By Katherine Duffy
Justice before the law is something of a platitudinous notion, evoking concepts of fairness for ‘the little guy’ and a picturesque statue of lady justice, blindfolded and holding her scales. The object of this article however, is not the statue of lady justice herself, but rather the ‘little guy’ who may be seen perched upon her shoulders from time to time, and who is continuously persecuted before the law without any opportunity to fend for itself. Today, we discuss Australian law’s egregious interference with the rights of the common pigeon.
Australian law has historically upheld principles that run contrary to the interests of the little guy. This was perhaps most blatantly obvious in Australia’s acceptance of the neighbour principle established by Donoghue v Stevenson, which – although hastening the development of tort law – showed a cruel lack of consideration for our snail brethren, imperilled by industry and ignored by the courts. Although we live in a time of rapid moral change, it is clear that the law continues to be heavily impacted by a primitive disregard for the little guys – snails and pigeons alike – who are vulnerable to the smashing fists of the law.
The common pigeon seems to be the latest target of the legal and political community’s agenda to reinforce its imperialist tenancies through the demoralisation of the plebeian pigeon population. In the Australian Capital Territory, veritable genocide of the common pigeon has been attempted. Territory and municipal services have launching initiatives such as the pigeon-proofing of Tuggeranong: netting and spikes have been erected, blocking crevices where the common pigeon perches. Although the government shows no sign of changing its pigeon policy, this has not been without pushback from local south-siders, one resident noting that her children referred to the Wanniassa underpass as ‘pigeon bridge’ and were ‘sad to see them move on’.
More forward-thinking states such as South Australia have placed a caveat on this discriminatory regime that plagues the common pigeon populace. Section 47 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 inflicts a $250 penalty for those who seek to interfere with a homing pigeon. Interference, in this instance, refers to a person who murders, injures or abducts a homing pigeon. Although South Australia has taken a step in the right direction, entrenching the rights of the homing pigeon in state law, it still leaves vulnerable the rights of its disease-infested, feral counterpart.
It is important that measures be taken quickly to address this systematic inequality perpetuated by Australian law. Should we fail to reform, serious action may be taken by the pigeon community. Whilst a coup d’état – or rather a coo d’état – seems like an unlikely consequence of inaction, it is undoubtable that the common pigeon has become an institution of Australian society alongside such icons as the kangaroo and bin chicken, and as such, should be afforded legal protection.
Whilst this common bird is not a bastion of cleanliness, what outdoor memory is not marked by their gentle coos or their rhythmic head-bobbing as they hoover up crumbs lining the city sidewalks. These flapping sky rats are an icon of Australian society, and if true justice exists in Australia, the law should inflict a blow greater than a $250 fine in seeking to protect this majestic creature.