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From Friends of Animals: May Birds Know A World Without Cages

January 03, 2006 | Monk Parakeet

On National Bird Day, 5 January 2005, Friends of Animals will celebrate birds' freedom to fly, wherever they are in the world.

Just to our South, the New York Companion Bird Club will be celebrating in a different manner.

Although they will be hearing about activism on behalf of Connecticut's monk parakeets during an event held at the New York Theosophical Society, bird enthusiasts will also raffle off prizes from Grey Feather Toy Creations, and listen to Robert A. Monaco, DVM, speak about "state-of-the-art medicine and surgery for avian and exotic animal companions." The raffling off of a "bird gym" will fund the transportation of a bigger cage for a nursing home-based cockatoo. But unfortunately, Grey Feather Toys sees the event as an opportunity to promote "the outstanding quality of their products" and herald themselves as "one of the leaders of the avian toy market" for Bird Club members.

Overall, the planned Bird Day event is a promotion of cages, not freedom. Because it's advertised as taking place at the New York Theosophical Society, it carries the appearance of Society's endorsement. (To date, the Society has not commented.)

On 14 January 2005, the Theosophical Society will provide the venue for Larry D.D. Clifford to speak, exhibiting a macaw. Clifford, the owner of the Exotic Parrot Breeding Aviary, trains animals for Sea World and other shows and television commercials. Clifford's trainees include cetaceans, sea lions, parrots, grizzly bears, and big cats. For a fee -- $65 for single, $85 for couples -- Clifford will show how people can correct unwanted habits in pet birds, and train birds to talk. This is an upscale yet circus-like event staged on the Society's premises. Other animals were not put on this earth to be objects of our amusement.

Due to the disturbing mix of subjects described above, we at Friends of Animals want to be clear that we do not endorse these events.

Said Friends of Animals legal director Lee Hall, "The Theosophical Society's mission is to cultivate the spiritual growth of humanity. A pioneer in its history was the acclaimed vegetarian doctor Anna Kingsford, who spoke of the inherent value of animals other than ourselves. To offer a venue for patently exploitive promotions is to flout the Society's best traditions."

We urge people everywhere to rethink the idea of owning, breeding, or trading birds in captivity. For every day is Bird Day -- a day when beings born to fly freely should enjoy that experience.

Those who agree should feel empowered to ask the New York Theosophical Society not to host promotions by Grey Feather Toy Creations (5 Jan), or the Members-Only Exotic Bird Training Workshop by Larry D.D. Clifford (14 Jan), or to invite such promotions in the future.

It is no justification that a Bird Club thought up and organized these events. They do not merit hosting in a Theosophical Society venue.

Lyn Trotman
The New York Theosophical Society

The Friends of Animals Contact for this Release is:
Laurel Lundstrom
Phone: 203.656.1522
Fax: 203.656.0267


A reaction to Peter's view that trapped parrots recently seen in Senegal were poached: Senegal is the world's largest exporter of wild caught birds. The caged parrots seen in Senegal were legally captured, not poached. Nobody bothers to keep records of how many nestlings are crushed, torn apart or fall victim to high levels of stress associated with capture. Millions of birds have died on journey to the pet shop, and trade in birds results in mortality rates of up to 50 percent for birds destined for the pet trade before they leave their homeland. Endangered parrots are smuggled into the U.S.,as there are considerable profits involved. Also, the pet bird industry in the U.S. has flourished since the passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act. For some endangered parrot species, more birds exist in U.S. cages than remain in nature. That's pathetic. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

Quoting from the World Wildlife site: "Before passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act, U.S. imports were substantial. In 1990, the United States imported 450,000 live birds, of which at least 150,000 were parrots. Today, roughly 17,000 parrots are imported into the United States each year; roughly 3,600 of these are taken from the wild." The situation *has* improved. Of the worst offenders--Senegal, Cameroon, Tanzania, and the Congo--Senegal and the Congo *are* signatories to CITES, Cameroon and Tanzania are not. Frankly, the only way to stop the wild bird trade is to cut it off at the source through enforcement and through economics--where the inhabitants of the region have a better chance of *improving their circumstances through conservation* instead of trapping. People also cut down every tree in sight when they need fuel, disregarding that eventually there will be no trees left. Human needs and nature must be addressed in any plan for it to succeed. What were the other economic prospects for the Senegalese you "saw the street with 3 caged parrots — birds who had just been caught in the bush"? I wholly agree that there is no neeed to capture birds in the wild. Nor for massive captive breeding. Responsible bird owners are *on your side*. My question remains, what is your plan of action for the tens of millions of birds in captivity today--a problem that will last beyond our lifetimes? Simply denouncing ownership does not support the kind of responsible ownership that today's captive bird population requires for the forseeable future. (Nor does it strike at the bird capture problem where it feeds the system. If you want birds to remain wild, then they have to be *worth more in wild* to the local inhabitants, plain and simple.) Education has to start with what's *really involved* in responsible avian care--which can certainly be juxtaposed with the message, "That's why it's better they live in the wild." Since we *agree* that "No one is saying not to look after the birds who are currently dependent on owners," then I would return to my original posting/request, that when you go on the attack, at least do it where your interests and the interests of responsible bird owners coincide. :-) [Blog editors' note: Birds already are, and always have been, worth more in the wild than in captivity from a ethical point of view. The value of their freedom is inherent; it doesn't need human measurements or validation. We are not here to make ideas more attractive by making them more lucrative. We're interested in the possibility that people can accept a viewpoint because it's the decent thing to do. We also work to educate ourown communities regarding decisions we ourselves can make (e.g., fair trade) to alleviate the poverty of others. And if we don't want people in other regions to engage in certain activities, we should be mindful of our own activities. There is simply no justification for anyone to breed birds themselves (thereby being part of the problem) and denounce others for engaging in the trade.]

Peter, you suggest we work with "responsible bird owners"-- but do we agree on what this responsibility is? You say there's no need for massive captive breeding, but apparently still believe birds should be bred for owners, deemed committed to their care. This contradicts your message that it's better they live in the wild. There would be no profit in bird sales if people didn't regard birds as marketable pets. Thus, responsible owners do not breed. If you want to include breeders under your definition of responsibility, we have a fundamental disagreement, and compromising on fundamentals would not make for productive alliances. Ellie Maldonado Friends of Animals

For the purposes of clarification, Larry Clifford did not exhibit a macaw or any bird at the workshop, nor did he attempt to train birds to talk, and is not the owner of a breeding aviary. Our club is very much anti-breeding, and we do not encourage breeding captive birds. Our club, the New York Companion Bird Club, champions for the rights of all avians (see our mission and message board statements), and we hope one day that no animal or bird will be sold as a commodity but will be free in their natural environment without the interference of humans; however, millions of creatures presently are in bondage, and we do our best to educate bird guardians to care for their birds as responsibily, ethically and humanely as possible. We are the only club for example that is anti- wing clipping. If Friends of Animals is truly on a mission to end avian captivity and ownership, we suggest that they attack bird clubs, pet stores and organizations whose goal is to keep birds bred, sold, clipped and caged at any cost. There also is the issue of sanctuaries who promote breeding programs and in some cases breed parrots in their sanctuaries, which should be investigated and addressed. These are goals more worthy of your time and efforts and should you even be remotely successful, you will have done a great justice for the rights of birds, who should be flying free in the skies with species of their own kind, not caged and clipped in alien environments. Our club wishes you much success in your endeavor to stop the exploitation of birds and animals in captivity and return them to their rightful place in this world.

During holiday to Athens we were distressed to see about 12 birds in one small cage. Also a large cockeral in a small cage. This was at Athenis st down from 'fresh hotel' I have pictures if required Thank-you for your attention Pamela

the uninterrupted display of caged companion birds in markets, festivals and other public gatherings promotes and reinforces a belief that the practice of caging birds is socially and ethically acceptable. It is a tragedy that this behaviour will continue for as long as we tolerate and indeed support the breeding of native and exotic birds for profit.


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