Something’s really put a bit of a damper on my festive spirit this year. One of my neighbours has some sort of parakeet in a cage in their back yard. It’s not tiny, but it’s not overly spacious either, and made of metal roofing sheets mounted on top of four poles. I guess that it’s about two metres on each side. All I can see is the back of it, but I think it has wire mesh on one side. They’re both out every day, and they don’t have any children so nothing happens out there at all, apart from troops of monkeys zooming in and out. I’ve been trying not to look at it, or think about it, but that birdie guy in there spends a lot of his day calling, and he sounds mournful and miserable as hell, so the thought of what his life must be like locked up in there year in and year out, alone, and in all weathers, pops up in my thoughts all throughout each day. It must be absolute hell. It’s hell for me just thinking about it.
I know that most people don’t get to spend as much time with their pet birds as I do with mine, and I understand that cages are the recognised homes for them. I think it’s bad enough that many parrots never get to leave these cages, often spending their days alone in empty homes while their owners are at work, and get fed what and when their owners choose, but to park such a wonderful creature out in your yard in a metal box just seems beyond cruel to me.
A couple of things that stand out for me as far as my own feathered horde are concerned – firstly is how incredibly intelligent they are. They get happy, sad, angry, and occasionally bored. They have clear thought processes. They have senses of humour. They feel emotion. The second thing is how loving they are. They so obviously feel love and affection. Thirdly is that they have no malice. So if I had to compare birds or animals to my human neighbours and ask who’s the better person I most certainly wouldn’t vote for the humans. No other creature on this planet purposely imprisons any other, and they certainly don’t knowingly or unknowingly torture them. Only people do that.
I’m not sure what, if anything, to do about the neighbour’s back yard bird, or if I’m over-reacting because I’m such a fan of the feathered, but I’m trying anyway to think of something that won’t offend them or bring wrath on that feathery guy’s head. But I can’t carry on listening to his sad calls, or catching glimpses of that contraption on sticks, and still be able to concentrate or get any work done. It’s so much easier when you aren’t forced to look at animal suffering. Out of sight, out of mind. I’m sure a lot of people would think that there’s nothing wrong with keeping a bird like that. Definitely the people who believe that animals are not sentient beings, and most certainly don’t have feelings or souls, or the right to freedom. You can’t free animals after being bred and kept in captivity anyway, but you can give them the dignity and comfort every creature deserves – at least to the best of your ability. And you can stop capturing and breeding new ones.
My wish for 2014 is that every person who wants buy any sort of bird, from a cheap little budgie to the most expensive parrot, first finds out how to care for it from someone who really knows. Find out how long your potential bird is likely to live (some live to a hundred years), and to behave, so that if having a lovely pile green poop on your shoulder now and then, or discovering that he likes to munch on furniture and has a voice like an air-horn is going to be a problem – avoid it before it happens, and you end up closing that cage door for good, and stealing the life of an animal designed to fly free. It shouldn’t only be about what the human wants or needs. Unless anyone has had a direct message from The Big Guy Himself saying that He is well pleased with the way we treat his creatures, I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t want consideration for their lack of freedom and happiness to be ignored.
As I’ve listened to the fireworks and parties, this year for some reason I just can’t stop thinking about those little souls around and about who have no reason to celebrate, because they don’t have the choice of how they get to spend their lives, and most humans don’t consider their lives of sufficient value or importance to give them that choice. I think we’re on a slippery slope believing it’s alright to do something just because we have the power to, and because we say so, and because just like me, most of us lack the balls to say something when we see these things. Easier to look away. I believe that humans instinctively know right from wrong – I think we’re born with that knowledge. It doesn’t matter how your parents raised you, if something feels wrong to you, it very probably is. So as we go into our shiny new year, spare a thought for those furred and feathered members of our families who never get to vote at family meetings.