Urban Myth: “a modern story of obscure origin and with little or no supporting evidence that spreads spontaneously in varying forms and often has elements of horror”
There was an avalanche of comments across social media in response to my post about the fines being handed out to people feeding urban birds.
Most of those who responded are wholly against any penalties for this apparently innocent pastime and many are absolutely adamant that they will continue to feed our feathered friends - even it it brings them into conflict with the authorities...or nosy neighbours.
Of those who supported the fines, the most often voiced complaint was that of vicious 'dive bombing' gulls. These horror stories of gulls attacking people are very prominent whenever there is any debate over 'controlling' or 'managing' urban wildlife, with many urging for a cull to put an end to the perceived problem.
Vicious Seagulls = Fake News?
But are these horror stories just that? Made up stories? Myths?
We've all seen the hysterical headlines along the lines of "seagull nearly killed my Nan" and "left for dead by violent gang of gulls" but are dive-bombing gulls a real problem or just an urban myth?
Having spent a great deal of time by the sea, I can honestly say that I've never ever encountered a malicious seagull. Sure, if you hold a chip in the air, especially during the gull's nesting season, then you may be lucky enough (or unlucky enough - depending on your outlook) to have a close encounter with one of these magnificent birds, but I have my doubts as to whether such encounters are commonplace – and whether they are in fact really 'horrific' and 'vicious' or just surprising and delightful.
I take all these newspaper reports with a large pinch of salt, much as I do with my chips at the seaside. Sensational headlines claiming that gulls are attacking people purposefully and violently are probably mostly nonsense.
A British Problem?
And is this a purely British invention? What of overseas gulls? Do Dutch gulls attack people too? Or those in Canada? Apparently they are all well mannered.... hmm, something fishy there then.
There may of course have been occasions when a gull, in defence of its nesting territory, has warned off what it sees as a potential threat– but that's natural and something we must respect. Many species of gull are in rapid decline as we have over-fished their territory out at sea and deprived them of their food source.
First Hand Accounts Welcome...
So, if anyone can provide first hand accounts of being attacked by vicious birds then I'd be very open to hearing from you.
Meanwhile I remain skeptical and might even go as far as to suggest that dive bombing sea gulls really are an urban myth, invented - or at least exaggerated - in order to provide an excuse to label them as 'pests' and eradicate them.
Sign My Petition
I've set up a petition to encourage local councils to establish bird feeding areas in towns and cities. This will enable those of us who love to feed birds the opportunity to do so without being slapped with a fine. It will also allow those odd people who have an aversion to winged creatures the option to avoid the area. Licensed seed sellers could provide suitable food and everyone will be happy.
Please take a moment to sign the petition and let's see if we can put an and end to this ridiculous culture of persecuting birds – and the good folks who feed them.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION BY CLICKING HERE, THANK YOU.
A woman in the British city of Bath has been vilified in the local press for feeding birds. The Bath Chronicle published an undercover photograph of the woman, who was feeding gulls, portraying her as if she were some dangerous criminal - and its readers were equally irrational with their comments. One reader called her a “stupid woman” while the newspaper itself went on to give handy tips to its ignorant readership in a section they titled “How can you help rid Bath of seagulls?”
What is wrong with the people of Bath? Are their lives so little that they need to round on a harmless, lonely woman whose only 'crime' is feeding birds?
But this heartless attitude is not peculiar to Bath. It's a nationwide problem.
At what point did the British psyche change from the days I remember well, when the public were positively encouraged to feed pigeons and other city and garden birds? In London's Trafalgar Square, for example, it was always a treat to buy a little tub of seed from sellers dotted around the area and marvel at the birds as they swooped down to feed, often landing on the delighted public, in a rare and wonderful interaction with wildlife. The thrill of this encounter was celebrated in photographs that fill the pages of aging albums and scrapbooks, and is remembered with fondness from generation to generation.
But something has drastically changed along the way.
Now you can be fined for feeding birds in some areas.
In today's newspapers, rarely a week goes by without an account of someone being handed a hefty fine for feeding birds somewhere in the UK.
Law abiding citizens, usually pensioners, are being ordered to pay penalties, sometimes thousands of pounds, for feeding birds even in their own gardens, after nosy neighbours report them to the authorities.
Some elderly people are even being physically assaulted for throwing crumbs to ducks in the park. In Buxton, an 86 year old man was viciously kicked and punched for feeding ducks near his home, by a thug who told him that it encouraged rats.
Meanwhile councils up and down the country are vowing to deal with the 'problem' of birds which are now widely described as 'pests'. Often an excuse to justify the term 'pest' is the assertion that the birds (especially pigeons) spread disease. This is rarely the case. Birds in the UK are not pests, indeed they have never been viewed as pests until now and this shift in attitude seems to be a very recent development, going hand in hand with a growing public intolerance towards anything natural.
Those who will chop down a tree in their garden because it's 'in the way' are the same people who will write to the local press in order to torment an innocent lady feeding birds in a quiet corner of Bath, the city she calls home.
The Bath Chronicle - and its readers - in criticising the innocent woman, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves and should examine their own reasons for hounding someone whose only 'crime' was compassion.
With all the terrible things going on in this world, surely we have better and more important things to do than to bully those in our community, often the elderly and lonely, who just want to experience the beauty and delight in occasionally throwing a few scraps to our native wildlife....
UPDATE: I have set up a petition to stop councils from imposing fines and encouraging them to establish bird-feeding areas in towns and cities. Please sign and share! CLICK HERE. Thank you.
Developers would have to pledge to plant three trees for every one they cut down - this could be law if enough public pressure is put on the government to instigate a parliamentary debate on the proposal.
But there's a long way to go.....
When Liverpool City Council granted permission to hack down 36 mature Plane trees last year to make way for a hideous multi storey car park, one could be forgiven for thinking we were back in the 1970's when planning regulations allowed such things to happen. Apparently it is 'progress', illustrating that we have learnt nothing. The council assured concerned locals at the time that they would plant 90 new trees in the vicinity once the project was completed, to offset the loss of the healthy trees.
That hasn't happened.
What have appeared are just three small token trees and about 100 tufts of ornamental grass a few inches high, which, if one were cynical, might be interpreted as the council's way of fulfilling their pledge to plant 'trees'....
With this in mind, I was heartened to find that there is a campaign to change the law regarding the unchecked felling of healthy trees. The petition suggests that for each tree a company cuts down, they will have to plant three more in its place.
While at first this might sound like an impractical plan in an age where development, at the expense of nature, appears to be out of control, the important part of the idea is that it would certainly discourage some of the frenzied felling of trees we are seeing currently in the UK and elsewhere. No more excuses from companies and individuals who at the moment only have to assert that a tree is 'diseased' in order to chop it down.
It really should be common knowledge that trees are vital for the survival of the human race – and much more importantly, all of the other life that this planet supports.
In the UK, trees provide the only habitat for many birds, squirrels, bats and insects.
Developers are only interested in making money, that's their business after all, and so they pay little heed to the environment in spite of their claims to care.
I doubt that the 90 trees Liverpool City Council pledged will ever materialise, it may well be another case of throwaway words, spouted to pacify the genuine concerns of a community who see their green spaces being taken away.
(If the Council wishes to respond I'd be very happy to hear from them).
In summary, those cutting down healthy trees for whatever reason must be held to account and I am fully supportive of a law which would permit the felling of a tree only on the strict understanding that another three would be planted nearby in its place. Making that a legal obligation would be a good place to start and would surely discourage those who wantonly destroy our natural environment from doing so without justification.
I urge readers to sign this petition. (It's for UK residents only I'm afraid).
It's early days but this seems like an important step forward in protecting our trees for the future.
Please sign the petition by clicking: HERE
When a plan for a wind farm entails felling more than 180 acres of forest and destroying large swathes of irreplaceable peat-land, then there is clearly something very wrong, and even sinister, at its core.
Next week, a local council in Donegal, Ireland will meet to make a decision on such a development.
The proposal to install 19 enormous wind turbines in pristine countryside is being opposed by locals but, as we know from experience, the local people are often of least concern to the energy companies who are out to make a fast buck at the expense of rural communities, the environment and precious countryside.
Each of the 19 turbines would be nearly 160 meters high (that's more than 500 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade) and would be visible for miles in this stunning part of Ireland, famous for its beautiful scenery and vistas.
Donegal's Finn Valley and the iconic landscape around the area of Barnesmore Gap are specifically the areas earmarked for development and many local people are furious about the plan.
Opposition group Finn Valley Wind Action point out that the project would affect 246,075 cubic meters of valuable peat habitat, a haven for wildlife and an especially delicate ecosystem. Water pollution would be unavoidable, they say, as swathes of trees would be felled and peat damaged and destroyed, making its way into river catchments through heavy rain. “This development carries a huge environmental footprint,” they say, “with significant risks to the public water supply. The application in its entirety is cause for huge concern.”
Many readers will know that I am vehemently opposed to wind farms which I view as something of a con. Sold to us as 'green', they are not only a blot on the landscape but are often largely inefficient and hugely destructive to wildlife and the environment both in manufacture and installation.
Brave communities are fighting their own battles against 'big wind' developers in Scotland, Wales and Ireland as I write. In England, a temporary halt in planning permission for onshore wind development has been overtaken by plans for massive offshore developments, just as damaging in their own way to bird life (and probably marine life too).
When will the truth be exposed? When enough people open their eyes to the horror that these developments really are - that they are potentially catastrophic to the natural world. Which is why I will continue to voice my concerns loudly and widely.
For more information about the plans for Donegal and the community's opposition to the industrial development of their natural and precious environment, please visit Finn Valley Wind Action's Facebook page HERE.
I've uncovered another disgusting bird cull - this time in the US...
So, it's 'name and shame' time again.... and today's award for most repulsive city goes to:-
Grand Island, Nebraska.....
which this week sanctioned the mass extermination of the city's Starling population by way of a slow acting poison called DRC-1339.
The toxin which is widely used in the US, causes a lingering death through uremic (kidney) damage and the slow congestion of major organs. It takes between 24 and 36 hours for the birds to die.
Observers have described seeing birds falling out of the sky in great numbers following its use.
DRC-1339, which is lethal to Starlings and Gulls is likely to prove fatal to many other species too (according to Wildearthguardians.org, the list of 'non-target species' killed by the poison in the US probably includes Savannah Sparrows, Mourning Doves, Meadowlarks, American Robins, Canada Geese, Mallards and many many more).
The city of Grand Island has warned residents who find dead Starlings to wear gloves and dispose of the birds 'in trash containers'.
According to a press release, the city authorities justified their action by claiming that "many residents have expressed concerns of noise and filth nuisances related to the starlings. But of most concern”, they say, “is the health nuisance caused by the droppings of the birds".
My heart sinks at the thought of many thousands of birds suffering a slow and painful death and all because of human intolerance of other species.
The fact that this story barely even made the news is a scandalous reflection on the apathetic attitudes of the vast majority towards wildlife.
The citizens of Grand Island, Nebraska will have to live with this murderous episode on their collective conscience.
But I think it is about time to enforce a total ban on the use of such potentially catastrophic methods of wildlife 'control' and to stop referring to any species as a 'pest' just to provide an excuse to eradicate them.
One might assume that in this day and age the UK would be a leader in farm animal welfare, given that our supermarkets are falling over themselves to offer 'ethical' meat from assured farms and bragging about how animal welfare is a priority.... but the UK is also a player in a very dark trade that sees tens of thousands of farm animals raised on British farms and then shipped out of the country in harrowing conditions causing them immense suffering and often a lingering death.
Many people are discovering, with horror, the 'death ships' that are part of the appalling live export trade originating from Britain and other countries around the world. The nightmarish ships leave our shores, laden with animals, mostly lambs and sheep, in cramped and inhumane conditions which many will not even survive. On board, packed into crates, they are subject to vile treatment during a journey which might take days or even weeks.
Although the European Union has some minimum welfare standards in place, they are not always adhered to, and the EU resolutely refuse to acknowledge a problem. In addition, some of the animals are transported beyond European borders and end up in countries which do not value animal welfare in any way. These countries include Libya, Algeria and Turkey.
There is much debate around the pros and cons of Brexit, but nevertheless leaving the EU will at least offer the UK an opportunity to remove itself from this barbaric trade and ban live animal exports from this country. This in turn would send a strong message to other countries to examine their conscience with regard to the inhumane trade. Currently, for example, Australia exports millions of live animals every year on long sea journeys to horrendous deaths in countries where animals are treated appallingly. New Zealand halted exports after 4000 sheep died on their way to Saudi Arabia in 2003. Ireland exports thousands of live cattle to countries such as Libya where they are subjected to untold horrors.
Do we, as a civilised country, want to be a part of this terrible trade?
With this in mind, there is growing public pressure on the British government to implement a ban and there is a petition which is gaining huge backing. The government plan to debate the matter on 26th February.
Please sign and share the petition – and together we can get the live export of animals from the UK banned. You can sign HERE.
Meanwhile I would urge those of you in other countries which are part of this abominable live export market to start petitions of your own and lobby your governments to end this appalling international trade.
The horror of intensive factory farming is, alas, an all too nightmarish reality in this day and age. But imagine being able to give some of these terrified animals, destined for the gruesome meat markets, the chance to escape from that hellish world and live out their lives in freedom, cared for with love and treated with compassion and respect.
Sounds too good to be true.... but such a sanctuary exists and it is nestled in the Warwickshire countryside.
Caring for around 500 animals, the Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary based at Woolly Park Farm, was established in 1988 by Carole Webb, an extraordinary woman who has devoted much of her life to looking after animals which have been saved from the hideous industry that is intensive farming.
These might include tethered sows and crated calves as well as battery hens and animals en route to other countries as part of the live export trade, often ending in a brutal death.
73-year-old Carole lives on site at the sanctuary in a mobile home, and together with some dedicated volunteers, rescues and cares for the animals which currently include sheep, pigs, goats, ducks, chickens, cats, dogs and pigeons.
But the cost to keep this wonderful place running is around £90,000 every year and the sanctuary relies entirely on a sympathetic public to provide funds. Raising money for food, shelter and veterinary bills remains the highest priority.
So how can you help?
Well, the sanctuary's website provides details of several ways you can support their work, including their 'adopt an animal' scheme which is a wonderful opportunity for anyone to choose and sponsor one or more of the farm animals. This regular contribution of just £2 per month makes such a huge difference and every single penny received goes towards the care of your adopted animal and enables Carole to continue with her valuable work.
In return for your adoption donation you will receive a whole package of goodies including a personalised certificate and even the opportunity to visit your adopted animal in person!
Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary is such a special place that I urge readers, if they possibly can, to support Carole and her work. Knowing that you have helped to save lives and provide ongoing care for these wonderful animals has to be worth a couple of pounds a month, surely?
Find out more by clicking HERE
Donate by clicking HERE
Adopt an animal by clicking HERE
In defiance of a ban and angry protests from animal welfare groups, the barbaric Balearic Pigeon Shooting Tournament will be taking place again next month.
Live pigeons are launched out of a cannon into the air and fired at with shotguns.
Unbelievably, this grisly annual competition, involving the horrific deaths of thousands of live birds, is considered 'sport' in parts of Spain.
The shocking news comes despite legislation that was passed last summer in the Balearic Islands which prohibited the sickening competition under strict new rules that were introduced to protect animals from cruelty.
However the Balearic Hunting Federation has announced that the contest will still take place.... their president, the aptly named Pedro Bestard, is defiant and announced “we will have a championship despite the laws that this Government is making”.
To circumvent the new rules, the organisers are relocating the event to the mainland city of Cheste, near Valencia, where the law permits the cruel 'sport' of throwing the birds with a mechanical arm or an air tube before being fired at by the competitors.
Both pigeons and quails are used in this appalling annual tournament. Their tails are brutally removed before the helpless birds are stuffed into the cannons and fired into the air. Without tails they have limited ability to manoeuvre in flight and this makes them easier targets.
In Spain nearly half a million pigeons and quails are used in shooting competitions annually.
There is a petition to ban this abhorrent practice, you can sign it HERE
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