Legislation banning feeding of wild pigeons passed, lawmakers criticise insufficient enforcement personnel, rendering law ineffective

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File photo.

22nd May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Legislative Council passed, in its third reading, the amendment to the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170). This revision explicitly prohibits the feeding of wild pigeons across the Special Administrative Region, with enhanced penalties aimed at curbing this widespread practice.

The amendment, debated and passed today, seeks to address the ecological and environmental disturbances caused by the unregulated feeding of pigeons. The government has responded to concerns that such activities have led to increased pigeon populations in urban areas, resulting in health and sanitation issues.

Stanley Li Sai-wing, Chair of the Bills Committee, highlighted the necessity of the legislative changes. “The feeding of wild animals, particularly pigeons, has been a persistent issue, requiring a robust legal framework to mitigate its impact effectively,” Li stated. He noted that while many residents support the ban due to the negative effects of pigeon feeding, animal welfare groups have expressed concerns, labelling the ban as unfriendly to animals.

The revised ordinance aims to clarify and tighten the definitions and penalties associated with feeding wild pigeons. However, challenges persist in enforcing the new rules. According to Li, deceptive practices such as allowing food to fall seemingly unintentionally to feed pigeons have become commonplace, complicating enforcement efforts.

Moreover, the definition of ‘wild pigeon’ and the various methods used for feeding have raised concerns about the clarity and enforceability of the law. Critics argue that without sufficient enforcement personnel, the ordinance might not effectively deter the practice, turning it into a “toothless tiger.”

During the legislative discussions, Member of the Legislative Council, Lam Chun-sing, emphasised the need for clear roles and responsibilities among authorised personnel. The government’s strategy to include a wide range of public service workers in enforcement efforts has been criticized for its lack of focus.

To address these enforcement challenges, another legislator, Chan Siu-hung, suggested a transitional period of three to six months where verbal warnings could be issued to violators, accompanied by increased public education on the new regulations. This approach aims to ensure that residents who habitually feed pigeons are aware of the legal changes.

The Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Tse Chin-wan, acknowledged the difficulties in enforcement and mentioned steps to strengthen it. “The government has increased the number of enforcement officers and plans to install cameras at known hotspots for illegal feeding activities,” Tse explained. He affirmed that these measures, along with the harsher penalties, are part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the feeding of wild pigeons and address the associated environmental and health problems.