‘The Year of the Gull’: Demonisation of Wildlife, Pestilence and Science in the British Press

  • Lisa Carr
  • Luis Reyes-Galindo
Chapter

Abstract

During 2015 an unusually large number of articles denouncing seagull ‘antisocial behaviour’ appeared in the British press, with public outcry pushing for culls to seagull populations and political figures like former Prime Minister David Cameron publicly denouncing a ‘seagull problem’. We analyse the discourses surrounding these negative representations and compare these to the few published scientific responses to the media hype. We look at how cultural values surrounding wildlife moulded the controversy and the vitriolic attacks on seagulls by the general public, and then compared these to previous cases of wildlife demonization. Specifically, we illustrate how (a) seagulls were first anthropomorphised and then demonised using discourses of social deviancy and (b) boundary-breaching is used as the rhetorical source for pestilence discourses. We conclude by considering how science communication and journalism could be better carried out in similar episodes by first considering them as distinct cultural practices, embedded in specific socio-cultural milieus that are too often ignored by science.

References

  1. Allan, S. 2009. Making Science Newsworthy: Exploring the Conventions of Science Journalism. In Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age: Implications for Public Engagement and Popular Media, ed. R. Holliman, E. Whitelegg, E. Scanlon, S. Smidt, and J. Thomas, 149–165. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ashwell, D.J. 2016. The Challenges of Science Journalism: The Perspectives of Scientists, Science Communication Advisors and Journalists from New Zealand. Public Understanding of Science 25(3): 379–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Birke, L. 2003. Who-or What-are the Rats (and Mice) in the Laboratory. Society and Animals 11(3): 207–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowker, G.C., and S.L. Star. 2000. Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bowman, J. 2006. The Media: The Silly Season. The New Criterion 25(1): 119.Google Scholar
  6. Boyce, T. 2006. Journalism and Expertise. Journalism Studies 7(6): 889–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carr, L. 2016. “The Menacing Seagull War”: Misaligned Discourses, Boundary Breaching and the Media in a Flap Over Gulls. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Cardiff University.Google Scholar
  8. Cassidy, A. 2012. Vermin, Victims and Disease: UK Framings of Badgers in and Beyond the Bovine TB Controversy. Sociologia Ruralis 52(2): 192–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cassidy, A., and B. Mills. 2012. ‘Fox Tots Attack Shock’: Urban Foxes, Mass Media and Boundary-Breaching. Environmental Communication 6(4): 494–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, H., and R. Evans. 2007. Rethinking Expertise. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Collins, H.M. 2010. Tacit and Explicit Knowledge. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collins, H.M., and M. Kusch. 1998. The Shape of Actions: What Humans and Machines Can Do. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  13. Collins, H.M., and T.J. Pinch. 1979. The Construction of the Paranormal: Nothing Unscientific is Happening. The Sociological Review 27(S1): 237–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Collins, H.M., A. Bartlett, and L. Reyes-Galindo. forthcoming. Demarcating Fringe Science for Policy. Perspectives on Science, 25.Google Scholar
  15. Corbett, J. 1995. When Wildlife Make the News: An Analysis of Rural and Urban North-central US Newspapers. Public Understanding of Science 4(4): 397–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cortassa, C. 2017. Epistemic Interactions Within and Outside Scientific Communities: Different or Analogous Processes? In Intercultural Communication in Science and Technology Studies, ed. L.I. Reyes-Galindo and T.R. Duarte. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Daston, L., and G. Mitman. 2005. Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dearing, J.W. 1995. Newspaper Coverage of Maverick Science: Creating Controversy Through Balancing. Public Understanding of Science 4: 341–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dickman, C.R. 1996. Overview of the Impacts of Feral Cats on Australian Native Fauna. Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency.Google Scholar
  20. Douglas, M. 1966/2003. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Elo, S., and H. Kyngäs. 2008. The Qualitative Content Analysis Process. Journal of Advanced Nursing 62(1): 107–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Entwistle, V., and M. Hancock-Beaulieu. 1992. Health and Medical Coverage in the UK National Press. Public Understanding of Science 1: 164–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Evans, W.A., M. Krippendorf, J.H. Yoon, P. Posluszny, and S. Thomas. 1990. Science in the Prestige and National Tabloid Presses. Social Science Quarterly 71(1): 105.Google Scholar
  24. Fenlon, D.R. 1983. A Comparison of Salmonella Serotypes Found in the Faeces of Gulls Feeding at A Sewage Works with Serotypes Present in the Sewage. Journal of Hygiene 91(1): 47–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foucault, M. 1999. Cours du 22 Janvier 1975. In Les Anormaux: Cours au College de France 1974–1975, ed. V. Marchetti, A. Salomoni, F. Ewald, and A. Fontana, 55–80. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  26. Gieryn, T.F. 1983. Boundary-work and the Demarcation of Science from Non-science: Strains and Interests in Professional Ideologies of Scientists. American Sociological Review 48(6): 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gingrich, J.B., and T.E. Osterberg. 2003. Pest Birds: Biology and Management at Food Processing Facilities. In Food Plant Sanitation, ed. Y.H. Hui, B.L. Bruinsma, J.R. Gorham, W.K. Nip, P.S. Tong, and P. Ventresca, 317–339. New York: Marcel Dekker.Google Scholar
  28. Goedeke, T.K., and S. Rikoon. 2008. Otters as Actors: Scientific Controversy, Dynamism of Networks, and the Implications of Power in Ecological Restoration. Social Studies of Science 38(1): 111–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gregory, J., and S. Miller. 2000. Science in public: Communication, Culture, and Credibility. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  30. Hsieh, H.F., and S.E. Shannon. 2005. Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis. Qualitative Health Research 15(9): 1277–1288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Irwin, A., and B. Wynne, eds. 1996. Misunderstanding Science? The Public Reconstruction of Science and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jerolmack, C. 2008. How Pigeons Became Rats: The Cultural-spatial Logic of Problem Animals. Social Problems 55(1): 72–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knight, J. 2000. Natural Enemies: People-Wildlife Conflicts in Anthropological Perspective. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Ladle, R.J., P. Jepson, and R.J. Whittaker. 2005. Scientists and the Media: The Struggle for Legitimacy in Climate Change and Conservation Science. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 30(3): 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leach, E.R. 1964. Anthropological Aspects of Language: Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse. Anthrozoös 2(3): 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lee, J.H. 2009. News Values, Media Coverage, and Audience Attention: An Analysis of Direct and Mediated Causal Relationships. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 86(1): 175–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewenstein, B.V. 1995. Science and the Media. In The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies: Revised Edition, ed. S. Jasanoff, G.E. Markle, J.C. Petersen, and T. Pinch, 343–360. Thousound Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  38. Loague, P. 1993. Pest Control and Animal Welfare. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 20(4): 253–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lunney, D., and C. Moon. 2008. The Portrayal of Human-Wildlife Interactions in the Print Media. In Too Close for Comfort: Contentious Issues in Human-Wildlife Encounters, ed. D. Lunney, A. Munn, and W. Meikle, 52–64. Mosman: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Marvin, G. 2000. The Problem of Foxes: Legitimate and Illegitimate Killing. In Natural Enemies: People-Wildlife Conflicts in Anthropological Perspective, ed. J. Knight. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. McCrow-Young, A., T. Linné, and A.K. Potts. 2015. Framing Possums: War, Sport and Patriotism in Depictions of Brushtail Possums in New Zealand Print Media. Animal Studies Journal 4(2): 29–54.Google Scholar
  42. Merton, R.K. 1942 [1973]. Thee Normative Structure of Science. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  43. Peters, H.P. 1995. The Interaction of Journalists and Scientific Experts: Co-Operation and Conflict Between Two Professional Cultures. Media, Culture & Society 17(1): 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. ———. 2013. Gap Between Science and Media Revisited: Scientists as Public Communicators. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(3): 14102–14109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Peters, H.P., D. Brossard, S. De Cheveigné, S. Dunwoody, M. Kallfass, S. Miller, and S. Tsuchida. 2008. Science-Media Interface: It’s Time to Reconsider. Science Communication 30(2): 266–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Powers, L.H. 1995. Equivocation. In Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings, ed. H.V. Hansen and R.C. Pinto, 287–301. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Reddiex, B., and D.M. Forsyth. 2007. Control of Pest Mammals for Biodiversity Protection in Australia. II. Reliability of Knowledge. Wildlife Research 33(8): 711–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reyes-Galindo, L. 2016. Automating the Horae: Boundary-Work in the Age of Computers. Social Studies of Science 46(4): 586–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rooney, D. 2000. Thirty Years of Competition in the British Tabloid Press. In Tabloid Tales: Global Debates Over Media Standards, ed. C. Sparks and J. Tulloch, 91–110. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  50. Ross-Smith, V.H., R.A. Robinson, A.N. Banks, T.D. Frayling, C.C. Gibson, and J.A. Clark. 2014. The Lesser Black-Backed Gull Larus fuscus in England: How to Resolve a Conservation Conundrum. Seabird 27: 41–61.Google Scholar
  51. Serpel, J.A. 2005. People in Disguise: Anthropomorphism and the Human-Pet Relationship. In Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism, ed. L. Daston and G. Mitman. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Slayton, R. 2007. Discursive Choices Boycotting Star Wars Between Science and Politics. Social Studies of Science 37(1): 27–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Song, S.H. 2000. The Great Pigeon Massacre in a Deindustrializing American Region. In Natural Enemies: People-Wildlife Conflicts in Anthropological Perspective, ed. John Knight, 212–228. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  54. Sorace, A. 2002. High Density of Bird and Pest Species in Urban Habitats and the Role of Predator Abundance. Ornis Fennica 79(2): 60–71.Google Scholar
  55. Stewart, K., and M. Cole. 2015. The Creation of a Killer Species: Cultural Rupture in Representations of ‘Urban Foxes’ in UK Newspapers. In Critical Animal and Media Studies: Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy, ed. N. Almiron, M. Cole, and Carrie P. Freeman. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. Stuart, A. 2009. Making Science Newsworthy: Exploring the Conventions of Science Journalism. In Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age: Implications for Public Engagement and Popular Media, ed. R. Holliman, E. Whitelegg, E. Scanlon, S. Smidt, and J. Thomas, 149–165. Milton Keynes: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Thussu, D.F. 2008. News as Entertainment: The Rise of Global Infotainment. London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  58. Valenti, J.M. 1999. Commentary: How Well Do Scientists Communicate to Media? Science Communication 21(2): 172–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Weigold, M.F. 2001. Communicating Science: A Review of the Literature. Science Communication 23(2): 164–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. West, J.L. 1986. How not to Publicize Research: The UCLA Violence Center. In Reporting Science: The Case of Aggression, ed. J.H. Goldstein, 67–81. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  61. Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillian.Google Scholar
  62. Wolch, J.R., A. Gullo, and U. Lassiter. 1997. Changing Attitudes Towards California’s Cougars. Society and Animals 5(2): 95–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Carr
    • 1
  • Luis Reyes-Galindo
    • 2
  1. 1.CardiffUK
  2. 2.Geosciences InstituteState University of CampinasCampinasBrazil

Personalised recommendations