Parrots need your voice
Last year, I was taken to a “parrot party,” which was a gathering of parrot people, speakers and vendors. Also there, were a couple of tables set up for dog and cat rescues. I started chatting with one of the volunteers at a dog rescue. As we discussed the similarity of the needs of dog and parrot rescue, the over-population problems, lack of suitable homes, and bird/puppy mills, she mentioned how much she loved the vet who was having the gathering. I asked her if she knew that this vet was also a parrot breeder, to which she said, yes.
So, I asked why she could be so critical of dog breeders, but not apply the same to bird breeders. She looked at me like I had three heads, and changed the subject as soon as she could. At that moment, something became completely clear to me. Many dog and cat rescue people aren’t onboard with the plight of unwanted, homeless, neglected and abused parrots. Somehow, they don’t see the suffering of parrots like they do mammals.
Let me be clear, this post is not about that vet/breeder, although I anticipate some might make it into that (if there are comments with regard to that, I probably won’t approve them, although I will consider them on a comment-to-comment basis). This is about the disconnect dog and cat people have regarding birds.
After thinking about that conversation with the dog rescue volunteer, I remembered that it wasn’t the first time I was confronted with this. I was at an event with a dog rescue, and was introduced to a man from another dog rescue. It was mentioned to him that I work with parrots, so he told me he was good friends with a woman who also works with parrots. That woman I know to be a bird breeder and a bird flipper.
As an aside, a flipper is a broker, and Howard Voren perfectly described what brokers do in the HSUS article, “No Fly Zone:”
“The old breeder parrots are sold at auction. ‘When a pair reaches the end of their productivity [they no longer can bear offspring, i.e., generate income], they go to a broker,’ he [Voren] says, ‘to be sold to other breeders. Only not with my name on them.’” [i.e., a scam].
Perhaps dog and cat rescue people don’t understand what a bird flipper does, but certainly something should connect when they hear “bird breeder.” Parrot breeders, like so many other animal breeders, do not have the best interest for the birds in their charge, and compromise their health and well-being with their bottom line, their profit. These are the same problems with cats and dogs, but there are other issues that complicate the problems involving parrots.
Parrot advocates face a strong, well-run propaganda machine, the American Federation of Aviculture, that spreads misinformation in order to continue breeding parrots, and gain support from the general public. What sets parrots apart from dogs and cats is that they are not domesticated, and are wild animals, like chimps, tigers and dolphins. They are also endangered, some critically, so one of the lies told by parrot breeders (also known as aviculturists) is that they are part of the conservation effort to save parrots by breeding them for the pet trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any contribution to the pet trade makes them a desirable “commodity,” subject to the impulses and trends of supply and demand. No other endangered species are traded in such ways, and no true conservationist would consider the pet trade as anything but exploitive and harmful for the long-term outlook of parrot species.
Another lie disseminated by parrot breeders is that there is no captive over-population problem. This campaign has been so successful, it’s been adopted by aviculturists in countries outside of the US. Some of these are EU countries, South Africa, and in particular, Australia, where breeders say they don’t have the same problems we see in the US. However, not only does Australia have a parrot over-population problem, they have too few rescues and sanctuaries where unwanted birds can go. Instead, parrots languish in small cages in people’s driveways because their care became too difficult. To add to this denial of any problems, American aviculturists blame rescues and sanctuaries for overflowing with parrots because they are too strict in adopting out. Perhaps if they applied stricter criteria for their buyers, parrots wouldn’t see multiple homes in one lifetime. The HSUS states that, “The average pet parrot will go through seven homes in the first 10 years of her life.” I don’t know how they came to those numbers, but I do know after 20+ years of working with parrots, most will have several homes in one lifetime. And another…. the problem isn’t too many birds, it’s too few homes.
Yup, that’s right, Jamie Whittaker, president of The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) said in an article in The Dodo titled, “It’s Time To Admit Birds Shouldn’t Be Kept In Cages” (no longer available, but saved to my hard drive):
“Jamie Whittaker…believes more households with pet birds would be beneficial. ‘The problem appears to be less an issue of too many birds than it is an issue of too few homes with birds,’ she told The Dodo…This is why, Whittaker says, AFA supports breeding birds: ‘There simply are not enough of them for the world to enjoy.'”
If it were true that there aren’t enough parrots for the world to enjoy, then there wouldn’t be “too few homes” (insert face-palm).
So, the reason for writing this is to reach out to dog, cat and any other rescue people, and anyone else wanting to help animals, to apply the same criticisms to bird breeders as they do other breeders. Don’t support bird breeders, and help us educate the public on parrot issues, the third most popular “pet” in the US. Many of us crazy bird people are also involved in dog and cat advocacy, and would never promote a dog or cat breeder in any way, regardless of what else they do. A breeder is a breeder. Period.
Don’t Shop, Adopt.