An Idea Whose Time Has Finally Come? Canceling Cages

January 5, 2022, will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Avian Welfare Coalition’s National Bird Day campaign launched to draw attention to the plight of captive birds and the damaging impacts of the “pet” bird industry. Central to the theme of National Bird Day was to re-think the keeping of birds in cages.  “Think Outside the Cage” was the campaign slogan for many years which served the dual goals of improving the welfare of birds already in captivity and pushing for a paradigm shift in regarding birds as wildlife rather than “pets.” Later, the campaign slogan was updated to “More Beautiful Wild” to draw attention to the contrast of how parrots live in the wild to their lives in captivity.

Our slogan for the 20th anniversary of the campaign is “Cancel Cages.” It’s a deliberate twist on “cancel culture” which is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”  We think it’s time to turn up the volume on the conversation around keeping parrots confined to cages for our amusement.

A recent study, highlighted in Forbes magazine, backs up what we have been saying for over twenty years. The study links the intelligence of parrots and other hardwired natural behaviors as reasons why parrots are amongst the species including elephants, great apes, and cetaceans that do not readily adjust to life in captivity. The Forbes article rightly acknowledges that parrots are not domesticated even if they are bred, hatched, and raised in captivity which is something that few people consider before bringing them into their homes.  

The new study echoes the conclusions reached in the 2006 peer reviewed article “The Welfare and Suitability of Parrots as Companion Animals” (cited in the new study). The 2006 article noted that, “enclosures and housing arrangements for captive parrots held by private owners are typically designed for the convenience of the possessor, not the needs of the animal” and that restrictions of natural behaviors including socialization, foraging behavior and flight inherent in such captive housing leads to poor welfare.

For 20 years the Avian Welfare Coalition has been at the forefront of advocating for better protections and care standards for birds in captivity while simultaneously arguing that they belong in the wild. We know cages aren’t going to be canceled overnight and for those doing the heroic work of providing care for birds already in captivity* cages will remain a necessary evil even as caretakers strive to enlarge and enrich the captive spaces birds inhabit. Canceling cages for parrots is the long-term goal as we continue to replace the human impulse to covet beautiful things with the human capacity to empathize with their needs and desires and to love them enough to leave them be.

Help us celebrate National Bird Day and spread the Cancel Cages message with our special campaign T-shirt.

*Birds raised in captivity can not and should not be released into the wild. Most released captive birds die within few days of release. Captive release programs involving recently wild-caught birds or specific in situ conservation efforts are the exception.