In the past few days, there have been allegations of 200 pigeon deaths on the company's property and a post-mortem on two of the unfortunate birds. Coca-Cola says only two birds were found dead at its plant. There has also been a police investigation, arrests and ruffled feathers among animal rights activists.
According to Harmesh Bhatt of the Ahmedabad-based ASHA Foundation, an organisation that treats stray animals, the world's biggest soft drink maker used rough and ready methods to trap and kill about 200 pigeons on its property. The implements used in the operation were nets to trap the birds, and sticks, stones and bare hands to kill them. This was done on Friday with the help of "five hunters" from Hyderabad, he said.
This version of events was repeated by an executive of Coca-Cola, who said a similar method is adopted by Coca-Cola in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra where it has plants. He did not want his identity disclosed. Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, the bottling arm of Coca-Cola India, had a less dramatic story to tell.
"From time to time, safe and viable solutions are sought from third parties to address intrusions of birds. In this case, a third party, while carrying out an assessment on our premises, found two dead birds in a holding area of our plant," the company said in a statement.
It added that "maintaining very high standards of hygiene is of utmost importance to us", referring to the potential health hazards that pigeons pose.
The 'flying rats' make the place messy with their droppings, which are corrosive and can cause diseases. Coca-Cola also promised to investigate the incident. The police investigation has resulted in the arrests of five people for violating the Wildlife Protection Act. They have been released on bail, said sub-inspector S S Malhi of Kheda town, under which the plant falls. The carcasses of the two unfortunate birds will be cut open to find out how they died.
"We are now awaiting the doctor's report," the police officer said. ASHA Foundation's Bhatt is now rallying support for the cause of pigeons. His organisation is joining hands with other animal activists to organise a protest in Ahmedabad demanding action against Coca-Cola. He has written to chief minister requesting him to take action against the manager who "gave the order to kill pigeons."