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Do seagulls deserve to die? Bill Hicks hears the squawks for and against

It's an invidious business, selecting threads to write about in this column. Several hundred new threads start each day: no sooner have you picked a likely candidate, than a dozen equally alluring topics flash up on the all-seeing Staffroom scanner.

Usually, we steer clear of threads commenting on news stories, as the issue will have been done to death by the time we publish the following week.

So I'm taking a medium-sized risk picking a thread sparked by a report on a local newspaper website, but I can't help myself. The title, "Head applies for licence to shoot seagulls", evokes the alarming image of a headteacher blasting away with his double-barrelled shotgun, while pupils cower under a blizzard of feathers and grapeshot.

No such thing, of course: go to the Hastings Today site via the link provided by MrNutter@ and you find that the head, having originally requested permission to hire marksmen to protect his school from potential bird flu carriers, has since opted for the less drastic deterrent of a "sound device". The seagulls of Hastings may be safe for the moment - but what about elsewhere? MrNutter@ wanted to know, "Have any other headteachers considered doing this in response to the fear of bird flu? Is this OTT paranoia or sensible health safety?" The request exposes a surprising incidence of gull-phobia.

Gooddr is the first hardliner: "Regardless of bird flu, they should shoot the blighters anyway. They **** everywhere, and can attack people."

Zahra comes over all Hitchcockian: "Seagulls have been known to build nests on people's roofs and attack the residents when they try to enter their own house. We are overrun with the flying rats!" And Tiggywinkle introduces a whiff of conspiracy: "The most worrying thing is that bird flu is as close as Boulogne. Why has this not been on the news?"

It's only a matter of time before the seagull-fanciers intervene. Five minutes, in fact. Part Deux goes for irony: "Yes, let's kill more animals.

We have concreted the world, and robbed them of their habitats. We eat everything that moves and we stick everything in their eyes. We may as well shoot the gulls. PS: I grew up on the coast and we always had 10 to 20 gulls on the roof and car park, and thousands on the beach. Never once did one attack me or my family. Funny, that."

Tristessa begs to differ - "seagulls used to attack my mother because she used to feed them - so if she came out of her door without the food they would dive bomb her" - but she would not pull the trigger: "How can you justify killing them in case they might have bird flu?"

And then comes buntycat with a tale to melt hearts: "I like seagulls. They are handsome and resourceful and have a beautiful cry. All my leftovers go to Stephen Seagull, who waits on my wall as we eat. The neighbours are not impressed, but I don't like them anyway."

By the time this thread peters out it is pretty much a score draw between the pro and the anti-gull lobbies. I look for other seagull references, and come across a thread on a hopefully mythological form of juvenile torment called "seagulling", and an explanation of the seagull management style, courtesy of Ally1979: "A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves."

Seagull-like, I bid you farewell.

Follow these threads at

* Personal: When the words "Hi Miss" should not be uttered

* Opinion: Why are they training teachers when they don't need them?

* Opinion: Do you get paid if the school's shut for snow?

* Behaviour: What do people get their kids in detention doing?

* Music: Catchy, easy tunes for disaffected Year 9s

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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