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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 22:32 GMT
Pigeon protesters ruffle Livingstone
Pigeon feed stall
Tourists in front of Mr Rayner's stall in Trafalgar Square
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone was unexpectedly "ruffled" on his trip to the US, by protesters opposed to his plan to reduce the number of pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

He was on a fact-finding mission to the US, but had not expected to be doused in water over an issue related to London's most famous square.

He is waging war against the symbol of peace

Andrew Butler, PETA

Mr Livingstone has been criticised after refusing to renew the licence of the last bird feed vendor in Trafalgar Square.

Andrew Butler, a spokesman for the pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told how activists doused Mr Livingstone with a pitcher of water during a news conference in Washington DC on Thursday.

A protester shouted: "Your plan to poison pigeons is all wet. Mayor Livingstone starves pigeons to death."

Food to go

Bird feed seller Bernard Rayner has until Friday to give up his job, after which the Greater London Authority will implement a one-month phased withdrawal of feed from the capital's famous landmark.
Ken Livingstone
London's mayor was doused with water

Mr Rayner had traded on a temporary licence since October after a High Court appeal against an earlier move by Mr Livingstone to target the pigeons.

At that time, Labour MP Tony Banks tabled a Commons' motion in a bid to save the "gentle London pigeon".

Mr Butler said that people in the UK may be surprised about the trans-Atlantic interest shown in the issue - but the US activists feel strongly about the fate of the birds.

He said: "This isn't Hawaii. It's freezing-cold concrete-covered London. There are no luscious fruit trees for the birds to flit over to. The baby and elderly pigeons have nowhere else to seek food.

"They'll starve. What's he going to introduce next? Bear-baiting? He is waging war against the symbol of peace. Pigeons are rock doves, and Ken needs to extend an olive branch."

Birds under threat

The GLA plans to clean up the mess caused by pigeon droppings and pedestrianise the upper part of the square to make way for more cultural pursuits for visitors.

But Dr Jayne Cuthbert, a research fellow at Kingston University who has advised the government on pigeons, confirmed PETA's fears that withdrawing the food supply will result in the deaths of thousands of the birds.

She said: "The basic law of ecology is that there will only be as many birds in any area as there is enough food to feed them.

"The Trafalgar Square pigeons will therefore not be able to fly off elsewhere because there will be no food available."

Pigeon numbers doubled

The number of pigeons in British towns and cities is estimated to have doubled in the past five years.

Mr Livingstone spent the earlier part of the week in New York to find out about its public transport and urban regeneration schemes.

He is now spending two days in Washington as a guest at the annual conference of US mayors.

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31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Banks gives Livingstone the bird
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