Opinion: 'Pigeons were war heroes', writes PT reader defending Peterborough birds

Denise Theophilus, of the Foundation For Feathered Friends, hits back at criticism of pigeons in Peterborough city centre

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 12:26 pm
Pigeons in Bridge Street, Peterborough
Pigeons in Bridge Street, Peterborough

When you look back at the incredible services that pigeons offered us in both World Wars, it is difficult to reconcile the antagonistic views held by some people.

Whilst they complain of their numbers now, the numbers were useful indeed as 250,000 of them were deployed by the UK Government in World War Two alone.

In fact, the Air Ministry maintained an actual Pigeon Section with a Pigeon Policy Committee making the decisions regarding the military usage of the birds.

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The PDSA Dicken Medal for outstanding gallantry was awarded 54 times and 32 of those were to pigeons. The medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

Commando, one of these war heroes flew 90 missions behind enemy lines. Think of that lone pigeon flying through the elements by himself across France and behind German lines to an Agent and then making the return journey home. He has also been honoured with a Blue Plaque on the loft where he was born in Haywards Heath.

Yet today, being of no use any more, the pigeons are referred to by some as 'rats with wings'.

In several towns and cities in the UK, people moan about them and trap them and shoot and gas them or wring their necks, all methods of culling. Is this a fitting end to a noble breed that served us well when we needed them?

One of these cities is Peterborough where one reader (PT, April 28) has made damning allegations against pigeons which can only be described as being of the 'hate' variety as she has not specified her experience in the field and has stated that the pigeons need 'culling' due to the disease they spread.

Kevin Newell, of Humane Wildlife Solutions, has received awards from the Pest Control Industry itself and he said: “Culling is the most short-lived approach as new birds can populate the new territory within days.

"It is known that culling pigeons does not work and In fact, in some cases, it increases the population.

“As for disease, you can find these in lots of wild animals and on cats and dogs, so if our pets are not a risk to us then neither are the pigeons .”

Therefore, Peterborough City Council would be well advised to obtain outside advice. Your readers’ hard-earned money would be better spent and they should be moving in the direction our world is trying to take, that of taking the kinder and more sustainable route in how we treat the other creatures on this planet we occupy together.

Denise Theophilus

Foundation For Feathered Friends