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Hate might be a bit of a strong word — but it’s no sweeping generalization to assume that most people aren’t fans of pigeons. They haven’t earned the nickname “rats with wings” for nothing. Which ties into why, in a bold yet somewhat understandable move, the Spanish city of Cádiz has taken it upon themselves to banish 5,000 local pigeons.

Talks of controlling the pigeon population began two years ago when the Horeca, a regional federation of hotel owners and managers, complained about the pigeons “menacing” visitors throughout the city — particularly by Cathedral Square, a popular destination for tourists.

“Nobody here has anything against pigeons or other animals, but something must be done when they proliferate to the point of presenting a health risk,” said Antonio De María Ceballos, a restaurant owner and the president of Horeca. “We want to avoid losing some revenues from tourists, but this issue is really about whether we believe it is important to keep Cádiz’s image as a clean and healthy city.”

So, how does a city humanely relocate 5,000 pigeons? Within the next year, officials plan on trapping the birds, giving them health checks, and releasing them to a dovecote (a shelter with nest holes known for keeping domesticated pigeons) near the town of Ribarroja del Turia, which sits about 375 miles east of Cádiz. The “exile solution” is viewed as a more humane way of settling the pigeon population and was chosen in favor of culling or feeding the birds contraceptive pills.

City officials are also urging visitors and locals alike to stop feeding the pigeons. By distributing 3,000 leaflets on how to handle the pigeon population, Álvaro de la Fuente, the city official, hopes to avoid fining residents for “overindulging” the birds.

As for keeping the pigeons out? Well, the city hopes that the “highly adaptable” rock pigeons are comfortable enough in their new homes that they won’t be tempted to return to Cádiz.

Featured image by Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket via Getty Images.

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