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Council joins Ken Livingstone in plot to starve Trafalgar Square pigeons
Posted 16 January 2007
DCLG Byelaws Section
5/G10 Eland House
London SW1E 5DU
January 11, 2007
RE. BYELAW FOR THE PREVENTION OF FEEDING OF BIRDS
On behalf of Animal Aid’s many thousands of supporters I wish to object strongly to the application by Westminster Council for a Byelaw that would ban the feeding of pigeons - and all other birds - on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square as well as in numerous streets in the surrounding area.
Ken Livingstone, as you will know, ended a decades-long tradition in 2001 when he banned the sale pigeon of feed on Trafalgar Square. Since that time, Animal Aid has worked with Save The Trafalgar Square Pigeons (STTSP) - and its predecessor group - to prevent thousands of the Square’s pigeons from starving to death.
In response to Ken Livingstone’s action, STTSP began regular feeding of corn. At the end of 2002, following a series of meetings with the Mayor’s office in which Animal Aid participated, an agreement was reached. This called for the phased reduction of feed so that the Square’s pigeon population could be gradually and humanely reduced.
Since that time, feed levels have decreased from 150k to 40k a day, while bird numbers now stand at an estimated 1500 - down from around 4,000.
Until the Mayor terminated the agreement, feeding took place early in the morning and was over within 15 minutes. Thereafter, the majority of the pigeons dispersed, leaving a few hundred in or around the Square during the rest of the day. In other words, Ken Livingstone’s alleged ‘pigeon problem’ had been dealt with.
I say alleged because, despite the hostile rhetoric directed at the pigeons by the Mayor (replete with exaggerated claims of disease risk and environmental damage) many members of the public remain well disposed towards the birds. A great many tourists are also delighted to see them. They admire their stoic and peaceful nature and regard the birds as integral to the life of central London. They cannot tolerate the prospect of the birds being starved to death and persecuted by GLA-appointed hawk handlers simply because they do those most basic of things: eating and defecating.
While the STTSP - supported by Animal Aid - continued with the aforementioned feed reduction programme, a small number of individuals, who were opposed to the programme, decided to feed the birds during the day from the North Terrace. They persisted with this feeding despite attempts by the STTSP and Animal Aid to get them to stop.
The GLA was well aware of these efforts to dissuade the afternoon feeders and yet - in a perversely counter-productive act of ‘revenge’ - ended the morning feeding agreement and the cooperation it had previously extended to make that feed possible.
The STTSP was faced with the choice of allowing the birds to starve - the amount of feed being handed out in the afternoon being too little to sustain them - or continue the feeding from outside the Square. It chose the humane course and now feeds the pigeons from the North Terrace.
And so the gains of the last few years - a controlled feed reduction programme that led to a dramatic reduction in pigeon numbers - have been thrown away. Just two years ago, the Mayor’s office itself acclaimed the agreement with the STTSP as an example to the world on how to effectively and humanely decrease a pigeon population.
In tearing up the morning feed agreement, the GLA triggered a less orderly feeding regime. Equally, the Byelaw sought by Westminster will produce more chaos. There are many people - outraged by the original decision to ban feed sales - who desisted from scattering food because they trusted that the STTSP/GLA agreement meant that the birds’ interests were being looked after. With attempts at orderly feeding being sabotaged by the GLA and now, potentially, by Westminster, it can be anticipated that a number of those people - undeterred by the Byelaw - will feed as and when they can. This will mean more birds hanging around throughout the day and a likely increase in their population.
So on both moral and practical grounds the proposed Byelaw is indefensible.
Even at this late stage, we would urge the Council to withdraw its application and use its influence to persuade the Mayor’s Office to reaffirm the morning feeding agreement. The STTSP remains committed to an orderly phased feeding reduction programme.