A SWAN rescuer has branded controversial warnings to avoid feeding bread to waterfowl as ‘fake news’.
Former Stratford mayor Cyril Bennis, who was responsible for increasing the Avon’s iconic swan population from two to some 60 swans, is pressing Stratford District Council to remove signs telling people not to feed them bread.
The signs were put up eight years ago by international organisation Geese Peace which said white bread could cause swan’s wings to develop too quickly and lead to a deformation known as ‘angel wing’.
But Mr Bennis slammed the warning as ‘utter nonsense’.
He said: “It’s totally confusing. We want people to come to the river and see the animals. There’s no scientific reason for people not to come down and feed our wildlife bread in moderation.
“It’s a wonderful sight seeing family generations getting together to feed the birds. Over 40 years ago there was nothing on the river and we’ve managed to encourage them back and now people are scared to feed them.
“Bread does not cause injury or angel wing. It is utter nonsense. I would be the first one to hold my hand up if this was the case. It’s fake news. The signs are complete rubbish and a waste of money.”
He suggested swans often roamed around the grass because they were hungry which made them more vulnerable to dog attacks.
His comments come after a media outcry from the Queen’s ‘swan marker’ David Barker who warned swans were starving. He blamed the ‘Ban the Bread’ campaign launched by organisation Swan Lifeline and pet food company Petopia earlier in the year.
Although following criticism the campaign name was changed to ‘Better than Bread’.
Zoology professor Christopher Perrins said there was no evidence of a connection between bread and angel-wing, and some cygnets developed the condition ‘without ever having seen any bread’.
A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust, the charity which campaigns for the care of waterways, said: “We don’t want people to stop feeding ducks and swans. It is an important source of food we just ask that people mix it up as bread isn’t great in large quantities just like it’s not good for us. It doesn’t give them all the nutrients they need and too much is also bad for the environment.
“Natural supplements to bread include things like defrosted peas, oats, grain and corn.”
Stratford District Council is currently considering Mr Bennis’ request.