(Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)
An animal rights group has launched an online petition calling for the head of the Roman Catholic Church to stop releasing doves in light of a recent incident.
Posted by Chris Wolverton on Care2, the petition was created after a recent release of doves at the Vatican ended with birds of prey attacking them.
"Domesticated doves are easy targets for other birds due to their white color and inability to recognize predators and flee. The Pope's intentions in releasing the doves were innocent, but after witnessing the gruesome aftermath he needs to end the practice," reads the petition in part.
"There are other traditional peace symbols the Pope could use to send a dramatic message without harming any creatures. For example, he could have children make paper cranes or plant white poppy flowers."
With a stated goal of 9,000 signatures, the Care2 petition calling for Pope Francis to halt the usage of doves has already garnered over 8,500 names.
Earlier this week, as part of its annual "Caravan of Peace," Pope Francis and a couple children released a pair of doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace at Vatican City.
"Unfortunately, a sea gull and a large black crow had other ideas, sweeping down on the hapless doves as tens of thousands of people jammed into St. Peter's Square looked on Sunday," reported Doug Stanlin of USA Today.
"One dove managed to break free from the sea gull, losing a few feathers in the brawl. The crow had a better grip on the other dove, pecking the bird repeatedly. In the end, both doves got away, although the extent of their injuries wasn't immediately clear."
This is not the first time the release of the doves, a symbol of peace, has led to awkward results for the "Caravan of Peace" event.
Last year, a dove released was attacked by a seagull and in 2012, the doves, apparently unaware of their scripted role, proceeded to return to the Apostolic Apartments from whence they came.
Videos and photos of the most recent attack went viral, as YouTube alone became inundated with postings focused on the image of the avian attack.
Before the birds attacked, the focus of the event was on the violence directed at protesters in Ukraine, reported the U.K. Daily Mail.
"After saying a prayer for Ukraine, where at least three people were killed during the latest clashes that have seen Kiev in flames, the Pontiff helped schoolchildren release the doves from the window of the Apostolic Palace as a peace gesture," wrote Hannah Roberts and Mark Duell of the Mail.
"While speaking at the window beforehand, Francis had appealed for peace in Ukraine, after at least three people were killed during the latest clashes in the two-month crisis."