London Letter: Ruffled Feathers

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The Independent Online
'Shoot the sky rats' made one good point: people who really care about pigeons should not feed them because it ultimately harms them. Feeding encourages a super-abundance of birds, which can lead to unhealthful conditions for them. It also leads intolerant people, like the article's author, to campaign for their demise by engaging in scaremongering.

All three of the diseases mentioned by the author - tuberculosis, ornithosis, and salmonellosis - are far more likely to be contracted from other sources than from casual contact with pigeons.

The United States' Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not consider pigeons to be an important vector of the tuberculosis bacterium. Ornithosis, or psittacosis, is much more commonly contracted from members of the parrot family kept as 'pets', and salmonellosis is much more frequently contracted from meat and eggs than from contact with live animals.

So, have a little tolerance and appreciation for pigeons. They are often the only animals city dwellers see (not because they have 'elbowed out' the smaller birds, but because they're one of the few species that have adapted to the urban habitat.

For information on humane control of pigeons and other wildlife, contact PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Linburn House, 342 Kilburn High Road, NW6 2QJ (071-372 0459)

Leslie Gerstenfeld-Press Research, Investigations & Rescue Department, PETA

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