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Police investigate claims homeless people are eating feral PIGEONS after traders said they saw two men stuffing 14 birds into a rucksack in a city centre
- PCSO Sarah Giles, from Exeter police, said 'street drinkers' were to blame
- One trader described how she saw a man coaxing pigeons with bird seed
- In another incident a woman reportedly stamped on the head of a seagull
- Wild birds in the UK are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
Police are investigating claims that homeless people are eating feral pigeons after stall traders say they saw two men stuffing 14 birds into a rucksack in Exeter city centre.
The RSPCA have been informed and PCSO Sarah Giles, from the city centre's policing team, said it appeared to be 'a particular group of street drinkers' who were responsible.
She said: 'They have money to spend on booze, so they have the money to buy food. Many of this group are housed in bed-and-breakfasts, bedsits or small flats.
Police are investigating claims that homeless people are eating feral pigeons after stall traders say they saw two men stuffing 14 birds into a rucksack in Exeter city centre (Stock image)
'Drinking is a lonely pursuit, and they are not allowed guests back there, so they choose to take to the street.
'Many are alcoholics, and to keep a certain consumption level, will drink continuously. They are not filling a pub, because it is a different sort of drinking.
'It turns into group, then a bigger group, and now we're eating pigeons, now we're killing seagulls. It escalates.'
One trader, who asked not to be identified, said the pigeon incident was 'horrifying' to witness.
It was in the daytime, around 4pm, and the woman trader described how she and sickened passers-by saw a man coaxing pigeons with bird seed.
She said: 'Then his mate would pounce on the pigeon and stuff it into the rucksack. They managed to get 14 in, even with them flapping about. It was the space of around 20 minutes.
The RSPCA have been informed and PCSO Sarah Giles (pictured), from the city centre's policing team, said it appeared to be 'a particular group of street drinkers' who were responsible
She wrote on Twitter: 'While doing the rounds of Sidwell Street in Exeter I have had news of pigeons being captured for food. We will be looking into this'
'I was horrified. I know there are too many pigeons and I've never been a fan, but how can you be so cruel to an animal? That to me was cruel.
'If I was a bigger person I would have taken the rucksack off them, but it was two strapping blokes.
'It's all alcohol related, they sit on Sidwell Street drinking at all hours of the day. There aren't enough police around.'
WHAT IS THE LAW?
All wild birds in the UK are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Trapping or killing a bird could result in a sentence of up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
But birds can be killed and eaten with a licence, except for wood pigeons, or if they are found dead as roadkill.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is also an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Feral pigeons have been known to carry diseases such as Chiamdiosis, a virus similar to influenza, and Psittacosis, similar to pneumonia.
She said they attempted the same trick the following day, but were apparently less successful.
PCSO Giles added that geese and swans have reportedly been captured by the river, and last week appalled shoppers in Sidwell Street, including small children, watched as a woman – part of a larger group of street drinkers – stamped on the head of a seagull.
Police were called to the scene after several members of the public reported the sick act and complained about a group of six people being abusive.
Passers-by were trying to stop the woman, described as very drunk, but the bird eventually died from the injuries.
An RSPCA spokesperson said 'If these reports are accurate, this is clearly illegal and we would be deeply concerned about the welfare of these birds as they would have been suffering as a result of this activity.
'We would also like to remind people that all wild birds are in England and Wales are protected and trapping or killing any bird, except under licence, could result in a sentence of up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to £5,000 if found guilty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
'If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 1234 999.'
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police told MailOnline: 'This is being Investigated as causing unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
'It is believed that street drinkers have been using bird seed to help them catch pigeons and put them in a rucksack.'