Education is the best answer, not enforcement

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Portsmouth City Council is right to be concerned about the risk of disease from rising numbers of pigeons and seagulls attracted by food.

Those who leave out seed or other scraps for them may do it with the best of intentions, but they are contributing to the risk of a population explosion among these birds – and annoying their fellow residents.

Their actions in providing a daily ‘banquet’ have led to regular complaints in parts of the city.

As the council’s leader for the environment, Eleanor Scott, says: ‘The birds cause a nuisance by flocking, and their droppings can spread disease as well as making a mess.’

So what is the council doing about it? Leaflets are being sent to every house in the city telling people not to feed pigeons and seagulls.

That is sensible, as education is the best way of ensuring that those who do feed the birds realise the consequences of their actions.

But the council has revealed that those who persist in leaving out seed or scraps could be fined.

Under the proposed scheme, a byelaw would be passed banning the feeding of birds on any street in the city.

People would, however, be allowed to continue to feed birds in parks.

And this is where we start to have a problem with the plan. Because the more you think about it, the more it appears to be unworkable.

Yes, a ban is well-intentioned, but could it be properly enforced?

Imagine you’re on the seafront having fish and chips and decide to chuck a few morsels to the hovering seagulls or some pigeons that had congregated expectantly.

If you were on the roadside or pavement at the time, then you would be liable to a fine.

But if you stepped just a few yards on to Southsea Common, presumably you would be okay to carry on feeding the birds because you would be in an area classified as a park.

The best way to tackle the problem of so many pigeons and seagulls coming in the city to scavenge has to be through education, not enforcement.