There have always been those in the media who hate pigeons and jump at any
chance to convince their audience that their very lives are at stake if they
go within a mile of a feral pigeon. The facts are a little different.
The threat of the arrival in this country of the H5N1 strain of Avian Flu,
currently sweeping Asia and making its way across Europe, has handed the
media an irresistible chance to whip up anti-pigeon hysteria – an
opportunity they have seized upon with gusto. “Pigeons May Spread Avian Flu
Pandemic” scream the headlines. In reality, research by the United States
Department of Agriculture has shown that pigeons are resistant or minimally
susceptible to infection with the H5N1 avian flu virus (click here for more details of the research).
All wild birds have the potential to pass on diseases to other birds and to
human beings but the chances of this happening are a million to one,
certainly in the case of human beings. Pigeons are no more likely to
transmit diseases to human beings than any other species of wild bird.
Why then do we read horror stories in the media every day about the 60 or 70
fatal diseases that pigeons are supposedly capable of transmitting to human
beings? Because the pest control industry and those that have a vested
commercial interest in controlling pigeons have a very efficient propaganda
machine constantly churning out scare stories designed to sell their
Pest control is a multi-billion pound industry worldwide and culling pigeons
and selling proofing products represents a large proportion of the profits
within this industry. Because scientific research has proved that culling
pigeons is a completely ineffective method of control the pest control
industry has to scare the public into believing that they need to be
concerned about pigeons. The best way to do that is to link pigeons with
We read more and more reports about scientific and medical research
programmes proving the links between pigeons and disease in human beings.
What we do not ask and what we are never told is who funds these research
programmes? Could it be the pest control industry? It seems that invariably
this is the case. If these research programmes are funded by the industry
that benefits from the control of the species that is being researched (in
this case pigeons) can we really believe the statistics that we read?
What do the experts say?
The real experts in the field all agree that there is no tangible health
risk to human beings from contact with pigeons:
||Mike Everett, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
said, in The Big Issue Magazine, February 2001: "The whole 'rats with wings'
thing is just emotive nonsense. There is no evidence to show that they
||The Chief Veterinary Officer, when addressing the House of Lords in 2000
on the issue of pigeons in Trafalgar Square was asked if the large number of
pigeons in the Square represented a health risk to human beings. The Chief
Veterinary Officer told The House that in his opinion they did not.
||Charlotte Donnelly, an American bird control expert told the Cincinnati
Environment Advisory Council in her report to them: "The truth is that the
vast majority of people are at little or no health risk from pigeons and
probably have a greater chance of being struck by lightening than
contracting a serious disease from pigeons."
||Guy Merchant, Director of The Pigeon Control Advisory Service (PICAS)
says, when talking about the transmission of disease by pigeons: "If we
believed everything we read in the media about pigeons and the farcical
propaganda distributed by the pest control industry we would ever leave our
homes. The fact of the matter is that there is probably a greater risk to human health from contact with domestic pets such as cats, dogs and caged
||David A Palmer (B.V.Sc., M.R.C.V.S) said in an article entitled 'Pigeon
Lung Disease Fatality and Health Risk from Ferals': "Obviously, since all
these Allergic Extrinsic Alveolitis disease syndromes rely on the involved
person having a very specific allergy before any disease, involving
respiratory distress and very unusually death, can possibly be seen, it
really makes absolute nonsense for a popular daily newspaper to suggest that
pigeons present a health hazard and presumably need eliminating for the
well-being of the nation’s health.”
||David Taylor BVMS FRCVS FZS: “In 50 years professional work as a veterinary
surgeon I cannot recall one case of a zoonosis in a human that was related
to pigeons. On the other hand I know of, and have seen, examples of human
disease related to contact with dogs, cats, cattle, monkeys, sheep, camels,
budgies, parrots, cockatoos, aquarium fish and even dolphins, on many
||The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the New York City Department of
Health, and the Arizona Department of Health all agree that diseases
associated with pigeons present little risk to people. “We have never
documented a pigeon to human transmission in the state of Arizona,” said
Mira J Leslie, Arizona’s state public health veterinarian.
If there was any real chance of pigeons spreading disease to human beings we
would see epidemics amongst pigeon fanciers that race pigeons and spend much
of their time in dusty pigeon lofts. We would also see all those involved
with the rehabilitation of pigeons in wildlife hospitals worldwide dropping
like flies. The facts speak for themselves. Pigeons do not spread disease
and if we need to get rid of pigeons on the basis of the fact that there is
'potential' for them to pass on diseases to human beings then we need to get
rid of all feral birds. At the end of the day 99% of so called 'pigeon
problems' are, in reality, people problems. It is human beings that create
the waste upon which pigeons feed and if we cleaned up our act we would have
considerably less pigeons to worry about. So is it really the feral pigeon
that is vermin?