Tuesday 27 September 2016

Fining people for feeding seagulls 'would breach religious rights'

Published 22/07/2015 | 02:57

The Government has scrapped plans to spend £250,000 on research into how to deal with growing numbers of seagulls in towns and cities
The Government has scrapped plans to spend £250,000 on research into how to deal with growing numbers of seagulls in towns and cities

Fining people for feeding seagulls would breach their religious rights, a council has been told.

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When it tried to address the issue of aggressive birds in the local area, Conwy council in Llandudno was advised against doling out fines.

Responding to the suggestion that a financial penalty may work in a similar way to those issued to people who drop cigarette butts, the council's head of tourism Jim Jones tweeted: "We looked at the issue of fines, but were told it's the right 2 feed birds within some religions!"

The news comes after David Cameron recently said a "big conversation" is needed about the threat from aggressive birds.

The Prime Minister spoke out about seagulls after two attacks in Cornwall left a pet tortoise and a Yorkshire terrier dead.

He added: "We do have a problem."

Mr Cameron has previously spoken of his own hairy experience with the birds.

He said: "I haven't felt particularly oppressed by seagulls. In my distant past I remember some seagulls taking the ham out of a sandwich. But I haven't held that against the entire seagull population since."

Currently people who visit Llandudno north shore beach are warned against feeding the birds.

On the area's tourism website it states: "And remember, please do not feed the seagulls."

A quarter of a million pounds had been earmarked by the Government for research into how to deal with growing numbers of seagulls in towns and cities, but the plan was scrapped when the Budget was revealed last month.

Being kind to animals is a common thread through all religions, and feeding birds can be a part of that.

It is traditional for Ashkenazic Jews, those from eastern France, Germany and eastern Europe, to feed birds on the feast of Shabbat Shirah. There are a number of different theories as to how and why the custom began, including as a reward to birds for singing songs of praise to God, and a Biblical reference when birds ate manna which had been strewn across the fields.

There is a Hindu custom to feed birds during funerals as they are likened to the spirits of the dead, according to the book Encyclopaedia Of The Hindu World.

Conwy council distanced itself from the claims, noting that they were posted on Mr Jones's private Twitter account.

A spokeswoman said: "The council has never been advised of any aspect of feeding birds being related to religion."

The RSPB said the management of gulls is a "complex" issue as coastal populations of the birds are declining while urban gulls are doing well.

A spokesman for the charity said councils would be right not to encourage feeding gulls.

"To manage conflict in towns we must look at gull behaviour, and not their population size.

"If we feed gulls they will grow more confident, they will learn that we are a source of food. They will not then distinguish between food offered and people simply walking around carrying food, cafe tables outdoors and the like."

He added: "So, one of the very worst things you can do is feed them - that is if you don't want a lifetime of their constant companionship.

"So councils who have identified gulls as a nuisance would be right not to encourage feeding. And, to be honest, a diet entirely of chips and ice cream probably isn't giving the birds their five a day!"

Press Association

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