Feral PigeonIn one of the newspapers I read today, somebody had written into the letters page with a comment vaguely mentioning that Glasgow City Council had considered using birds of prey as a method of controlling the pigeon population.

I just had to reply, as I do get annoyed when people are so quick to jump onto the “we have to kill them” bandwagon.

“Re: The use of hawks to control pigeon populations.

Personally, I think pigeons are deserving of far more kindness and compassion than they currently receive. However, I understand that their numbers do need to be kept in check.

Culling is not the answer when a species can breed as prolifically as a pigeon does – regardless if it is by hawk or by marksman. You simply cannot kill them fast enough. When thinking about methods of population control, you have to consider the reasons why pigeons are so successful in our cities. They breed so well because the buildings provide an analogue of their natural habitat (cliff faces) and because they have an unlimited supply of food due to litter louts. To manage the pigeon population, you need to go to their nesting sites and remove their eggs, you need to reduce their accessibility to nesting sites, and you need to stop dropping litter. There’s no need to employ birds of prey – that tactic is just a publicity stunt and is nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

A lot of people assume that because I am a vegetarian, I am anti-killing of any sort. That simply isn’t true. I feel that we have a responsibility to reduce suffering but population control is vital in several species. Especially since here in the UK we have successfully wiped out all major predators – our largest predator is the badger for goodness sake!

But this pro-population control attitude doesn’t come at the expense of my compassion. Pigeons are fascinating creatures who are treated very badly yet still survive. You have to respect that. They are not “diseased-riddled vermin”, just victims of their own success.

Just some random thoughts.