Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK?

Is feeding the birds now a crime in the UK?

Judging from the number of recent cases involving crust-scattering pensioners, you would have to conclude, yes.

A woman in Blaenau Gwent was fined £125 for throwing a piece of bread roll for the birds out of her car window.

In another recent case, a Devon woman was fined for ‘littering peanuts while feeding pigeons’.

The Blaenau Gwent fine was issued by private security guards, paid on a commission basis, with a propensity to fine for negligible offences. (This is the company that issued a fine for a thread of cotton falling off a woman’s glove.)

But the Devon fine was issued by council officials, concerned about the propensity of food to attract seagulls and other ‘vermin’ to this town by the sea. This shows a growing intolerance, and 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 asbos, specifying that they must not: feed birds in their gardens, or within a designated area; or 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.

Clearly, these asboed individuals were devoting more than the normal amount of time and bread to the feeding of the birds; it may indeed have caused problems for their neighbours. But there is a difference between behaviour that is a bit of a nuisance, a bit eccentric, and a crime that should be prevented with the coercive powers of the state and incarceration.

With the war on bird feeding, we see how criminal justice no longer knows the difference between nuisance and crime. Indeed, as Wilkinson pointed out (‘My house has been attacked by vandals but the police don’t do anything’), it sometimes seems that nuisance is far more interesting and compelling as a target for law-enforcers’ attentions.

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