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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 21:25 GMT 22:25 UK
Venice ponders rice throwing ban
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

St Mark's square in Venice
Pigeons are a fixture in the famous St Mark's Square in Venice
The mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, is considering a ban on the throwing of rice as part of his city's efforts to reduce a burgeoning pigeon population.

The throwing of rice is one of the key ingredient of the romantic Italian wedding. It is intended to wish newlyweds prosperity and fertility.

But the rice has the side effect of attracting pigeons - there are about 40,000 in the historic centre.

This is forcing the city to spend a lot of money on cleaning.

A Venetian wedding attracts all sorts of onlookers and among those often waiting patiently for bride and groom are the city's pigeons.

They queue in their hundreds.

The more discerning have worked out that weddings are more than just a cause for celebration; they are an abundant source of food and with over 1,000 weddings every year, there is plenty of rice to go round.

Costly problem

The efforts to control pigeons with the introduction of contraceptives into the food chain has had little effect.

For the Venice Mayor pigeons are a nuisance

With all the food and rice that is dropped in Venice, the pigeons can pick and choose what they take.

The population is said to have grown by 24% in the last year.

It is a costly problem for the city council. Each year, they spend $14 (7) per pigeon clearing statues and public areas of the excrement.

Feeding pigeons is now banned in most parts of the city, but there has been stiff resistance from the 18 feed sellers in Saint Mark's Square.

Every year, they sell tonnes of grain to tourists who pose for pictures with the pigeons - though not for much longer.

The mayor says either the feed sellers take their offer to transfer somewhere else or they go without the council's compensation.

In Venice, things are about to get an awful lot tougher for the pigeons and their fanciers.

Trafalgar's pigeon ban extended
10 Sep 07 |  London

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