A church has won permission to electrify its porch to scare off pigeons deemed a safety risk to worshippers after “fouling” all over the doorstep.
The Grade I listed church of St Mary the Virgin church in Bristol boasts stonework that dates back to the 12th century.
However, “the pigeon problem”, as it is referred to by churchgoers, revolves mainly around their “unsightly” excrement which is proving to be a “slip hazard”. After trying multiple forms of pest control, the issue has now sparked radical action from the congregation.
They took their case to the Consistory Court in Bristol and pleaded with the Chancellor to grant them permission to instal an “electronic bird deterrent'' in order to “discourage pigeons from nesting in the north porch of the church and fouling the stonework”.
Churchgoers told how they have had to face slipping on the birds’ excrement duck to avoid the birds as they go in and out of the church. Some have also, unfortunately, been struck from on high.
The Chancellor said that the problem “is not uncommon”. “Pigeons have discovered that this lovely church is an ideal place to escape inclement weather and to provide a safe space to nest,” he said.
Yet much to the relief of the congregants of the historic church, he granted them permission to electrocute the birds.
The deterrent consists of wires laid into a rubberised strip, which gives a mild electric shock to birds landing on it. It is hoped that the newly-electrified surface will act as a final deterrent to the birds where spikes, gel - and even shooting - has failed.
Chancellor of the Diocese of Bristol, Justin Gau, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court, said that the device would work by giving the birds a "small but disconcerting electric shock."
"This shock is sufficient to make the pigeons leave the areas that they have landed on and, importantly, persuades them not to return," he added.
He accepted that the shock would cause the birds to suffer "mild discomfort," but said he considered that such suffering was "not unnecessary." The judgment also contained a discussion of the relevant legislation relating to the protection of wildlife, with evidence submitted from Bristol city council.
The Chancellor added: “Of the many judgments I thought I would have to make as Chancellor I never thought one would involve trying to fathom whether a pigeon would be caused more suffering from the unshakeable (but wholly wrong) belief that his roost was both on fire and exuding unpleasant odours or from the unshakeable (but wholly true) belief that if he returned to his roost he would receive a disconcerting and mild electric shock to his feet.
“Such, however, is the glory of the Faculty jurisdiction… In my judgment the suffering is proportionate to preserve the building and to avoid distress to staff, visitors to the church and members of the congregation.”