplomacy won't even mention how the (delicious) hash-in-hand gives me heartburn and briefly made me think I’d contracted COVID on the day Joe Biden was elected president. 

I write to you now on behalf of another Joe. Late last night, the AP reported that a heroic racing pigeon flew an “exhausting” 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Oregon to Australia. When he arrived, authorities affectionately named him Joe (after our incoming president), deemed him a quarantine risk, and decided he should be put to death. I believe this is what they call "waking up and choosing violence."

I ask you this, great nation of Australia, exporters of Kylie Minogue, home for a year to my friends Zach and Emily who “just kind of wanted to relax after college”Would you take Amelia Earhart to the guillotine if she crash-landed on your shores today? Were you the moon, would you cast Buzz Aldrin to the cold mercies of deep space rather than risk his potential pathogens? No but for real, can’t you just quarantine the bird for two weeks and then let him hang out?

I'm not even that into birds. Hollow bones, sharp mouths, screaming as an exclusive means of communication? No thanks! I have developed a very tense relationship with a murder of crows who frequent the mossy awning outside my bedroom and inch closer and closer to the window each day. Avians are not my friends, and I appreciate the toxicity of the "immigrants of extraordinary merit" narrative, but Joe put in the fucking work. He disappeared from a pigeon race in Oregon on October 29 and kept flapping for two months before popping up in Melbourne. (OK, maybe he hitched a ride on a cargo ship, we're not sure yet.) But still! Have you ever done anything for two months? I am 100 percent sure I will give up on my sequential Sex and the City watch in less time.

Also, I dunno, read the room, how about? We've just impeached our reality star president for the second time after a devastating assault on the US Capitol, none of us have been able to go to a bar for 10 months, and I'm turning 25 soon which is sort of a whole thing for me. Couldn't you have seized the opportunity to spin this into good news? "Pigeon hero gets key to city?" "Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban adopt sky rat and keep it in a beautiful cage and then Cate Blanchett stars in the Baz Luhrmann movie about it?" Can't we have one news item two weeks into the year that ends in triumph?

I appreciate your strict biosecurity rules, but I hope you see this as a PR opportunity on par with that time you didn't kill Johnny Depp's Yorkies. Sources are saying that you literally cannot physically catch Joe right now, and I sincerely hope you choose to champion that tenacity of spirit. At the end of the day, I have no idea what specific risks Joe poses to the great people, plants, and animals of the Australian Commonwealth, because I am an American arts reporter. But I'm also a moody one, and I implore that you take this to heart.

All best,
Conner Reed

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