Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK? Judging from the number of recent cases involving crust-scattering pensioners, the answer seems to be ‘yes’.
A woman in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales was fined £125 for throwing a piece of bread roll for the birds out of her car window. In another recent case, a woman in Sidmouth, Devon was fined for ‘littering peanuts while feeding pigeons’.
The Blaenau Gwent fine was issued by private security guards, who are paid on a commission basis and have a propensity to fine for negligible offences. (This is the same company that once issued a fine for a thread of cotton falling off a woman’s glove.)
But the Sidmouth fine was issued by council officials, concerned about the propensity of food to attract seagulls and other ‘vermin’ to the town, a seaside resort. This shows a growing intolerance, and a willingness to blame inconveniences such as seagulls by the sea on the ‘anti-social behaviour’ of particular individuals.
A series of bird-feeding pensioners have been issued with anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), specifying that they must not feed birds in their gardens, or within a designated area; and that they must not buy more than three loaves of bread a day. One of these pensioners – John Wilkinson – has just been released from prison, where he spent several weeks at Her Majesty’s pleasure for the crime of scattering bird feed.