Foreign eye

‘Don’t Feed the Birds’. These kind of signs sprung up recently in my neighborhood, an area predominantly occupied by immigrants and foreign students.

Feeding the birds has become a bit of a political issue lately, with the right-wing PVV party leader Geert Wilders stirring up a controversy saying foreigners cause problems by feeding pigeons in the street. I must admit, when I first came to the Netherlands, I fed pigeons freely in parks and other public places, not understanding the dirty looks from passers-by. While in Ukraine (as in many other countries), pigeons are treated as fluffy cute birds, here they’re considered dirty, disease-spreading vermin. And these kind of labels tend to be self-fulfilling: the Dutch city pigeons are much less plump and shiny than their well-loved Ukrainian cousins. Cut off from loving and plentiful human-provided food supplies, the Dutch birds must scavenge dumpsters and sidewalks for rotting leftovers, making them more likely to spread disease or become ill. So next time you’re in a park and craving some non-human company, don’t feed the birds. Instead, cuddle some kittens; everybody likes kittens.

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