Seagulls in Dublin
Sir, – As a long-time reader of Frank McDonald’s writings, I was saddened by the sentiment expressed in his piece “Why it is time for a cull of seagulls in Dublin” (An Irishman’s Diary, August 25th). At a time of increased awareness of habitat erosion and species decline caused by human activity, and in which influential public figures make policy proposals based on personal prejudice rather than on robust analysis, this piece displays a remarkable unwillingness to accept nature as part of urban life. Phrases like “taking over the river Liffey,” “vast aerial army” and “put an end to this plague” are emotive and anecdotal, and provide no basis for what, if implemented, would constitute an aggressive move against a species whose numbers, according to Bird Watch Ireland, are already in serious decline.
Such a move would set a reckless precedent. Are we to consider a fox cull because the animals scatter food waste adjacent to bins?
Many of the perceived problems cited are of our own making and can be solved by less destructive means. As for their eating habits: big birds sometimes attack smaller birds – this inclination is unaffected by geography. Some aspects of the natural world are unpleasant, but to consider punishing a species for this misses the very beauty of an ecosystem. Finally, one must consider the practicality of such an undertaking. Are we to shoot or poison the birds in inner-city Dublin? How long before their more northern or southern siblings move to fill the void? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We’ve taken away the herrings from herring gulls, and most of the other fish in the sea, then built on their nesting sites. We have in fact destroyed their environment. So the gulls have had to come inshore to feed and nest. Being a raucous and dirty bunch ourselves, we congregate in large numbers, make lots of noise to advertise our presence (particularly in Temple Bar!) and leave lots of “food” (waste) lying around on the ground, in bins and in landfill sites. We also, conveniently for the gulls, carry it around in our hands as we walk, and lay it out on rugs and tables. The only way to reduce seagull populations in cities is to conduct a major cull of waste bins and outlaw eating outdoors, particularly while on the move. In other countries, Japan for instance, there are no public waste bins, and eating on the street is considered particularly uncouth.
It is patronising to say that Bird Watch Ireland “has yet to catch up with the fact that [...] they have become pests”. Its role is to protect birds, not humans. Nor are herring gulls “oversized”. Many will die from starvation from a stomach full of plastic, thrown away by humans. We need to stop the environmental destruction caused by our lifestyles and stop blaming gulls for a problem they didn’t cause. – Yours, etc,
Portlaw, Co Waterford.