• Olivia Bybel

A Case for St Andrews Seagulls

The seagulls of St Andrews have an unfavorable reputation. Adjectives like vicious, spiteful, aggressive, hideous have been used to describe our local colony. This hatred comes from a place of fear, however—a fear of having one’s lunch stolen, of being pooped on, or maybe of catching bird flu. Even I have been guilty of speaking uncharitably about the birds, especially since I was attacked on the benches overlooking west sands (pastries were present). I am writing now though, to combat this toxic mindset. Seagulls, like other animals, are precious aspects of nature, and intrical to their ecosystems (I think). My defense of the St Andrews seagulls will be built on three things, the theory of intrinsic value, empathy, and trivial facts about seagulls. Firstly, intrinsic value, also referred to as inherent value, is the idea that living beings have value just for existing rather than what they can contribute. It is an idea that has been central to animal rights, and conser- vation movements since the 1970s, and while seagulls certainly aren’t an endangered species in St Andrews, it applies to them as well. Let us not diminish the worth of a seagull just be- cause they are perceived as a nuisance to humans. Determining the value of the other things on earth, both living and not, is a common practice for humans. It is nonetheless a dangerous practice, and one of the reasons why the sixth mass extinction (happening now) is not taken as seriously as it might if the millions of insect species dying off were majestic mammals instead. These sentiments start at home, so it follows that appreciating a local pest (gull) for its intrinsic value is a step in the right direction towards, say, saving the polar bears? Secondly, who can relate better to being unloved and unwanted in St Andrews than we students ourselves. I have been told more than once that I, a student, am taking up a spot at a Pret table that could have gone to a local. Town and gown relations are of course, always improving, but we can and should have em- pathy for other creatures in St Andrews that may be perceived as an an- noying, and far too quick- ly growing population. Lastly—and maybe most importantly—seagulls are interesting. This may fly in the face of my intrinsic value point, but I don’t mind that much. 1. Gulls live, on average, for 20 years, so their most senior members are about the age of a second year! 2. They are very intelligent, and demonstrate this through their hunting patterns. You can sometimes find them doing a little tap dance on west sands, or a grassy spot, looking for worms! If two fun facts aren’t enough to convince you, reader, I don’t know what is. Please consider, while you are being swooped upon for your almond croissant, that you may be a terrible person for not enjoying it.

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