photo series: Peace, Love and Misery - About pigeons
"A pigeon ain't s**t but a ghetto dove" - Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire
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 no other creature has been pushed 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.
So-called city or street pigeons derived from the domesticated rock doves 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. They are doomed there to a diet mostly consisting of bread crumbs and puddle water, and they depend on the mercy of a few who risk heavy fines by the authorities but keep feeding pigeons by conviction.
For centuries pigeons have been domesticated and used as trophies and food. They served as a symbol for fertility and as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Like no other animal, pigeons helped Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution. Most importantly, pigeons were used to carry news dispatches over great distances. So over the ages pigeons have played a huge part in deciding mankind's battles and helped shape the world. Their descendants returned to the wild with a distinct difference to their ancestors: They had been bred to lay eggs up to eight times a year - instead of two like their ancestors - what causes the high numbers of city pigeons. 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 most myths about diseases that pigeons carry fictional.
The Frankfurt-based pigeon activists 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 activists exchange the real eggs with dummies to ethically reduce the pigeon population. The method also helps to decrease risk for diseases among pigeons and it helps the remaining pigeons to find more food. 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, other animal conservationists who distinguish "pigeons and animals" and a kind of hatred that man nurtures for no other creature. Shiny Frankfurt poses as the perfect example for the absurd war against man‘s symbol of peace and one of its closest companions.
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 more 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.