People who feed pigeons are mentally ill: claim by Liverpool City Council, 2012
When some pen pushers at Liverpool City Council suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill, it highlighted the problem that arises when ignorance takes over from understanding. That was 2012 and since then the irrational prejudice against birds and other wildlife - and those of us who care about their welfare - has increased.
I know many have questioned the importance of my campaign in support of people who feed wild birds. I know some will sneer and suggest that there are more noble causes in the world.
What about curing diseases, feeding people, 'saving the planet'....?
Yes, indeed. But my campaign is not only about allowing people to feed birds without being landed with a fine or threatened with violence.
It is about defending our right to express free will and encouraging our freedom of expression. And it is about compassion.
Feeding wild birds is as natural as feeding ourselves. Those who enjoy throwing food to gulls and pigeons will know the profound joy it can bring, a sense of connection to other sentient creatures, of oneness and of well being. It's all of those things and more, collectively one might call it empathy. And as far as I can see, a lack of empathy and compassion is at the root of all the problems in this world. Compassion promotes healing, both in ourselves and others, empathy allows selflessness to take the place of selfishness, which in turn leads to consuming less and having more awareness of those in need.
More tolerance. More love.
I recall a time when feeding birds was encouraged, a joyful interaction with nature. We were taught that it was a wonderful thing to do. As children, our parents and grandparents would take us to the park to feed ducks, we would go to the seaside to feed gulls and we would go to town squares to throw seed to the pigeons. It was joyous. And onlookers shared in the joy and smiled.
Now you go to a town centre and see people kicking pigeons, you go to the park and get physically attacked by thugs for feeding ducks. And councils are handing out fines to people caught feeding gulls at the seaside, acting on complaints from fools, the same fools who happily wade through mountains of litter that their fellow humans leave in their wake.
Humans are the ones destroying the planet, not gulls, not pigeons, not ducks.
The intolerance expressed by those lacking in compassion - the ones who complain about the birds and the people who feed them - that intolerance is a symptom of a broken society.
More tolerance means more empathy and understanding towards the wider world. The people who feed birds know that. They are doing something from the heart. Without a connection to other forms of life, we eventually lose the connection to each other. Insular attitudes become ever more prevalent, self absorption and greed amongst them. Intolerance of other people, other races, other ideologies and beliefs. A total lack of awareness of other animals and the natural environment. It is the recipe for a hopeless future.
Until people embrace compassion and tolerance there can't be more empathy. And it follows that without empathy there can be no hope.
So, my Feed The Birds campaign is as much about encouraging compassion as it is about feeding pigeons and gulls. It's a metaphor if you like.
We live in an age when they are trying to make it a crime to feed the birds. It's incredibly sad and it's a reflection of just how detached society has become from a natural world on which we are, all of us, entirely dependant.
Amongst those who loved and cared for pigeons and other wild birds were Audrey Hepburn, John Lennon, Elvis, Monet and Picasso. Influential, enlightened and compassionate people indeed.
In comparison, think of the ignorant people who have told us it's wrong to feed the birds, like the shady London politician Ken Livingstone who signed the death warrant for Trafalgar Square's legendary pigeons, and those pen pushers at Liverpool City Council who in 2012 suggested that people who feed pigeons are mentally ill.
Do you identify with the enlightened or the ignorant? The enlightened see the truth. The ignorant can't see their idiocy because they are dazzled by their own self importance.
The enlightened seek to change the world, the ignorant will destroy it as they pursue their futile climb up the ladder, signposted obsessive ambition, that ultimately leads nowhere.
So, when I say Feed The Birds, I am also saying defend your freedom to feed the birds, don't let the fools stop you. And express that compassion in your heart that tells you to feed them. It's important. It's your right.
And it's the same compassion you will need if you are going to change the world.
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