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.
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