For things to get better, we have to first identify the problem. Well the most obvious problem is too many birds, not enough homes. Rescues, shelters and sanctuaries are full to overflowing! What causes this?
A simple answer might be to try to pin it all on the “evil breeders” – but there’s a huge flaw in that theory. Who in their right mind would get up in the middle of night to feed chicks and risk bites from wild parents if they weren’t making a good profit at it? So then a big part of the blame falls on US – the owners and buyers of baby birds. WE are the ones who have fed the monster and allowed it to grow. I say *US* because most of us – myself included – started out naïve and *gasp* BOUGHT our baby birds. That puts some of that huge load of blame squarely on MY shoulders. Marden and Megan both came from a breeder. They were cute little baby birds in a pet store when they entered our lives and changed our world forever. We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for Marden’s life, and his untimely death. Does that make what we did right? NO! Absolutely not! But what is done is done. We can’t undo their being produced, we can’t undo the fact that we bought them, and the only way to ease the guilt and regret we feel is to move forward and take the negative and turn it into something positive: Marden’s Ark.
Now that we know that there are countless birds that are suffering and living in miserable conditions, or are unwanted, we have become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Sitting back and pointing fingers at the breeders who produced them isn’t going to change the fact that WE bought them. That means we squarely share in the blame. Unless we ALL come together, we won’t be able to find all the ways to make things BETTER, and then join our hands and hearts and work together to change the world for these birds.
Conflict accomplishes nothing and destroys much. Remember the old adage “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? There’s a deep meaning behind that. By being hateful or sour with others, you will cause them to disregard everything you say – even though they may sometimes clearly see you are right. But by reaching out, and working together we can allow relationships to form that allow us to influence them and slowly help them see our point of view. That’s how change will happen.
We went to start at the very root of the problem – the buyers, because without their money, the breeders would not be breeding birds. Period. It really is just that simple.
So we do education. We are currently appearing in our local Petco -- OH yes, I know I just heard you GASP! PETCO – they are EVIL! They sell birds (and other small animals!) Dee, how could you? Let me state at the outset that I don’t agree with stores selling live animals. I would love to see it stop, right now, today! Calling Petco corporate didn’t stop it. Boycotting didn’t stop it. They are failing to see the problems it creates: it puts easy access to living, breathing, feeling creatures in the hands of often-uninformed consumers who quickly realize that this “novelty” that they picked up on impulse isn’t as cool as they thought it would be. This is the very spark that leads to the conflagration that is the “pet industry” as we know it. So what happens when that impulse-shopper meets a true parrot advocate, who politely and respectfully explains the realities of caring for these complex, intelligent and loving little creatures? This is our opportunity to smother that spark before it goes any further.
We’ve been really fortunate in that this particular store has very conscientious management and employees who truly care about the animals they have in their store. I have seen them actively discouraging buyers they don’t feel are going to be serious enough about giving proper care to their birds. They are putting the welfare of the birds above the dollars to be made in a sale. That impresses me because even if it’s not my ideal of no pet sales, ever, it’s a step in the right direction!
From this point, we go on to do presentation to children’s groups, scouting organizations, school classes… the possibilities are endless! We want to reach people and change how they think and how they feel about caring for companion parrots – one heart and one mind at a time. Our message is simple: birds don’t make good “pets” because they aren’t “pets” – they are sentient, intelligent, emotional, and loving beings that deserve to be companions who are respected as such. We need to not only raise the bar for those who have parrots in their homes – we need to #GiveTheBarWings – because we owe them so much for the freedoms they’ve given up in order to become part of our lives. We need to stop trying to make them what we wish they’d be and love them for the amazing beings they are. We need to re-examine how we view “proper cage size” and “proper diet” as well as how much time we set aside to their care and to their emotional well-being. This is what we are teaching and this is what we practice here. And this is the direction we are pushing for change.
It is our goal to improve the lives of birds everywhere through education and outreach. Partnering with families, stores, and yes – even breeders, to bring awareness of the relationships we can achieve by truly caring for the parrots in our lives. Don’t fight and squabble and sit back on your hands while flinging profanities and hatred at a perceived “enemy.” Realize we can all be “the enemy” by either our actions or inactions, and combine your energy with ours as an effort to be part of the solution, rather than the problem! Only when we all work together can we change the world on a scale that will benefit great numbers of parrots and the humans who love them. And THAT is truly change we can all agree with and believe in!