East Newark law is for the birds


For the record, I have no criminal record. As far as I recall. But I have criminal tendencies. And I just might act upon them. You have been warned.

Elsewhere in this week’s Observer is a news story by Ron Leir about the Borough of East Newark’s war against an alleged public health menace: the pigeon.

In its pseudo-wisdom, the Borough Council has introduced an ordinance that would make it illegal to feed these poor put-upon fowl. Apparently, some anti-pigeon person complained. And government being government, it was decided that only a new law would do. (As far as I am concerned, this country has too many laws already, but that is fodder for another column.)

The pigeon, also called a rock-dove, has been sharing this planet with humankind since pre-history and as far as I know none of the pestilences that have struck the earth has ever been associated with the bird.

Look in the Bible. The plagues that afflicted the Egyptians when they refused Moses’ call to free the Hebrews involved frogs, gnats, lice, flies and locusts. “And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs.”

Nowhere does it say, “I will smite thee with pigeons.”

Although East Newark cites the birds as a health hazard, a little internet research will show you there is an ongoing debate about that.

Among many pro-pigeon sites is that of the U.K.-based Pigeon Control Advisory Service, which notes: “The likelihood of a [wild] bird passing on a disease to a human being is so infinitesimally small that it is not even worth considering.”

I doubt that British pigeons are healthier than American ones.

You can, of course, find the opposing view. But I have never met anyone with a pigeon- related health problem. Have you? Has your doctor?

East Newark says that feeding the birds is actually harming them because “they lose their natural ability to scavenge and survive on their own.” Pish-tosh, says me. But perhaps I am wrong. When the pigeon-feeding ceases, East Newark could be filled with birds standing around on street corners wearing little “I am hungry” signs around their necks.

There will be a public hearing on the proposed ordinance. I hope the pigeon-haters are hooted down.

If East Newark persists in promoting pigeon prejudice, your correspondent just might start prowling its streets at night with bags of PigeonChow.

And I would refuse to pay the $1,200 fine, opting instead to languish in prison. I am sure they let you feed pigeons there. Remember The Birdman of Alcatraz?

— Karen Zautyk

The Observer Staff