Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Thousands in France are taking a stand to defend pigeons from birds of prey let loose by local government to scare off the flying "pests."
More than 17,000 people have signed an online petition launched by the Ambassade des pigeons, or Pigeon Embassy, and bird protection charity Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux to counter Mayor Remy Feraud's measure to release two hawks and three falcons in the Rue du Buisson Saint-Louis area.
"We are very strongly opposed to the measure," President of the Ambassade des pigeons Brigitte Marquet said. "It won't solve the problem of regulating the number of pigeons in the city, but it will also be very expensive for taxpayers, and extremely cruel for the targeted birds."
Feraud said pigeons pose a "real health risk for local residents" and their droppings cause more than $170,000 in damage each year.
He and the local government decided to release the birds of prey after conventional methods failed to effectively handle the pigeon problem.
"We have tried classic methods, pigeon spikes, lofts with sterilisers, but these have proved inefficient. So we decided to try new methods," a town spokesman said.
Those hoping to defend the pigeons argued Feraud's plan is "expensive for the taxpayer" and will only provide "temporary" results.
"Scared off for a while, the pigeons will very quickly return after taking refuge in a neighbouring arrondissement, except, naturally, the few who are killed [by the birds of prey]," the petition states.