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Activists outraged as German town votes to exterminate local pigeons

Activists outraged as German town votes to exterminate local pigeons

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
14.06.2024 14:15

Residents of a small town in Germany have voted in a referendum to cull the local pigeon population. Activists and experts argue that the drastic measures are not a good idea.

Euronews notes that pigeons are among the most unloved creatures coexisting with humans today. These birds, which populate European cities in great numbers, are descendants of rock pigeons domesticated approximately 10,000 years ago. Now, they exhibit remarkable indifference in their interactions with people.

German town wants to exterminate pigeons

People's attitudes towards pigeons vary widely. Some feel a nurturing instinct and desire to share crumbs of food with them. Others react with irritation and disgust, likening these birds to rats, which also inhabit urban areas. The residents of Limburg an der Lahn in western Germany appear to belong to the latter group. On 9 June, they voted in favour of exterminating the local pigeon population of approximately 700 birds.

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The referendum was held on the same day as the European Parliament elections. It was scheduled because the town council's decision to eradicate the pigeons, made in November 2023, sparked controversy among the town's just under 35,000 residents. According to Der Spiegel, over 53% of the residents who voted on 9 June approved the pigeon cull, with 7,530 'yes' votes cast.

Cruel method of pigeon extermination

Mayor Marius Hahn commented to the German news service: "The citizens have exercised their right and decided that the animals should be reduced by a falconer." This method was initially proposed by the council last year, and the question asked of the voters was whether this decision should be upheld. Specifically, the falconer will lure the birds into a trap, stun them by hitting them on the head with a wooden stick, and then snap their necks. Euronews reports that this is expected to happen within the next two years.

Animal rights activists were horrified when the plan was announced. Tanya Muller, project manager for the Limburg city pigeon project, explained to Sky News in the UK, " We live in 2023; it can’t be that we kill animals just because they annoy us or they’re a nuisance. That’s not acceptable." Critics argue that, apart from the cruelty, culling pigeons is not really effective because the remaining birds will likely reproduce and replenish the population. Interestingly, some studies show that pigeon numbers may even increase as a result of the planned cull.

There are more humane ways to reduce the pigeon population

A similar rise in the pigeon population occurred in Basel, Switzerland, where the pigeon count was initially around 20,000. Between 1961 and 1985, the city culled about 100,000 birds each year, yet the population remained stable. Pigeon Action's group devised an alternative solution, now known as the 'Basel model'. This approach involves discouraging city residents from feeding pigeons and installing pigeon lofts to facilitate the removal of eggs. As a result, the pigeon population in Basel decreased by 50% within four years.

Other cities have attempted to implement legal bans on feeding pigeons, but this has proven controversial. In 2021, Berlin's animal welfare officer sought a legal opinion on pigeon feeding from a lawyer and a veterinarian. The experts concluded that cities cannot prohibit the feeding of pigeons and are even obliged to care for these animals, as they are descendants of an abandoned domestic species rather than wild animals.

Source: euronews.com

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