As we know, there are a great many mad people in the southwestern bit of the country. They claim often that a black panther is living on Exmoor and that if you paint a picture, it’ll be better if you are standing on a ley line.
And now the people of Exeter are saying that homeless people, many of whom may be from Poland, are roaming the streets at night eating pigeons. There are fears this could get out of hand with a local police community support officer saying “now we’re eating pigeons, now we’re killing seagulls. It escalates.”
One resident said she saw two men pounce on a pigeon and put it in a sack and in the space of 20 minutes they’d captured 14 of them. This has made the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds very angry, with a spokesman describing the incident as “horrible”.
“Unlikely” is nearer the mark, though. I knew a man once who wore a suit, played a lot of golf and had never had so much as a parking ticket. But one day, while walking to work over Waterloo Bridge, he remembered being told that you can never kick a pigeon, because it has a housefly-like ability to get out of the way before your foot arrives. And for reasons that haunted him for the rest of his life, he decided to put the theory to the test.
So, in front of all the other suited-and- booted Margaret Thatcher enthusiasts, he took an almighty swing at the bird strutting about in his path and — wallop — it sailed 6ft into the air and crashed back down to earth, stone dead. This proved, much to his embarrassment, that you can kick a pigeon to death.
I had a similar moment in northern Spain about 10 years ago. I was out and about in the packed streets of San Sebastian when I noticed a listless pigeon sitting on a windowsill. “I’ll put that out of its misery,” I thought, and tried to break its neck. But the manoeuvre went wrong and its head came off, which caused the body to fall to the floor where, much to the horror of the many onlookers, it flapped about for several minutes before it decided there was no point any more and lay still.
The weird thing is that this was Spain, where stabbing cows and throwing donkeys off tower blocks is basically like Swingball. And yet they were horrified that I’d pulled a pigeon’s head off.
I think the problem is that we learn from an early age that pigeons are clever. That you can take one to Berlin and it is able to find its way back to its loft in Peterborough.
The Nazis certainly thought this way. Heinrich Himmler was a pigeon enthusiast and made plans for birds to be used to convey messages from agents ahead of an invasion of Britain.
And when authorities here got wind of this, instead of saying, “Oh, don’t be stupid. Why would you use a bird to convey a message when you have a radio?”, they decided the south coast should be patrolled by falcons. And in the Scilly Isles, it really was. That really did happen. It was the Battle of Britain, with feathers.
That legacy lives on in the way people react when pigeons are being harmed. But the thing is that salmon can also home and no one minds when Jeremy Paxman hauls one of those from a river and clubs it to death. Or when a little old lady buys a tin of its flesh and feeds it to her cat.
The fact is, though, that unlike salmon, pigeons are a menace. In towns their muck ruins buildings and in the countryside they can do more damage to crops than an army of drunken students with an alien fixation and garden roller. If you shoot a pigeon — which is harder than kicking one, I assure you — and you open it up, you’ll find more grain in its stomach than in the silos at Hovis.
Which brings us back to the issues in Exeter. If you are fit and sober and you have a gun, it is only just possible to kill a fit pigeon. So I’m suspicious of the story that these homeless drunks are able, in the space of 20 minutes, to get 14 live birds into a sack. (I feel a game show coming on here.)
Let’s just say, though, that they are able, through the fog of strong cider, to catch pigeons, and if things escalate, seagulls. So what? Yes, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 it’s illegal to kill, injure or take any wild bird, but this was drawn up to stop people stealing ospreys and ptarmigans.
Let’s not forget, shall we, that Ken Livingstone, darling of the left and therefore an RSPB poster boy, ejected all the people selling grain to tourists in the pigeon-infested Trafalgar Square and when Wilbur and Myrtle continued to show up with birdseed they’d bought from a Chelsea ladies’ health food shop he introduced a Harris hawk to the area. Which is the Messerschmitt of the skies.
He’d be the first to say that homeless people should be encouraged to eat pigeons and I’d go further. Right now, the hedgerows on my farm are teeming with succulent blackberries and the few trees that haven’t been ruined by deer and squirrels are laden with all kinds of delicious fruit.
If a homeless person were to spend a day in the woods with some Rambo traps and a bit of cunning, he would end up with a feast that even Henry VIII would call “a bit extravagant”.
The problem is, if he killed a deer for some venison and a squirrel for seasoning, he’d have the whole country calling for his blood. And that’s ridiculous. We need to lose our dewy-eyed Disney sentimentality and accept that homeless people eating pigeons they’ve caught is better for them, better for our windowsills and better for the coffers at the NHS than encouraging them instead to eat takeaway pizza and Double Decker chocolate bars they’ve half-inched from the local corner shop.
About Pigeon Patrol:
Pigeon Patrol Products & Services is the leading manufacturer and distributor of bird deterrent (control) products in Canada. Pigeon Patrol products have solved pest bird problems in industrial, commercial, and residential settings since 2000, by using safe and humane bird deterrents with only bird and animal friendly solutions. At Pigeon Patrol, we manufacture and offer a variety of bird deterrents, ranging from Ultra-flex Bird Spikes with UV protection, Bird Netting, 4-S Gel and the best Ultrasonic and audible sound devices on the market today.
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