There’s something wrong with this swan story

About 200 years ago, I blogged about a Sun story claiming that asylum seekers were coming over here and eating our swans. The short version? It was bollocks. But it’s back! Back! BACK!

From the Daily Mail:

Immigrant was cooking swan surrounded by the bodies of slaughtered birds


In a squalid makeshift campsite by a north London waterway, a man was cooking his evening meal – surrounded by the bodies of slaughtered swans.

Mr Gibson did not need to look in the pot to know what it contained: the piles of feathers and stripped carcasses were evidence enough.

And that’s not all. The man was an immigrant!

By the time he had alerted the authorities, the man – believed to be an East European immigrant – had packed up his tent and fled.

Believed by whom? The article doesn’t say, but it does point out that the park is used by, y’know, foreign types. The article also reluctantly notes that by the time the authorities got there, the actual evidence of swan-cooking had magically disappeared.

The article continues:

Several of the campsites were littered with dozens of old car batteries but it was not clear what use these were being put to.

It’s obvious: asylum seekers are coming to our parks and electrocuting our wildlife! Happens in Eastern Europe all the time. My wife went to Poland once and couldn’t sleep at night for the sounds of quacking and zapping.

Far be it for me to suggest that the article’s a load of old bollocks based entirely on hearsay, but…






0 responses to “There’s something wrong with this swan story”

  1. Apparently they keep coal in the bath as well.

    Have you read “Flat Earth News” yet? I quite fancy it, although I’m sure it’ll just depress me.

  2. mupwangle

    Call yourself a journalist? Swans don’t quack. They trumpet.

    Spam word – waddle. :-D

  3. Gary

    > Have you read “Flat Earth News” yet?

    It’s on the list, but I haven’t got round to it yet. I suspect it’ll be flawed but interesting.

  4. Gary

    > Swans don’t quack. They trumpet.

    And then they break your arm.

  5. > The article also reluctantly notes that by the time the authorities got there, the actual evidence of swan-cooking had magically disappeared.

    Be fair, now. What the article actually says is that the large carcasses had gone but there were smaller bits left, so only some of the evidence had gone. And enough evidence was left for an expert from a swan sanctuary to examine it.

    I’m not sure why it’s so obvious that the story’s bollocks, to be honest. I mean, we have plenty of poachers in Britain. Why wouldn’t other countries have any? If the allegation were that an immigrant had been caught cooking rabbits or ducks or wood pigeons or fish, no-one would find it odd. And swan’s good eating. I’d eat it. I used to live on the River Lea. It has a lot of swans. Famous for it. Anyone looking to kill a bit of wild food round them parts who didn’t at least consider swan would have to be a bit thick, frankly. So (a) why wouldn’t a poacher migrate, and (b) why wouldn’t a poacher eat swan?

    What is suspicious, however, is that the witness reports seeing lots of swan carcasses. A swan’s bloody huge. How many people was this guy supposedly cooking for?

    Another thing that struck me is that this park is known to be used by immigrants as a campsite. If I pitched a tent in my local park and started living there, I’d get moved on.

    Anyway, the article says the police are trying to track down the poacher, which implies they’re taking it seriously. So it’s easy enough to debunk the story if it’s false: call the police and ask them. Like this guy did.

    But it wasn’t just the shaky facts that I found distasteful, it was also the crude racial stereotyping. Implicit in the articles was the notion that someone from Eastern Europe would be happy to roast a swan – implying a degree of barbarism and savagery. Yet, as far as I know, eating a swan is as alien to the Serbian way of thinking, for example, as eating a cat would be to a Briton.

    He’s wrong about this: nothing about eating swan implies barbarism or savagery to the British. It’s been a delicacy for centuries. The taboo is against poaching them. Same as deer.

    Apparently, the Lea’s swan population has been dropping of late, but no-one’s sure why.

    Incidentally, here’s one verified case of a man of non-British extraction poaching and eating a swan. So it’s not such an absurd idea that it simply can’t happen. He wasn’t Eastern European, though.

  6. Gary

    That Nick Medic piece was the one I’d blogged about before, but I couldn’t be arsed digging out the link.

    The same story was in The Sun a few days ago, from the same bloke. link here. Some of the details are different, though. Mail says he called the authorities; Sun says it did. Mail says “believed to be immigrants”, Sun says the bloke thinks they’re immigrants. In the Sun he found the carcasses. In the mail he saw a man cooking them. Etc.

    My concern over this stuff is that supposition and hearsay is being presented as fact. Every time this story pops up it turns up on Stormfront, for example, so while the first Sun story was toss it’s still provided fuel for idiots. Like this Sun commenter:

    “These immigrants are vile, and so is their behaviour. Round them up, and ship them back to where they came from. Then, shut the borders.”

    > So it’s not such an absurd idea that it simply can’t happen.

    Oh, I don’t doubt that it happens. But I very much doubt the stuff you see in the article comments where people know someone who met someone who says all the wildlife in England has been barbecued by poles.

  7. Gary

    Sorry, another inconsistency:

    The authorities he alerted did not turn up until the next day. Mr Gibson said: “By the time they came down the bloke had gone. He must have thrown the carcasses away.

    “There were bits of bone and some feathers but there were no bones left.”

    The scene was visited later by Kevin Garten, a volunteer from Shepperton Swan Sanctuary.

    He said: “Those carcasses were not stripped by animals. I know what foxes do. These were meticulously stripped and the head and neck were still attached – a fox would have had it straight off.

    “I cannot definitely say it was human but I can definitely say it was no animal.”

    Doesn’t the first bit contradict the second?

  8. Yeah, I was wondering about that. I thought it was saying that there were enough bits left for the swan bloke to examine properly, but on second reading it does just look like crap.

    I thought swans honk, like geese.

  9. mupwangle

    >>I thought swans honk, like geese.

    They also hiss. I think it depends on the breed. They don’t quack though. ;-)

  10. Gary

    They do if you electrocute them with an old car battery.

  11. If you pour Fairy Liquid on to a duck, it sinks.