Image: Pigeon feed-sellers protest
Luigi Costantini  /  AP
Pigeon-feed sellers, who have been working in St. Mark's Square for a century, on Wednesday protested a ban on feeding the birds with placards aimed at the mayor that read: "Curse the day I voted for you."
updated 4/30/2008 2:37:25 PM ET 2008-04-30T18:37:25

Please don't feed the pigeons.

A ban on feeding Venice's famed flocks of pigeons took effect Wednesday. Nineteen pigeon-feed sellers on St. Mark's Square immediately went out of business. They had long been granted licenses to sell packages of dried corn to tourists wanting snapshots of themselves covered with the birds.

A spokeswoman in Venice said people who feed the pigeons face fines from $80 to $775.

Mayor Massimo Cacciari pushed for the ban in an attempt to control the burgeoning number of pigeons blamed for spreading filth and ruining the city's glorious facades and monuments.

The pigeon-feed sellers, who said they have been selling their wares on St. Mark's Square for a century, remained up in arms and protested the ban with placards on their booths aimed at the mayor, including: "Curse the day I voted for you" and "Cacciari, what kind of Venetian are you?"

No one knows for sure how many pigeons live in Venice's 2.5 square miles, but the city estimates there are 40,000. About one-third of them pass through St. Mark's Square on any given day, according to environmental officials.

Venice tried various measures to curb the numbers — including introducing contraceptives to their food supply or birds that eat their eggs. But animal rights activists have long maintained the most effective method is to feed them less.

The disgruntled pigeon-feed sellers are doubtful, however. They said pigeon-loving tourists will feed the birds anyway.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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