Ginger Digest

Birds have fundamental rights too!

Voices Category: 

Posted on 2nd June, 2015: 18"x30"x18".

That’s roughly the size of the cage of most exotic birds for sale. The reason people buy them is because they look pretty. Well, think about it. Who doesn’t love brightly colored macaws, ornate cockatoos, and adorable cockatiels? These birds are not only beautiful, but also intelligent and make fantastic pets. And unlike dogs or cats, many birds can live for nearly 60 years. But have you ever wondered how these birds actually end up in those cages?

A recent Change.org petition shed light on Indonesia’s illegal animal trade. Dozens of endangered Cockatoos were sedated and jammed in water bottles so they could be shipped abroad. Yeah, in plastic water bottles. In fact, not just water bottles, sometimes they are even smuggled inside pipes, and even socks and underwear. What’s sad is that there is no serious consequence for the traffickers. Indonesia’s law protecting endangered animals is 25 years old and utterly outdated. The criminals responsible for the illegal animal trade are rarely caught.

Flights of fundamental rights

In a recent statement, Justice Manmohan Singh of the Delhi High Court, stated that birds have the fundamental right to fly and live in dignity, and could not be subjected to cruelty. “All birds have fundamental rights to fly in the sky and human beings have no right to keep them in small cages for the purposes of their business or otherwise,” Singh reportedly said, as an observation in court, in response to a plea submitted by an NGO called People For Animals.

Furthermore, Justice Singh expressed anguish that instead of being allowed to fly free, birds were, “exported illegally to foreign countries without proper food, water or medical aid”. The judge noted that making a trade of birds is in violation of the rights of the birds and they deserve sympathy.

The animal welfare organization in its plea submitted to the court, indicated that as per an earlier judgment the trail court had allowed a few birds back into custody of bird owners from whom they were rescued, while ignoring the allegations and recommendations of PFA.

Caution in compassion

While hailing that court’s views as path breaking, activists and bird lovers are also worried that some citizens might take the judge’s words too literally and go around freeing all caged birds in homes or pet stores. This would be an overreaction, to say the least.

“The judge has made a very humane and emotional statement and I have received quite a few messages from animal lovers who are very happy with the news,” Geeta Seshamani, the Delhi-based co-founder of Wildlife SOS India, told Scroll.in. “But if this inspires people to set caged birds free, it would be a tragedy in the making, because birds bred in aviaries cannot suddenly survive in the wild.”

Seshamani is not the only one who feels this way. Her fears are shared by some of the other animal experts as well, who are not entirely clear about whether Justice Singh’s statements constitute a judgment. It’s important to keep in mind that birds bred in capitivity or in conditions that are different from that of India, would not be able to survive in the wild.

“Many of the bird species that are traded have not been raised in the wild, so they have lost their instincts for hunting and self-preservation,” Shaleen Attre, a Delhi-based animal rights worker explained in the Scroll.in article, “Many traders clip the wings of the birds they try to sell.” Out in the open, these birds would simply not survive, and could become prey for predators.

Free trade and freedom

It should also be remembers that according to Indian wildlife protection and international trade laws, certain species of birds can be imported into the country legally. Once the requisite licenses are obtained from the customs department, traders can import bird species, meant for trade, into the country.

To spread awareness, Seshamani and her colleagues have already started sending out messages to animal lovers on their networks, asking them to observe restraint. “The appropriate solution would be to rescue birds being sold illegally and give them to specialized organizations that can care for them,” Seshamani concluded.

It’s important to remember that birds are smart animals, and caring for one has been compared to having a two year old. But if you still want a bird as a pet, we suggest you find a bird rescue in your area. These rescues are always looking for committed people to adopt their animals. And in return, you will be providing a safe home to an animal in need.

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