The Animal and Veterinary Service received a report last week on Wednesday (10 April) from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) regarding an incident of alleged animal cruelty during a pigeon culling operation by Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) in Singapore.
Acres uploaded a disturbing video of how pest controllers, engaged by the town council, were picking up the live pigeons and discarding them into large trash bags on Tuesday evening (9 April) near Hougang Mall. The birds were believed to be poisoned as they remained rooted to the spot and seemed incapable of flying away when approached.
Some of the workers were observed sweeping and even kicking some of the helpless birds into the dustpan before dumping them into a bag. The video has sparked shock and anger from concerned netizens who expressed their disbelief and disapproval of the inhumane act on social media.
However, many more agreed with the reasons behind the culling and justified the need for it through complaints of health and environmental hygiene, as pigeons are known for carrying diseases as well as contaminating food and water with their droppings.
Others proposed alternative solutions to the pigeon problem.
Jessica Kwok, group director of the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) under the National Parks Board (Nparks), said in a statement that the board is currently in contact with the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council regarding the incident.
It added that all town councils are issued with pigeon control operation guidelines, which state that property management staff have to be present during the operation and that pigeons have to be removed and put to sleep humanely; for example, with the use of carbon dioxide gas.
In response to TNP’s queries, a spokesman for AHTC said the town council was aware of the culling exercise, stating: “We have received increasing feedback on pigeon nuisance in the area, and hence it is with reluctance we had to resort to culling.”
Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of Acres, told TNP that culling pigeons should not be the main course of action to address the problem of pigeon proliferation. “The root cause of the overpopulation of pigeons, which is human feeding and food waste management, needs to be addressed,” she said.
“A combination of intensive outreach nationwide, strict enforcement on feeding ban and proper food waste management need to be carried out to see a drop in pigeon population.”
AHTC reminded residents not to feed pigeons — something Acres also highly discouraged in their Facebook post — and said it would continue its efforts to educate the public.
In addition, CNA reported that feeding pigeons would only result in large congregations of the birds in one area and encourage breeding, contributing to their population growth. Anyone caught feeding pigeons can be fined up to S$500 under the Animals and Birds (Pigeons) Rule.
A more humane alternative method to pigeon culling conceived in Vancouver, Canada had been lauded by wildlife and animal groups. According to Global News, a pilot project involving an automatic bird feeder dispenses bird pellets containing viable and non-toxic contraceptives called OvoControl, thus decreasing pigeon populations by 50 to 90 per cent.