I recently read a post on the Feathered Angels Blog that sums up perfectly what I feel about the responsible breeding of parrots. It spurs us to ask ourselves if can there really be such a thing as ‘responsible’ breeding, when few birds remain in their forever homes – even those specially selected by breeders?
The author writes,
“As I look around at the thousands and thousands of homeless birds in rescues and sanctuaries, I have to wonder how anyone can ever argue that there is such a thing as responsible breeding?”
The article goes on to explore some sad truths: Our lives change. Circumstances change. The term ‘forever home’ is an illusion, as, for these long-lived creatures, being passed from home to home is a reality. Very few people can actually commit to twenty to eighty-odd years as a virtual slave. Many of the birds in rescues, she points out, were bred by responsible breeders.
Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with those words. Yet I’m also learning to choose my battles.
(I feel I should clarify here that I am referring to the breeding of parrots as pets, for profit, not for conservational efforts.)
My stance on owning parrots is this: I don’t believe that birds should be pets – and if I could, I would stop all breeding. The parrots who still exist could be adopted into loving homes. No bird would ever again be removed from the wild. These are all wild animals residing in human homes, and need to be treated as such, I feel.
Except that isn’t how life works. It will never work that way, either, and I get that. Our captive parrots desperately need us. They are here to stay, and the best thing we can do is educate future and current owners, with the aim of improving birds’ lives.
Argue it how you want, there is a demand for parrots as pets. People can either obtain reliable information on how to choose a good breeder or pet shop, or they can unwittingly turn to places that mistreat their animals and fail to set them up for the best possible life… or worse. Potential buyers could accidentally obtain a bird from an illegal wild-caught scheme.
Where I can, I will always encourage people to adopt. After all, adoption isn’t always rescue; sometimes it is simply giving a home to a bird whose family couldn’t keep up with the demands and expense of a parrot, for one reason or another. I know also that when it comes to this process of re-homing and rescue – which admittedly can be a difficult path – not everyone identifies themselves as able to provide for a bird with ‘baggage’ from previous homes.
In an ideal situation, these people might say, ‘I will get a dog or cat instead.’ Looking honestly at how the world works, however, they will turn to a shop or breeder. Better to choose a reputable source than the alternative.
As an example, Mishka, our cockatiel, was purchased from a pet shop that kept its birds in less than sanitary conditions. She never recovered from that. We returned to purchase food for her at a later date, and saw four cockatiels crammed into the too-small, grimy cage she’d occupied previously. Our money furthered their business.
I don’t feel that pet shops are an ideal place for birds – being prey animals, it is a often a stressful environment for them. But there are decent pet shops out there, and there are, well, the opposite.
So what can we do to make a difference right now? Avoid breeders and pet shops who don’t educate potential owners, and/or who keep their pets in unsuitable conditions. BUT support the places who treat their animals well, as this is an endlessly better alternative to keeping those other establishments open.
Continue to educate ourselves and those around us. Let others know about the trouble and stress that comes with a parrot – it isn’t all joy and smiles, after all, although they have their moments! And don’t forget that things are always changing in the bird world as we discover new things. It’s okay to change your own mind, too. And don’t forget to encourage others to adopt.
Donate to places like Phoenix Landing U.S.A. or the Island Parrot Sanctuary in Scotland. These are the places that strive to make a difference. Donation doesn’t have to be monetary; rescues and other organisations need and appreciate toys, perches, food, or your time. Volunteering is a wonderful way to make an impact.
Adopt, if you can. There are thousands upon thousands of homeless parrots out there who are in need of a home, and not all of them are the phobic rescue cases that people envision. Some have just been the victim of time. When you live nearly as long as your humans, life can be tough.
And, finally, don’t be afraid to speak up. One voice can trigger the change needed. One voice can spur a chain of thoughts that leads to action. One voice can help many parrots.
Our parrots need us.