Throwing Rice at Weddings and Birds

birdseatingrice

Is it OK to feed uncooked rice to the birds?

Recently, the subject about feeding animals in my post Sabbe-Satta-Metta was brought up and how it could end up hurting animals in the long run. I answered it as “hogwash,” and then questioned the validity of the myth of throwing rice at weddings since I see people feed birds with uncooked rice all of the time in Burma. If it killed the birds, we would surely know about it and stop doing it.  C’mon, it’s seed.  Birds eat seeds all of the time.

Only a few minutes later, a link to Snopes.com was sent to me confirming my suspicion about raw rice being a myth. It is a myth.

I repeat, It is only a myth.

I am from Connecticut and that was where the myth originated. Apparently, there was a proposed environmental law in 1985 prohibiting the throwing of raw rice at weddings because the birds will eat it and then their stomaches will explode.

“We’re cautioned not to throw rice at the bride and groom, because the grain will prove harmful to the birds who swoop down to eat it. The rice expands in those little birdy stomachs, causing our avian companions to explode, we’re warned. This rumor was so pervasive, that in 1985 a Connecticut state legislator introduced a bill (amusingly titled “An Act Prohibiting the Use of Uncooked Rice at Nuptial Affairs”) to outlaw the practice: “

Ann Landers also jumped on the bandwagon promoting this myth too. But in the end, there have been many experts who have countered this myth such as Steven C. Sibley, of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (the scientific study of birds.), who said,

“Rice is no threat to birds. It must be boiled before it will expand. Furthermore, all the food that birds swallow is ground up by powerful muscles and grit in their gizzards. Many birds love rice, as any frustrated rice farmer will tell you.”

That however, was not enough to convince the public, so one professor at the University of Kentucky first did empirical testing on this issue with simulated bird stomaches, and then after he felt confident, he tried feeding uncooked rice to real birds. The conclusion was that it was just a myth and did not harm the birds.

I see it being done all the time in Myanmar. So I borrowed a handful of rice and fed the pigeons who hang out at the ITBMU Administration building. So go ahead and “Let it rain let it rain let it rain.”

Below is a video of birds being fed with uncooked rice at ITBMU.

Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.

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