A giant pigeon looking bruised and battered staged an unusual demonstration outside Windsor Castle yesterday.

The 'pigeon' held signs saying 'Your Majesty: Stop Sending Pigeons to their Deaths' and 'End Pigeon Racing Cruelty' and was accompanied by a representative of the charity PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals UK).

The charity says that eight pigeons sent by the Queen to participate in the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race died during the quarentine period during which birds from all over the world are grouped together.

It says that those who survive are forced into long training sessions under the blazing South African sun, where many become disoriented and die from exhaustion, dehydration, or starvation. Less than a quarter of the pigeons who originally enter the race series complete it.

PETA director Elisa Allen said: "Pigeons are caring parents, devoted mates, and extraordinary navigators who deserve better than to be raced to their deaths.

"PETA is respectfully urging Her Majesty to cut ties with this horrific 'sport'."