Petition launched as backlash mounts against 'inhumane' proposal to cull Biggleswade pigeons

"They did say to me, 'Aren't they God's creatures? Why are other people killing them then?'"

By Joanna Gravett
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 10:10 am
Updated Thursday, 24th February 2022, 11:49 am

A town council discussion on culling pigeons in Biggleswade town centre has provoked outrage - with the plan branded "inhumane" and "unnecessary".

Since the Chronicle broke the news on Monday (February 21), an online petition has already attracted over 1,200 signatures, as residents disagree with the idea of using bait containers and humanely shooting the birds.

The plan had been discussed at a town council meeting, where councillor Michael North referred to a suggestion from a member of the public for "a pigeon roast", with a barbecue set up in Market Square.

A pigeon peers into a photographer's lens. Getty Images

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Pigeon cull set to take place in Biggleswade

However, Biggleswade Town Council told the Chronicle that it is necessary to remove the feathered flocks from the town centre, because their droppings damage buildings and are " hazardous to humans and other animals".

And it added that it had not yet decided to press ahead with the cull, saying that people needed to be educated not to feed the pigeons.

In contrast, the Change.org petition claims: "A lot of the immediate feedback on social media from the residents of Biggleswade is that they do not see the pigeon population as a problem at all.

"Many residents instead voiced their concerns about littering and fly tipping, and asked if time and resources could be spent by the council on these issues instead.

"It appears that the council's plan to kill the pigeons is viewed as inhumane and completely unnecessary."

It added: "At the council meeting where this was discussed, council members also joked about roasting and eating the pigeons, which suggests the approach to the 'problem' is not being taken seriously."

Councillors were questioned about the plan during the public open session at Tuesday's full council meeting.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Graham Jakes said: "The children where I work, they are very upset. As you know, children do like animals and they are very concerned that they are going to be killed.

"They did say to me, 'Aren't they God's creatures? Why are other people killing them then?'"

Mayor Councillor Madeline Russell replied: "I very much appreciate that but we have to stop damage in the town and we have to stop the spread of disease. They are almost like a rat, and we wouldn't want rats running around the market square.

"If you could encourage youngsters at school to look at them but don't feed them, please."

Resident and publican Eamonn Watson, said: "Over the last two years the pigeons have become a problem. You've only got to walk into the town. We've paid good money for those benches to be revamped and the mess on them is awful again.

"But we have to educate these people - I go into town and I see a lady throwing the seed around and things. If we can't educate them, we're going to have the same problem next year and next year..."

He continued: "I've got a pub up the road. We never used to see pigeons; now we open the window and sometimes they even fly in.

"You have to do something about them. It's unpleasant for the town. It's unpleasant for the children.

"The other thing is, I see lots of pigeons but other bird species you do not see. The pigeons have taken over."

During the meeting, Mr Jakes also asked if the council had decided to go ahead with the cull.

The Mayor confirmed that the council hasn't yet decided whether it will go ahead, and noted that the "big issue" is that people keep feeding the pigeons.

She said: "In Central London and in Stevenage the pigeon population has decreased because people stopped feeding them.

"It is possible to issue fixed penalty notices to people who feed the pigeons and that's an option we could have. We don't necessarily have the power, but Central Beds Council do it for us.

"Nobody wants to do anything too dramatic but we need to get rid of the pigeons... and we really need members of the public to stop encouraging them."

However, a member of the public (via Zoom) claimed that there is evidence to suggest that culling pigeons "increases the population as oppose to decreasing it", explaining that if there is more food available to fewer pigeons "they are likely to breed and end up with a population increase".

The woman asked the council to look into alternatives, such as spikes, a public education campaign, and artificial nesting sites, and asked the council to contact The Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PiCAS).

A Biggleswade Town Council spokeswoman said: "The number of pigeons in the Market Square has been causing concern for some time. No-one objects to a small number but the number is growing very quickly, determined by how much food is available. The peak breeding season Is March – July.

"Feral pigeons drive out other wildlife. Their droppings are acidic and damage both brickwork and metalwork on buildings. The droppings are also hazardous to humans and other animals, carrying many diseases, including salmonella and psittacosis.

"Signs were erected in the town some time ago, asking people not to feed them. Officers have been working with a number of licensed pest control contractors to look at a variety of different control options.

"However, if people stopped feeding the pigeons, this would be the best way to control their number and ensure that the public continue to benefit from a safe and pleasant Market Square.”

> What do you think should be done about the pigeons? Email us at [email protected]