‘Completely bonkers’ - That’s the verdict of farmers to new ‘shoo before shooting’ policy to deal with pigeons

The woodpigeon The woodpigeon

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
9:05 AM

A “shoo-before-shooting” policy to control pigeons has been described by a leading Norfolk farmer as “completely bonkers”.

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Natural England has proposed that before shooting pests, including pigeons, “appropriate warning” must first be given.

Broadland farmer Richard Hirst, who heads one of the country’s largest pea groups, has branded the suggestion as “ridiculous, quite ridiculous” and “bonkers”.

The National Farmers’ Union has calculated that the cost of pigeon damage and loss of winter oilseed rape yields was about £49.3m in East Anglia alone.

Mr Hirst, who is chairman of the Anglian Pea Group, which will start planting more than 8,600 acres of garden peas for the table next week, said that pigeons were a major threat to the crop.

“We’ve now got a serious problem with these numbers. We don’t wipe them out completely, they need controlling,” he said.

Natural England, which is the government’s adviser on wildlife, wants shooters to scare or shoo away pests like wood pigeons, rooks and crows before resorting to the gun.

Currently, bird species including wood pigeons, feral pigeons and crows can be shot if a farmer is satisfied that other methods, including scarecrows, flags or gas guns, have not been effective.

Mr Hirst, who farms at Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, even had to have people walking fields of newly-drilled pea crops last year to keep pigeons off.

While young pea plants were damaged by pigeons, they also grazed ripening crops.

“Last summer, when it was very dry, the pigeons were attracted to the pea crops because of the shortage of moisture. It was like bees to a honeypot and it was almost impossible to keep them off,” said Mr Hirst.

The proposals, made in a consultation document, have also drawn fire from the British Association of Shooting and Conservation. Chief executive Richard Ali said: “This proposal to make people try to scare pigeons before shooting, under threat of legal action, fines and prison, would hamstring crop protection in England. Shooting is the only viable and effective method of protecting growing crops which are vulnerable to flocks of pigeons and other pests. Pigeons soon become used to scaring – scarecrows have long vanished from our fields and the birds soon become used to other methods such as noise-making gas guns.

“The proposals would also be completely unenforceable. Who will be going around farms checking that each pigeon shooter has tried scare tactics before getting on with the job of protecting crops?”

Mr Hirst asked how many civil servants would be going around and counting “the number of times we flap our hands or count the scaring equipment”.

Former Defra secretary Margaret Beckett introduced a “shoo before shooting” policy in 2005 but the last Labour government made a hasty U-turn after the proposals were ridiculed by farming and countryside groups.

Natural England is seeking comments on its proposals by May 19 at www.naturalengland.org.uk

What do you think of the idea? Write to EDP letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email edpletters@archant.co.uk

23 comments

  • Also,how on earth am I going to get my cat to yell shoo before he chases a pigeon ? Luckily the only birds he thinks are worth catching

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    Reader

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • These people havr no idea how damaging they can be. It is frightening just how ignorant these peope are

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    Johnny Norfolk

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Have emailed nateng at above address . I can't wait for the reply

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    Reader

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Have I missed 26 days, it's not April already is it?

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    Cyril the Canary

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • English Nature at it again This is the sort of lack of common sense that permeates all the organisations which overlook rural businesses , and the thinking which led directly to the EA's failure to reduce the impact of this winter's rain. These organisations are full of impractical academics with no hands on experience peddling the theories they picked up at university recruited it seems from those who have an existing bias against existing rural practices.These organisations also seem far too influenced by biased charities. Has no one told these fools that peas dont get a second chance once cropped off to the ground by pigeons, nor wheat when pulled up by enthusiatic corvids? As for blaming modern farming for the number of pigeons-that is patently absurd. Over wintering forage crops like turnips and kale and over wintering brassicas have been grown for years and were always a magnet for wood pigeons, but the numbers we get have fluctuated depending on the weather on the continent-a severe winter there will drive flocks here.The cost of cartridges and a restriction on twelve bore ownership and rough shooting probably has a lot to do with the swollen numbers. I can recall uncles and cousins spending all their spare time shooting wood pigeons on peas being grown for the dried pea trade in the 1950s.

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    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

  • Well, well...what a surprise. Natural England raise the Bar Of Stupidity even higher by once again speaking from an orifice not normally associated with verbal communication. Farmers need to protect crops from these filthy, disease-ridden, winged rats. If they have to blow them away to do so then so be it. Pidgeons are in epidemic proportions these days. The farmers are doing us all a favour. Appropriate Warning...depends on what is considered 'appropriate'. Red-hot shot up the Jacksie is appropriate warning in my humble opinion. :)

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    dibbler

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • I love "Pigeon Pie"

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    Albert Cooper

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Well I can't see what the fuss is all about. I always make a loud bang before I kill them! Ok so there might not be a long gap between the two but plenty appear to hear it and fly away! Survival of the fittest I guess?

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    baguio

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • How about shouting "Please stop eating my crops" at them??

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    Lord Elf

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Even people who detest the whole idea of hunting and shooting as "sports" must realise this is ridiculous. There are no predators that can effectively control pigeons - whose numbers are greatly encouraged by the way in which modern harvesting methods leave huge quantities of grain lying around. In many parts of our countryside we see few birds other than pigeons. If their numbers are not controlled by birds of prey then some of them need to be shot.

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    gilded beams

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • I have decided to nail up warning signs on the trees where I shoot now, if the pigeons haven't bothered to learn to read it's their look out.

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    inactive user

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Also,how on earth am I going to get my cat to yell shoo before he chases a pigeon ? Luckily the only birds he thinks are worth catching

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • I said "Boo" to a goose and the RSPCA said it was animal cruelty.

    Report this comment

    Dictate

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • So will the royals be expected to shoo the deer ,pheasants ,and boar before they shoot? Will all the shooting syndicates that have paid thousands of pounds be policed by nat Eng ? This is beyond bonkers even Monty Python couldn't make this up ,and yes I checked it wasn't 1 April .

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • What an unloved bird the pigeon is! Even the RSPB do not see fit to defend it. I doubt that it is any more dirty or disease ridden than any wild bird. What it does do is capitalise on farming techniques to enable it to increase its numbers. In so doing it is catastrophically effective. Scaring flocks from one field will just move them on to another. This species is not endangered. Unfortunately it is not a popular food item. The inland cormorant is a plague on trout farms and fisheries. It is also not endangered; yet shooting them is illegal because someone considers it to be worthy of protection. The fear is that the PETA faction will lobby to get the pigeon, the mouse and the brown rat protected. Now that will be an interesting world.

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    The Fortean

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • What a load of old squit!

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    Dick

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Is it 142014 already, I had a snooze this afternoon?? Where do we get these morons from, they must self breed????????????

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    windup

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

  • Silly question. Would the pigeons hear the "Shoo" over the bang of the 12 bore? Where do these people come from? Obviously have degrees in stupidy or delusions of adequacy.

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    Mr T

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • "Natural England has proposed that before shooting pests, including pigeons, “appropriate warning” must first be given" Curiouser and curiouser! said Alice as she wandered through Wonderland.

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    NorthStarRaven

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • I do not know about the wood pigeon Fortean, but the range of diseases carried by feral pigeons ( a different type) is researched and documented and available on line and seems pretty damning. The proximity to humans and domestic fowl would seem to be problem that one doesnt encounter with most other birds . It is my opinion that the hugely swollen numbers of pigeons and collared doves ( here only since the 50s) encroach on nesting habitats favoured by thrushes. And that the numbers of corvids on the fields are doing skylarks and other ground nesting birds no good-I have seen carrion crows paddling in reed fringes of a river and taking swan mussels, rooks snapping off wheat ears and hanging on to maize and pecking at the cobs- they are not going to pass over a skylark nest nor a newborn leveret in a form.

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    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

  • Currently, bird species including wood Pigeons, feral pigeons and crows can be shot. What about all the birds of prey that have been persecuted by landowners or their gamekeepers for years? Yes it still happens, doesn't it.

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    Unemployed and Luvin it.

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • I spoke to the pigeons in my garden: They confirmed that they would very much appreciate a warning so they can live on and multiply without interference.

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    NigelS

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

  • Care in the community is a wonderful thing, but this proves yet again that it does not work for everyone. And I wish the family of friends of Natural England all the best at this very difficult time for them...

    Report this comment

    el84

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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