Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Her Majesty's Swans

Mute Swans in the Abbey Fields pond, Kenilworth (notice also the long shadows; this photograph was taken at noon).

Last week, a Muslim man in Wales was jailed for killing and eating a mute swan. He explained that he had been fasting for Ramadan, and was desperately hungry. He was apprehended with blood on his shirt and white feathers in his beard. The officers making the arrest told him that all swans in Great Britain were the property of the Queen. He replied, "I hate the Queen. I hate this country." Actually, although the Queen claims right of ownership of "all unmarked mute swans in open water," she only exercises that right for certain stretches of the River Thames. Royal ownership of swans dates back to the 13th century, when swans were a favorite dish at royal banquets. Each year, in mid-July, the royal Swan Warden performs a census of swans on the Thames, in a ceremony known as the "swan upping." For the record, it is illegal to kill swans not because they belong to the Queen, but because they are protected as endangered species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Link: The story of the swan-eating Muslim, from the BBC.

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