UK Politics

MPs declare war on aggressive seagulls

Image caption Beaked baddies: Seagulls are known for their aggressive attitude - and big wingspan

Seagulls have had it too good for too long.

A seaside home, a constant supply of fast food, free love, and the ability to strike instant terror into rooftop aerial fitters: what's not to like?

But, just when they thought it was safe to go back into the kebab shop bin bags, these large birds have met their nemesis.

Britain's MPs - at least a few of them - have declared war.

At a Westminster Hall debate, elected representatives from left and right queued up to berate gulls.

Peter Aldous, the Conservative MP for Waveney, which includes the town of Lowestoft, complained of the "indiscriminate" airborne defecation blighting the beautiful county of Suffolk.

"It means that householders cannot hang out their washing and windows. Cars and garden furniture are continually being fouled and then cleaned," he said.

"One household I know has stopped holding its annual family barbecue.

"Relaxing in the garden is no longer possible, while soiled clothes, sheets and towels have to be thrown away."


Gulls' early-morning screeching, particularly during the summer, was also affecting people's quality of life.

Mr Aldous argued that the birds' behaviour had worsened in the last five to six years.

In fact it had got so bad in some place that they were forcing down house prices.

And gulls seemed to be getting bigger, with wings-spans often reaching five feet.

They had attitude to match, Mr Aldous added.

Many people, including some aerial fitters working on a roof in his constituency, had been "dive-bombed".

There was no "silver bullet" to solve the gull problem, Mr Aldous informed his colleagues.

Culling was discussed as an option. However, as total European numbers of some gulls - including the herring gull - are actually falling, such a course of action is banned under "biodiversity" laws unless a licence is obtained.

Perhaps it was better to get little less hawkish in tackling the coastal crime wave.

Wing man

The ornithologically named Labour MP John Woodcock offered a brave suggestion.

He urged the government "give consideration to whether gull contraceptives could be applied and whether these could be an effective way of limiting the burgeoning population in urban areas".

It was also recommended that bins be shored up to prevent access to chip bags, tuna tins and other treats.

The consensus was that gulls, who have been moving inland and into large towns in greater numbers recently, were about as welcome as Viking marauders at a Women's Institute picnic.

But Conservative Mike Weatherley, who represents Hove and Portslade, on the Sussex coast, was a lone voice in defence - the ultimate wing man.

He said: "In Brighton and Hove we actually quite like seagulls and, indeed, their image does adorn our wonderful new stadium."

Environment minister James Paice had several recommendations for keeping numbers down.

How about swiping gulls' eggs from nests and replacing them with fakes, so they never hatch?

Or letting off fireworks to stop them swooping on to landfill sites - one of their favourite eateries?

Mr Paice reminded the MPs there was a "range of tools" available, adding that he hoped that "sooner or later" people would "be able to sleep at night".

Does an age of austerity beckon for these feathered fiends?