Guest blog – Balls by Olaf Lipor and Ian Parsons

Olaf Lipor

We hear so much about the introduction of the government’s new ‘Fat Tax’ that we no longer really listen to the detail. But, as birdwatchers, we really should be listening, because this new tax is going to hit us very hard financially.

The new tax will substantially increase the price of foods that are high in fat, with the idea that they will eventually be priced out of the market. This may sound like a good idea, but unfortunately the government have also included bird food in the scope of this new tax and that has massive implications for those of us that feed birds in our gardens.

I am forever supplying fat balls to the birds in my garden. But I don’t see how I am going to continue to do so now that this tax has come into force in this new financial year (that starts today, the first of April).  Their price is now going to work out at about £10 per fat ball, just a few weeks ago £10 was a load of balls! I spoke to the manager of my local garden centre and he told me that in the last week there was clear of evidence of panic buying by many of his customers, to the point where the centre had to impose restrictions on the number of balls per customer.

When I contacted the Department of Health they told me that they were aware of the issues involved, but a recent study carried out by the NHS had highlighted the risk that obese children, denied the opportunity to buy high fat content biscuit bars and cakes, were highly likely to migrate to the pet and garden aisle of the supermarket and buy the fat balls to munch on as a substitute. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was so concerned at this that he insisted on bird food being included in the new tax as a vital measure to combat the obesity epidemic and the threat to our NHS, which, as he pointed out, is now better funded than ever before to pay for studies like this.

I even contacted the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise my concerns, but he said that the tax raised by this new measure would help ensure a strong future for the country and that he was offsetting any potential impact on wild birds by providing a new tax break for birdbox builders which would be announced shortly.

In frustration I contacted my local MP, Boris Johnson, who responded to me in a phone call, in which he talked balls for several minutes.

I did receive some hope from DEFRA who told me that they have commenced a consultation period with a number of interested parties about introducing a scheme where they remove birds from gardens in times of cold weather and feed them with fat balls on grouse moors (these of course are exempt from much of our taxation and laws due to being in the ownership of important people) before releasing them back in the gardens in the spring, when they will be able to feed on, and I quote, ‘seeds and stuff’.

I can only hope that this plan works, although I am concerned that DEFRA haven’t worked out the logistics properly, because they are talking a load of balls if they think that this is going to succeed.



Olaf Lipor grew up in northern Lapland, where he extensively studied the hallucinogenic effects of various fungi species.  Olaf has been involved in many pioneering natural history studies and is the author of many books including the famous ‘Nest Building Techniques of the Common Cuckoo’ and ‘The Hibernation Strategies of the House Martin’.


5 Replies to “Guest blog – Balls by Olaf Lipor and Ian Parsons”

  1. Olaf, I understand where you are coming from, but surely we should congratulate the government on this. Much policy is prone to moral hazard, but here they are anticipating that and avoiding it. Let’s face it, having taken back control, we don’t want our children munching fatballs. And the Chancellor’s proposal for a tax break for nest box builders, what’s not to love? Better than subidies for Russian oligarchs that’s for sure.

  2. I understand that many manufacturers of fat balls are reducing the content to low or zero fat in the expectation of an EU derogation. It is hoped to get this into the Birds Directive before Brexit. Look out for the Petition.

  3. You got me! Brilliant! The thing is, I can really imagine our politicians believing that kids would buy fat balls from the bird food section to compensate for deprivation in the sweet aisle! Only gradually did ‘something’ in my subconscious say ‘ what’s the date, you prune?!’

  4. For far too long this country has fostered a hand-out culture that has steadily sapped our moral fibre to the point where too many of us are like a load of limp rags when compared to our ancestors in the days of the Battle of Britain, Empire and, of course, Agincourt. Brexit has given us the chance to take back control and to put some English steel ramrod back into our spines and there is no reason why garden birds should be exempted from this. Readers surely cannot have failed to notice that many of the free-loading birds that are clinging to our balls are not English at all but have – thanks to the so called freedom of movement obligations enforced by the EU – poured annually into this country from Eastern Europe in unsustainable numbers. Well this has got to stop! British balls for British birds is the only fair and reasonable policy and the reason why millions of voters chose to wrench our freedom back from the tyranny of Brussels.
    I would hope that the policy will be developed further with some kind of needs-based assessment to ensure that balls are issued only in cases of genuine need and birds that are capable of foraging for themselves do so. I believe there are a number of American corporations who are capable of administering such a scheme efficiently and fairly on behalf of the government at only several multiples of the cost of the present balls-up.
    If our avian friends are to truly stand on their own two feet we have to end this dependency culture that is surely attributable to all those years of Labour government and I would suggest that if the government is serious about this it should also consider a scheme to give birds the right to buy their own nest boxes.

  5. Very clever and brilliant follow through from Jonathan.
    PS. Should I recognise the gentleman prepared to pose as the April Fool?

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