Liverpool council have been criticised by mental health charities after it linked feeding pigeons in the city centre with mental illness. The statement – which was slammed by MIND and the Time To Change project – said “pigeon feeding was often undertaken by people with mental health needs”. When asked what evidence it had, the council said a survey was done several years ago which backed up the claim – but it was unable to provide a copy.
According to the last available figures, cleaning pigeon droppings off streets and buildings costs taxpayers £160,000 and officials believe people feeding them contributes to their continued nuisance to city centre shoppers and businesses. Mental health charity Time To Change said the statement contained in the town hall report was “outlandish” and unhelpful to efforts to try to change people’s perceptions of those with mental health problems.
Kate Stringer, spokesman for the country’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said: “This is another example of the unhelpful misconceptions surrounding people with mental health problems. One in four of us will experience a mental illness at some point in our lives and so to make such outlandish assumptions is only adding to the discrimination which so many of us are having to face every day.”
Liberal group leader Cllr Steve Radford added the report’s insights were “stereotypical and condescending”. A Liverpool council spokesman said: “The reference in the report relates to a survey carried out by the council about five years ago when it was considering whether to prosecute persistent pigeon feeders. It was found it would be inappropriate to prosecute many of the people involved because they had mental health issues. This of course is not to say that everybody who feeds pigeons falls into that category. What we try and do is educate people about the harmful effects feeding pigeons can have.”