• Rae Gellel

Appalling Act of Animal Cruelty at Fairlawn Court

Really disturbing scenes at Fairlawn Court in Charlton, SE7 today, a Peabody property.

We had previously been made aware that pigeons were becoming caught in anti-bird netting recently installed on balconies at Fairlawn Court. We have also been called to this location in the past in regards to maintenance workers throwing pigeon nests off balconies.

This morning, a local resident reported to us that not only had two pigeons once again become tangled, but the maintenance worker for the block of flats had violently beaten them with a stick or a broom when he'd happened upon them.

Attacking pigeons in this manner is not only quite blatantly cruel and morally repugnant, it's also a crime. All wild birds, pigeons included, are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which states "If any person intentionally— (a)kills, injures or takes any wild bird... he shall be guilty of an offence."

When volunteers arrived, we found two pigeons entangled in the netting. One was badly traumatised, with damage to her primary feathers, but thankfully had no obvious injuries. Our volunteer Debbie was able to quickly free her.

A second pigeon was more badly tangled and obviously severely injured, with blood pouring from her mouth and nostrils and a bloodied wing. You'll have to accept my apologies for delaying her rescue in order to take video; although I wanted to get her out ASAP, without evidence, we wouldn't able to pursue this and protect other pigeons from the same fate.

A third pigeon was not tangled but merely trapped inside the netting, and absolutely frantic. He was also an risk of getting caught up as he crashed against the mesh in panic. We quickly caught him and because he was thankfully unharmed, were able to release him.

As we were leaving a resident approached us with a fourth pigeon she had found on the floor, just below where the incident occurred, visibly weak and in shock.

We have reported this act of animal cruelty to the police, as have the residents who witnessed it, and directly to Peabody. If anyone else witnessed the incident we urge you to call 101 and report it.

This has the potential to be an ongoing problem, however. Aside from the maintenance worker who violently beat the pigeons, the netting itself has the potential to continue to cause injury and suffering, and therefore may be unlawful.

The RSPCA's guidance on pigeon deterrence states "Under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, an animal is protected when it is temporarily under the control of man and a bird trapped and suffering as a result of poorly maintained netting may constitute an offence."

Three of the pigeons are now receiving treatment but two are so badly injured, their chances look bleak. What they've been subjected to is appalling.

Whilst anti-bird netting appears to be a humane way to deter wild birds, unless it is carefully installed and constantly maintained, it poses a constant hazard to wildlife.

Pigeons are the most frequent victims of entanglement, but we have also seen song birds, parakeets, foxes and even bats become caught up. Any animal entangled will often sustain fractures and abrasions from the struggle and if not freed, will die a slow, prolonged death, in breach of the law. Whilst we applaud housing associations for not resorting to pigeon culls - which according to all research are completely ineffective anyway - this is an alternative that is fraught with ethical and legal issues.

Many thanks to local residents for reporting this horrible chain of events to us so quickly. We will update you on the situation as it progresses.

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