Mute swans are being targeted by people with crossbows as the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) say people are trying to catch them for food.
Unfortunately for these people, it is unlawful in the UK to hunt Mute Swans because they’re all legally property of Her Majesty The Queen.
This law comes from a time when swan was reserved as a delicacy for the Monarch, and in order to do this, laws were introduced to prevent commoners hunting mute swans. Legally in the UK, mute swans are only allowed to be eaten by the Royal Family and by fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge on 25th June.
Although the Crown (the reigning British Monarch) retains the right to ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, but the Queen only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries. This ownership is shared with the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, who were granted rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century, and was extended to the College via ancient Royalist ties.
These laws come from the twelfth century.
Theoretically, these ancient laws could be invoked to allow the people who are hunting swans (who are also otherwise protected by other legislation in the UK) to be prosecuted.
Graham Hammond from the RSPCA said they will examine the broken arrow for DNA and cross-reference any sample with the police database in a bid to catch the offender
It is not the first time a swan has been targetted to be killed for the table.
Last year there was a spate of swan attacks in Lincoln and one involved a swan being bludgeoned to death with nail-embedded sticks by a group of five men.