photo series: Peace, Love and Misery - About pigeons
No other wild animal shares cities’s narrow spaces so closely with humans as pigeons do. And no other animal troubles humans there like pigeons. So humans pushed no other animal in such a miserable existence as the so called ‘flying rats’. But while real rats prefer life in the gutters, pigeons seem like prisoners inside cities.
City or street pigeons are derived from the domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild. In cities they use building’s ledges as a substitute for their original breeding habitats on cliffs and mountains. Thus they can not escape city life, so pigeons are doomed to a diet consisting of bread crumbs and puddle water, and depend on the mercy of a few who risk heavy fines by the authorities but keep feeding by conviction.
For centuries pigeons have been domesticated and used as trophies, food and to carry news dispatches over great distances. Some of them got lost or escaped. But they returned to the wild after their ancestors had been bred to breeding machines that gets offspring up to eight times a year - an abomination that caused the high numbers of city pigeons in the first place. And one that makes clear that when it comes to humans losing control over domesticated animals, pigeons exceed any other species.
Most of the time man fights pigeons with spikes, nets, cages, poison, hawks or pure sadism. That pigeons can become a plague in cities remains indisputable. But conventional aversive conditoning methods have proven to be ineffective and many myths about diseases that pigeons carry fictional.
The Frankfurt-based pigeon conservationists from the ‚Stadttaubenprojekt‘ follow a different path in dealing with street pigeons. They operate three dens in downtown Frankfurt where they provide food to the birds and a save place to live and breed. Once the pigeons lay eggs inside the dens the animal conservationists exchange the real eggs with dummies to ethically reduce the pigeon population. Gudrun Stürmer, head of the ‚Stadttaubenprojekt‘, and her colleagues also pick up sick and injured pigeons that have been found in Frankfurt or neighbouring cities. Those birds are brought to the ‚Gnadenhof‘, a one-of-a-kind pigeon sanctuary on the outskirts of Frankfurt. Fighting to improve city pigeon‘s existence and their public image, the ‚Stadttaubenprojekt‘ encounters many bureaucratic barriers and an absurd human hate for pigeons. Frankfurt poses as the perfect example for the war against man‘s symbol of peace.
My original plan in last November was to document the work of the ‘Stadttaubenprojekt’. But I noticed that there is bigger story to tell about pigeons. I will continue my project for a few weeks. I will meet with pigeons breeders who are mainly to blame for the high populations of city pigeons. I will also document the conditions pigeons live in. I would like to tell how those animals became an issue and how man can ethically solve the problem he created.