True Gripes: Shoot the sky rats: Pigeons are bad for our health

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I hate them.

I hate the way they strut around with their chests sticking out as though they own the place. I hate the way they hang around the parks acting as though every female they come across is fair game. I hate the godawful mess they leave wherever they go. It's not their fault, though, it's their nature. I blame the people who encourage them.

Pigeons are one of nature's worst creations. They are dirty, they are aggressive, they attract rats, they foul everything they go near. The population of smaller birds decreases with every increase in theirs. And yet some idiots persist in thinking that they're not doing quite well enough on their own, thank you, and chuck the contents of their compost bins on to our streets so that we get more of them.

I lived in a basement once. The lady upstairs fed pigeons. They roosted all over the back of the house: the area outside my bedroom window and my kitchen filled with droppings and feathers and scurf and the remnants (old bacon scraps, bits of plastic, half slices of bread - once I even found an old condom) of their eating habits. I lived in a frenzy of bleach and disinfectant, but there is not much you can do about the stuff in the air.

In the spring they used to fly down to mate on the tin roof outside my bedroom. An hour before dawn, every morning: rrroooo-rrrroooo, claws scraping down the metal as they lost their grip, flap flap as they righted themselves. We're talking serious sleep deprivation.

One day I asked her to stop feeding them. She assumed a morally superior smile and replied: 'We've all got a right to life, you know, lovey.

Let's get something straight: pigeons are not fluffy little bunny rabbits, they're sky rats. And like rats, they carry things that no way should you want near you: among the couple of dozen known communicable diseases you can get from a pigeon are tuberculosis, ornithosis (another word for psittacosis) and salmonellosis.

If your kid's got asthma, the crap that pigeons carry on their feathers will set him right off. And it's the the same with the skin: you want scabs? Fondle a pigeon. There is even an emphysema-like thing called pigeon fancier's lung.

Still think they should be encouraged to hang around in public places?

Talk to any council - talk to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - and they will tell you that it is not just bad for our health and our buildings to have this invasion from the skies, it is actually bad for the pigeons as well. Overcrowding and lack of competition equal degeneration: look at the Royal Family.

I think it is time that we got tough. I think we ought to pay people - or pay for sporting licences - to go around with airguns, blasting at pigeons wherever there are too many gathered in one place.

And if they spot some little old lady poncing around with a plastic Wonderloaf bag, they should give her a good peppering, too.