Carr, L., & Reyes-Galindo, L. (2017). ‘The Year of the Gull’: Demonisation of Wildlife, Pestilence and Science in the British Press. In Intercultural Communication and Science and Technology Studies (pp. 147-174). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
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.