I have previously blogged about the largely internet and social media fuelled nonsense concerning feeding birds bread as opposed to feeding them other food made out of the same “starchy treat” material.
This has been widespread over the last few months reaching fever pitch with heir to British Waterways , The Canal and Rivers Trust putting forward what is an aggressive marketing campaign trying to hook canal users with a bag of grapes and lettuce. It is difficult to see how they can prove the voracity of the claims about the number of loaves thrown into the canals and watercourses, (a reputed 6 million) ,or for that matter how this number has decreased by 2.5 million as a consequence of their previous campaign.
Now as a charity, they are not like BW who were reliant on Government funding but have to find their own. Of course if they were not as spectacular a failure as British Waterways to stop pollution from industry as well as their own sanctioned practices of the past, one might take seriously their cries of bread pollution in canals. BUT WE SHOULD NOT LOOSE SIGHT THAT THIS CAMPAIGN IS MERELY A SELF PROMOTIONAL EXERCISE FOR THE CANAL AND RIVERS TRUST.
Local authorities have latched onto this to some extent, including Sandwell, who have now erected signs in several parks concerning feeding. It was pointed out by Animal Aid consultant John Bryant who met with us in two of Sandwell’s green flag parks where culling had happened , that if the council were moaning about the public feeding the birds, then they had absolutely failed in communicating that message with adequate signage.
It would be foolish to link this matter to culls, because it has nothing at all to do with the council’s own failures of groundcare and management of its parks and green spaces for wildlife, and any attempt to somehow blame the public for these culls is quite perverse.
The signs are about right in terms of wording, but it is difficult to see how their interpretation is being followed or even how legally they could be enforced when anglers are allowed to chuck in basically anything without comment to feed the fish- including bread. This pastime also remains both anti social and dangerous to wildlife in Sandwell’s parks and open spaces.
Another local authority has also erected signs at a park site discouraging feeding bread, and also pointed out that bird seed is available from a shop run by a private concern nearby. Unfortunately this private operator appears to have hiked the price of the poultry container serving, costing £1 to £1.50. Such extortionate opportunism is exactly the point that I was making about those selling corn in my previous blog post on the subject.
Fortunately there is a very good article available looking at bread and the science behind some of the wild claims about bread being “bad for birds” which shows some refreshing common sense, without being spread by old wives’ tales. White and brown bread are not in fact that different nutritionally, contrary to the misinformation spread by local authorities.
I don’t know of any swan or wildfowl rescuers who do not use bread to feed the birds, as a part of their diet, including during their captive rehabilitation. By way of example The Swan Sanctuary based in London have stated the following on their website.
In my experience of swan rescue, I have not seen swans or other wildfowl for that matter ever interested in lettuce, grapes or peas. The stuff just stays there in situ day after day to rot, attracting the rats. At this point the question should be asked what is the difference between feeding birds bread that could go mouldy and cause harm and encourage rats (which appears to be a big problem for some people), and other foods which will go mouldy and cause harm and encourage rats?
Then for that matter corn itself. I am not sure if those spreading the seed about bread being a killer realise that uneaten corn dumped in large quantities under water will also go rotten, and be just as harmful if ingested as any bread. Rats also love corn by the way. There is also less risk associated with floating food than submerged in terms of ingesting lost and discarded tackle, lead shot and bacterial infestations lurking beneath the water.
Which brings me to the real problem, that there are some bloody lazy fools who think it is a good idea to chuck in mouldy trade waste in bulk for the birds to eat- yet it is this issue that local authorities continue to dodge for politically correct reasons.
There is simply no evidence that bread “causes angel wing in birds.” If it is the case then where are these birds if the figures of bread dumping offered by The Canal and Rivers Trust are to be believed?
It also concerns me that people with little education think that they are “educating” people by spreading these internet myths and unscientific facts, as well as supporting commercial wholesalers of corn. If you are paying more than £10 for a 20kg bag of corn, then don’t because you are being ripped off.
Unfortunately it seems that feeding the birds down your local park is now another commercial enterprise incurred as a result of a conscience tugging falsity about wild bird health coupled with health and safety gone mad. If people are priced out of making a connection with wildfowl that would otherwise not occur, that can only be a bad thing for both people and wildfowl.