Protecting chips from dive-bombing seagulls has been one of the perils of going to the seaside for as long as we’ve known that deep fried potatoes are delicious. However, a story has emerged that suggests, contrary to popular belief, man vs gull is not a conflict where anything goes. If you break the rules, the consequences can be severe.
A man in Southwest England has this week been sentenced to a three month curfew and an £835 fine after he was found guilty of punching and killing a seagull that was trying to steal his food. 64-year-old John Llewellyn Jones was visiting the Somerset town of Weston-Super-Mare, when he was accosted by a persistent lesser black-backed gull.
After a few minutes of harried circling, the bird eventually made a bid for Jones’ snack. Swooping from above, the gull grabbed, and then dropped the holiday maker’s lunch on the pavement, much to its and Jones' distress. It was then that the situation rapidly spiralled out of control.
Seizing the startled gull by the leg, Jones proceeded to hurl the unfortunate thief into the nearest wall, breaking its neck with a squawk. This was witnessed by traumatised members of the public, including several children. Now, despite pleading “not guilty” to an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, the Cardiff resident finds himself on the receiving end of a hefty punishment.
On Tuesday, nine months after the original incident took place, North Somerset Magistrates’ Court sentenced Jones to an immediate 12-week curfew, applicable between the hours of 8pm and 8am. He was also ordered to pay £750 in legal costs, as well as an £85 victim surcharge, according to a representative from the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Speaking to journalists after the sentencing, the RSPCA said that Jones showed a "blatant disregard for animal welfare," and "cared more for his chips than what his actions did to the poor gull". RSPCA inspector Simon Evans went on to add, "This was an unthinkable and despicable way to treat an animal - with this gull smashed against a wall by the man, solely because it knocked chips from his hand. This was deliberate cruelty, borne from the fact that this man cared more for his chips than what his actions did to the poor gull. Simply, the man showed blatant disregard for an animal because he was annoyed about his chips. Witnesses saw the attack, and shocked bystanders, including children, had to look on as the man killed the gull."
Jones is yet to comment on his sentence, though it seems safe to assume that he won’t be engaging in gull-based single combat anytime soon. As for anyone else who may have thought that they had the right to do whatever is necessary to defend their lunch, this case proves that there are lines that simply cannot be crossed in the eyes of the law.