Pigeon Jerky: Florida Beef Jerky Magnate Blasted for Hosting Live Pigeon Shoot

Jerky mogul Troy Link owns an Okeechobee ranch where thousands of pigeons were allegedly pumped full of lead in a late-February weekend event.
A sporting ranch operated by Jack Link's CEO Troy Link held a "Swamp Shoot-Out" in Okeechobee, where pigeons were released to be blasted out of the air by attendees. (No, they were not used to produce dried meat snacks for Link's jerky company.)
A sporting ranch operated by Jack Link's CEO Troy Link held a "Swamp Shoot-Out" in Okeechobee, where pigeons were released to be blasted out of the air by attendees. (No, they were not used to produce dried meat snacks for Link's jerky company.) Photo illustration by Tom Carlson
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The fabulously wealthy have all sorts of bizarre hobbies and obsessions.

But while some fat cats enjoy kitesurfing, collecting typewriters, or learning to craft Japanese swords, others have more, shall we say, incendiary pastimes.

Last week, a sporting ranch operated by Florida multimillionaire Troy Link — CEO of the company that makes Jack Link's beef jerky (you know, the one that promises to "feed your wild side") — held a three-day "Swamp Shoot Out" in Okeechobee. Drone footage [note: potentially disturbing] of the invite-only event obtained by animal rights groups shows pigeons being released from small boxes in an open shooting field at Quail Creek Sporting Ranch before they're blasted down by shotgun-wielding attendees standing a few dozen yards away.

According to organizations Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) and Animal Wellness Action, roughly 15,000 pigeons were shot over the course of the weekend.

"If this isn't staged animal cruelty, I don't know what is," Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said in a press release decrying the event.

While activists claim the practice, which is outlawed in several U.S. states, violates Florida's anti-cruelty regulations, state law contains no specific provisions to protect pigeons. Florida assigns misdemeanor penalties to an individual who "unnecessarily mutilates or kills any animal" in a cruel manner, but defenders of pigeon shoots claim they're sporting events that don't meet that definition.

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said the state is not investigating the event. The sporting club did not respond to New Times' requests for comment.

Once popular among the British aristocracy and European upper classes, with events held at resort locations in places like Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Seville, Spain, the sport has dwindled in popularity in light of outcry from animal rights activists and the availability of alternative sports such as skeet shooting.

Although proponents of the sport argue that live birds are "more challenging" than inanimate targets, others argue that pigeon shoots are downright cruel. In recent years, animal rights activists have begun deploying drones in attempts to disrupt live pigeon shoots, which nowadays are typically invite-only and hosted at private clubs.

A flyer for the recent Florida event (attached at the bottom of this story) shows that the daily entry fee was $600 and included daily meals and an award presentation on the final day. "Practice birds" cost attendees $16, per the flyer.

According to a press release from the animal rights groups, events like the "Swamp Shoot Out" typically use pigeons captured in urban areas and kept in boxes until the shooting starts. The groups say that during pigeon shoots, the birds are often spring-ejected from boxes and, in some cases, administered an electric shock to jolt them into the air.

SHARK president Steve Hindi noted in the release that the sport of skeet shooting employs targets — commonly known as clay pigeons — for recreational shooting.

"To choose instead to slaughter live animals is just pathological," Hindi stated. "Only a sick mind shoots animals for target practice when fast-moving clay targets are far more challenging."

Activists say some organizers of live pigeon shoots recruit children to collect the carcasses and dispatch birds that survive their wounds. Pennsylvania-based animal rights group Humane PA has asserted that the kids often have no formal training in proper euthanasia methods.

"The birds are then tossed into a barrel or pile of dead and dying pigeons and discarded as garbage," Humane PA stated in a 2020 effort to call attention to a proposed state law that would outlaw live shoots. (Such bills have been introduced multiple times in the Pennsylvania legislature, only to fail to reach a vote.) 

Tory Link's father, Jack Link, founded the popular jerky company in the 1980s. Troy Link became president in 2003, and took over as CEO ten years later. His net worth is reported to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The company now does business as Jack Link's Protein Snacks.

In an interview on a hunting-themed podcast, Troy Link told of his youth in rural Wisconsin where hunting and outdoor recreation were common activities. In March 2023, he appeared in Instagram photos of a wild turkey hunt alongside country singer and American Idol judge Luke Bryan.

"If you're from that area, you enjoyed the outdoors. You played sports and you did the things that you do growing up there because there wasn't a lot of other options. To go to a movie was an hour drive," Link reminisced.

The Superior Telegram, a Minnesota news outlet, reported in 2006 that a Nebraska court sentenced Link to two years' probation for misdemeanor "airborne harassment of wildlife" after pleading guilty to chasing mule deer with a helicopter above a national forest. Link told the news outlet he wasn't hunting at the time and that he planned to appeal the sentence.

Back in 2020, as COVID-19 surged across the U.S., he hosted a campaign fundraiser for former President Trump in Hillsboro Beach in North Broward, according to Bloomberg.

His LinkedIn states that he supports a handful of causes, including animal welfare.
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