Parrots Forever
Sanctuary & Rescue Foundation
   Home      Pain Parrots Feel
 
PAIN PARROTS FEEL

"The public must be made to feel as well as to understand the need for change in the status quo as it concerns pet animals. To shift people's gestalt, one must strike both at reason and at the passions, [...]. People must be made aware of the philosophical principles, the moral theory underlying moral concern for animals. And further, they must be made aware of the factual consequences of the pet problem: the animal suffering, the wasted lives, the dangers to their children. And finally, people must be made more knowledgeable concerning the telos of the animals who share their lives and homes." (Bernard E. Rollin; Animal Rights & Human Morality third edition 2006)

"An animal that suffers, be it pain or fear or boredom, cannot be said to be enjoying good welfare." (Bernard E. Rollin; An Introduction to Veterinary Medical Ethics: Theory and Cases 2006)







 

For your convenience, we’ve provided links to all the chapters to Pain Parrots Feel above in chronological order. By clicking on the first link "TELOS: THE EMOTIONAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL NATURE OF PARROTS" you can continue with each successive chapter as you progress, or you can begin reading the first chapter below, because it continues with each successive chapter as you progress.

 
 
TELOS: THE EMOTIONAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL NATURE OF PARROTS

Telos

Telos is an end or purpose. It is an ancient Greek work used by philosophers such as Aristotle. Telos is the root of the term word "teleology", which is the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology is central to Aristotle's biology and his theory of causes. An animal's telos is the natural instincts that define that animal. All living creatures have a telos. It is what makes a fish a fish with a need to swim. It is the "pigness" of a pig with the need to forage and nest, the "catness" of a cat with the urge to hunt and run, the "birdness" of a bird with a need to make nests, to fly and to socialize in a flock setting (Bernard E. Rollin 2006).
 
All species of animals, including humans, are "wired" with the urges to survive and procreate. We ALL have inherent natures that we are born with. And what most parrots are born "wired" to do is to be hatched into a communal setting where they are nurtured and taught by their parents. They grow and mature, secure in their position in the flock. They forage, procreate, survive daily perils, roost, and live their lives freely with their own kind. They understand and are comfortable with their world and their place in it.
 
Because of a parrot's intelligence and its inherent need for social interaction, it can be devastating for the parrot if the needs of its telos are not met. Parrots are wired to be in contact with one another, in some fashion, at all times. Their instinct to stay together in a flock, with its safety of large numbers, is due to the fact that they are prey animals. Because parrots are flock animals, unlike humans, it is not part of a parrot's telos to live alone. So when we bring a captive companion parrot into our home, we are setting up an environment for the parrot that is against its telos and to which the parrot has to adjust—against all of its instincts.
 
Most captive companion parrots are in an environment where they are the only parrot in the home. In most cases, parrots are alone most of the time, as they wait for their caregiver to wake up, come home from school, or work, or shopping, or out with their friends, and/or social occasions. Even if there are other parrots or types of birds in the home, captive parrots are still completely reliant on the caregiver for all of their needs. It is not enough for a caregiver to meet basic needs such as food and water and a clean cage. The caregiver must also meet the parrot's emotional and psychological needs, which will evolve and change in accordance with the parrot's telos as the parrot matures.
 
Because captive companion parrots (in most cases) are raised by humans and have very little time with their parents, they only know from experience that humans are what they need to survive. But this does not change or augment their telos, what they are "wired" for, what their biology tells them they need on a daily basis for their entire, long lives. Captive parrots do not have the freedom to provide for their own needs and to satisfy their own telos. They are slaves to the whims of their caregivers and must be satisfied with what they are given. It is important for caregivers to understand what a parrot's telos really is. What makes a parrot a parrot. What behaviours a parrot needs to exhibit in order to be a parrot. To ensure that a parrot is as happy as possible, even in captivity, the parrot's environment and enrichments must reflect the parrot's actual "parrotness", and not human ego. 
  
 
Emotional & Psychological Pain

Parrots, and indeed all animals, feel physical, emotional, and psychological pain. Companion parrots experience anxiety, loneliness, boredom, wanting yearning, frustration, hormonal, and desire issues. These unresolved issues cause stress responses in the parrot which will be expressed a variety of ways. Not all stressors can or will be detected, or acknowledged, by the caregiver. Left unresolved, these stressors result in increasing unhappiness in the parrot until a point is reached where the parrot shows blatant physical and behavioural signs of the stress it has experienced. 
 
As with people, parrots are wired to engage and to be engaged with activities of purpose. These purposeful activities are dictated by the parrot's telos and include foraging for food, nest building and nesting, socializing and vocalizing with other parrots, preening and being preened, flying, playing, roosting with the flock, finding a mate, and raising their young. These purposeful activities are designed so that a parrot can live its life freely and survive.
 
A companion parrot does not have the freedom to make decisions about its own care. It is completely reliant on a caregiver to meet its needs for its entire life. Companion parrots are told when to wake up, when to go to sleep, when to eat, what to eat, when to keep quiet, when to speak and what to say (tricks), when they are to be let out of the cage and for how long (if at all), when and how they get to interact (more tricks), and when and for how long they will get attention from their caregiver (owner).
 
These activities are all based on convenience to the caregiver, with little or no regard for the parrot's desires, mood, or schedule. This is how most parrot owners treat their companion parrots, which, if we are to be straightforward about what we are discussing here, are not really companions at all. They are toys, distractions, amusing, decorative talking animals. And why do we want these decorative talking animals? Because they are exotic, beautiful, easy to acquire for not much money—and, unfortunately, probably the number one reason we humans want a captive companion parrot is because at a moment in time in our busy, hectic, stressed-out lives, we simply want one. Period. We want one, just like we want a new SmartPhone, and we can get one for about the same cost.
 
And then, when we grow tired of the work, the mess, the cost in caring for one, and the noise; we become resentful of having to spend time dealing with a non-responsive, unappreciative, sometimes aggressive parrot that does not give us what we want, when we want it and in the way we want it. So we treat "it" like any other toy we are bored with: We ignore it or we discard it.
 
Unfortunately for captive companion parrots, they are the ones who bear the brunt of our decisions, from the time we decide that bringing a parrot into our home is a good idea to the day they die some 25-80 years, and who knows how many homes, later. 
 
Captive companion parrots experience unstable lives of constant re-homing. Parrots may be re-homed an average of 7-9 times in their lifetime. This happens for a variety of reasons. They are too loud, they are messy, they are annoying, they take too much time to care for, the owner loses interest in the parrot, the parrot has out-lived their owner. A large part of the re-homing issue also lies with the inability or unwillingness of the caregiver to properly care for their parrot. The care that the parrot receives deteriorates over time. The parrot is then ignored in a variety of ways.
 
They do not receive fresh food twice daily, there is a lack of interaction (no playtime), a lack of petting and physical contact, less or no time away from the cage with their caregiver, they are sent to sleep with their cage covered for too many hours, or they are placed in an isolated area of the house and remembered sporadically. Caregivers lose interest in the parrot as they become too busy with their new job, friends, relationships, babies, or a myriad of new and more interesting things to do with their time. Then, as the companion parrot becomes less and less happy with what is happing to them, these stressors start to be expressed as behavioural and/or neurotic disorders.
 
They can start plucking their feathers, screaming at their caregiver, or attacking their caregiver. These behaviours, which are a parrot’s only way of expressing its distress, usually result in the parrot being further shunned and ignored. The cage may be kept covered to keep the parrot quiet, the cage may be placed in a closed room, a closet, basement, or even in the garage. If the parrot is "lucky", the owner finally gets "rid" of that annoying, ungrateful parrot that they at one time wanted so much.
 
Through all of this the parrot is trying, in the only way it knows how, to understand the environment that it has found itself in, the rules, the expectations, how to interact. It is trying to find its place in the crazy, foreign world surrounding it. So much of what we expect from parrots as pets is against their nature and can have devastating consequences for them. Parrots develop strong bonds with caregivers and other parrots that build over time. When these bonds are broken, the parrot experiences sadness, anger, and depression. Each time a parrot is re-homed, bonds and trust are broken. Adjusting to new environments, rules, expectations, and caregivers is confusing and stressful. It becomes harder and harder for the parrot to cope. 
 
Parrots are not senseless commodities. Parrots are living, emotional, sentient beings with feelings. Parrots experience emotions like "most" humans do. Parrots are flock animals, and part of their telos is to never be alone. They feel scared, anxious, and lonely when they are without someone that they can count on for companionship. Being left by themselves can lead to feelings of rejection and, to a creature dependent upon its flock, rejection is a death sentence. Like most humans, they want to be accepted by their peers and feel secure within their social group. They want to know their place in the world, understand the rules, and speak the language. It is in their telos to learn from, relate to, and rely on other parrots of their own kind, not humans.
 
Captive companion parrots do not have that choice. Humans make that choice for them. From the time they hatch we imprint them to us and make them dependent upon us. Although this is done to "tame" them and to assimilate them into our world so that we can better handle them, this process does not change their telos. It is impossible to allow parrots to follow their telos and force them to bond to us at the same time. By not allowing captive companion parrots that we choose to have as pets to follow their telos, to express their natural instinct to fly, to be free, to choose their companions and mates, to forage for food, to nest and brood, to be a member of a flock, to live in a community of their own, to do all the NATURAL things that make them who they are, we create an unhappy, confused, and frustrated creature who is not much of a companion at all. This is not only inappropriate and unnatural, but is unethical as well. It is the waste of a life.


DOMESTICATION & SELLING DOMESTICATION

Domestication

The word DOMESTIC causes problems. Literally, it means “pertaining to the home”. That is, something that belongs IN a home because it was created FOR a home. When we say domestic chores we mean stuff that we do around the house. When we say a person is very domestic, we mean that he is most happy and comfortable in and around the house. Domestic is something we can handle easily, and if we agree that someone is really domestic, we are implying that he is not very curious, adventurous, or self-confident. However, the act of bringing something into our home is not the same thing as making it domestic. This point becomes abundantly clear when we imagine bringing a Canada Goose into the living room and inviting him to live forever in the very nice cage we just purchased. When it comes to parrots, however, this very clear point tends to be lost.
 
Captive companion parrots are not domesticated animals. Parrots kept as pets are still wild animals with all of their wild instincts and the needs of their telos intact. They may be tame, but taming an animal does not make it domesticated. Dogs and cats are domesticated and have been domesticated animals for over 9,500-11,000 years. Dogs and cats have over time, through hundreds if not thousands of generations, been bred to accommodate our needs. They have been fundamentally changed from their wild ancestors to reflect human needs and to serve our purposes. To best illustrate what domestication is, and what defines domestication in an animal, the following definition is from Wikipedia:

Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process where by a population of animals or plants is changed at the genetic level through a process of selection, in order to accentuate traits that benefit humans. It differs from taming in that a change in the phenotypical expression and genotype of the animal occurs, whereas taming is simply the process by which animals become accustomed to human presence.
According to evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, animal species MUST meet six criteria in order to be considered for domestication:

1. • Flexible diet — Creatures that are willing to consume a wide variety of food sources and can live off less cumulative food from the food pyramid (such as corn or wheat), particularly food that is not utilized by humans (such as grass and forage) are less expensive to keep in captivity.  Carnivores by definition feed primarily or only on animal tissue, which requires the expenditure of many animals, though they may exploit sources of meat not utilized by humans, such as scraps and vermin.

2. • Reasonably fast growth rate — Fast maturity rate compared to the human life span allows breeding intervention and makes the animal useful within an acceptable duration of caretaking.  Large animals such as elephants require many years before they reach a useful size.

3. • Ability to be bred in captivity — Creatures that are reluctant to breed when kept in captivity do not produce useful offspring, and instead are limited to capture in their wild state.  Creatures such as the panda, antelope and giant forest hog are territorial when breeding and cannot be maintained in crowded enclosures in captivity.

4. • Pleasant disposition — Large creatures that are aggressive toward humans are dangerous to keep in captivity.  The African buffalo has an unpredictable nature and is highly dangerous to humans; similarly, although the American bison is raised in enclosed ranges in the Western United States, it is much too dangerous to be regarded as truly domesticated.  Although similar to the domesticated pig in many ways, Africa's warthog and bushpig are also dangerous in captivity.

5. • Temperament which makes it unlikely to panic — A creature with a nervous disposition is difficult to keep in captivity as it may attempt to flee whenever startled.  The gazelle is very flighty and it has a powerful leap that allows it to escape an enclosed pen.  Some animals, such as the domestic sheep, still have a strong tendency to panic when their flight zone is encroached upon.  However, most sheep also show a flocking instinct, whereby they stay close together when pressed.  Livestock with such an instinct may be herded by people and dogs.

6. • Modifiable social hierarchy — Social creatures whose herds occupy overlapping ranges and recognize a hierarchy of dominance can be raised to recognize a human as the pack leader:
    • tapirs and rhinoceroses are solitary and do not tolerate being penned with each other
    • antelope and deer except for reindeer are territorial when breeding and live in herds only for the rest of the year
    • bighorn sheep and peccaries have nonhierarchical herd structures and do not follow any definite leader: instead males fight continuously with each other for mating opportunities
    • musk ox herds (although having a defined leader) maintain mutually exclusive territories and two herds will fight if kept together.

However, this list is of limited use because it fails to take into account the profound changes that domestication has on a species. While it is true that some animals, including parrots, whales, and most members of the Carnivora, retain their wild instincts even if born in captivity[citation needed], some factors must be taken into consideration.

In particular, number (5) may not be a prerequisite for domestication, but rather a natural consequence of a species' having been domesticated. In other words, wild animals are naturally timid and flighty because they are constantly faced by predators; domestic animals do not need such a nervous disposition, as they are protected by their human owners. The same holds true for number (4) — aggressive temperament is an adaptation to the danger from predators. A Cape buffalo can kill even an attacking lion, but most modern large domestic animals were descendants of aggressive ancestors. The wild boar, ancestor of the domestic pig, is certainly renowned for its ferocity; other examples include the aurochs (ancestor of modern cattle), horse, Bactrian camels and yaks, all of which are no less dangerous than their undomesticated wild relatives such as zebras and buffalos. Others have argued that the difference lies in the ease with which breeding can improve the disposition of wild animals, a view supported by the failure to domesticate the kiang and onager. On the other hand for thousands of years humans have managed to tame dangerous species like the elephants, bears and cheetahs whose failed domestications had little to do with their aggressiveness. Number (6), while it does apply to most domesticated species, also has exceptions, most notably in the domestic cat and ferret, which are both descended from strictly solitary wild ancestors but which tolerate and even seek out social interaction in their domestic forms. Feral domestic cats, for example, naturally form colonies around concentrated food sources and will even share prey and rear kittens communally, while wildcats remain solitary even in the presence of such food sources. Zoologist Marston Bates devoted a chapter on domestication in his 1960 book The Forest and the Sea, in which he talks a great deal about how domestication alters a species: Dispersal mechanisms tend to disappear for the reason stated above, and also because people provide transportation for them. Chickens have practically lost their ability to fly. Similarly, domestic animals cease to have a definite mating season, and so the need to be territorial when mating loses its value; and if some of the males in a herd are castrated, the problem is reduced even further. What he says suggests that the process of domestication can itself make a creature domesticable. Besides, the first steps towards agriculture may have involved hunters keeping young animals, who are always more impressionable than the adults, after killing their mothers.

Although some breeds of dogs and cats still have some of their original characteristics and retain the traits of their lineage, they are about as removed from the original wild lines as any animal can be. Most companion parrots, however, are only 2 or 3 generations from the wild and are still very in tune with their wild nature and instincts. Their telos tells them to forage, socialize, fly, roost, and be with others of their own kind every hour of every day for their entire lifetime.
 
Basically, the contract that humans make with domesticated animals is that, in exchange for a lifetime of food, water, shelter, and protection, they give us their strengths, talents, companionship, and often their lives. Animals are domesticated because they serve a purpose for humans. Dogs were originally hunting partners; cats kept vermin out of stored food; oxen had brute strength; horses made travel faster and easier; cattle, pigs, and chickens provided a ready source of food. Domesticated animals make our lives easier. Parrots really do not have any attributes that could aid in human survival. They are luxuries, mere toys to amuse us.
 
Parrots have only been popular, and accepted as pets for the masses, for around 150 years. Today, in most cases, parrots are only 1, 2, or maybe 3 generations from the wild. It is true that captive parrots are bred to be sold as pets, but these parrots are not domesticated. The two exceptions would be the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) and the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus). The domestication of parrots does not happen within 2, 3, 4, or even 5 generations of captive breeding. Parrots may be tame when they come from the breeders and pet stores, but being tame is NOT the same as being domesticated. Captive breeding does not change the telos of the parrot. The urge to want to forage, fly, mate, and to socially interact within a flock of their own kind has not been bred out of them. Captive companion parrots maintain most if not all of their wild instincts, and because of this, the type and amount of care required to keep them healthy and sane are greater than what most caregivers can provide.
 
Most dogs and cats have fairly simple expectations of their human companions. They require food and clean water in their bowls once or twice a day and a minimal amount of attention when the owner gets home. After a day spent alone, the dog or cat is usually free to run (or walk) to greet their owner at the door. The pet gets instant acknowledgement and gratification by being petted and talked to before the owner even gets their outerwear off. The dog or cat can move around freely and have something to eat while the owner is still getting home. They can go from one person to the next to get more acknowledgement and gratification by being petted by other family members. Dogs and cats are not easy to ignore. Although dogs are naturally pack animals, most of this instinct has been bred out of them. Cats are naturally solitary animals and get along fine without much interaction from their caregivers, and seldom have any interest or need to be constantly stimulated throughout the day.
 
In contrast, most companion parrots are locked up in their cages alone for most of the day, waiting for their caregiver to come home. They are not free to fly to the door and greet their owner, they do not get instant (or any other kind of) attention, and often they are not even acknowledged. They are frequently kept in a closed room or away from the main living area, and they cannot see what is going on. They must wait until it is convenient for their caregiver to come to them. They are often an afterthought, fed and given fresh water when and if their owner remembers. If they demand attention by screaming or acting out, their cages are covered and they are put to bed. The lucky ones will be allowed out of their cages for a while. The really lucky ones will be talked to and given some physical interaction. But these interludes are generally not enough in comparison with the number of hours that a parrot spends alone. Parrots are flock animals and expect to be in visual, vocal, and physical contact with others at all times. This is part of their telos; it is an absolute necessity to their well being.
 
Parrots are remarkable creatures. They are able to mimic sounds and can sometimes talk and learn complex words and phrases (and they do this without the benefit of vocal cords). Some can even use these words and phrases in proper context. Parrots are intelligent and playful; they can solve puzzles and learn tricks. They have excellent memories and can measure time. They hold grudges and have likes and dislikes, just like people. Parrots are beautiful. Some possess brilliant iridescent color, attractive feathers, and big, expressive eyes. They also possess large, sharp, powerful beaks. Those beaks, that can reduce a hardwood table to sawdust in one afternoon, can also do unspeakably awful things to a human body.
 
Two things about this. First: to handle a creature with such potential destructive power is fascinating and flattering to our egos. “His beak is not a threat to me because I am his master”. Second: famous last words. We want parrots to be with us, and because we love the idea of their company, we reason that they will love us too. Parrots are dependent on us, and dependency is not love. Now back to the fact that parrots talk. They also squawk, screech, scream, and shriek, because such vocalizations are part of their natural vocabulary. They will do so because they are lonely, unhappy, bored, frustrated, thwarted, stressed or aggravated. And they are one or all of these things very, very often.
 
Capturing, breeding, selling, and buying caged parrots for our homes are activities which have become an accepted part of our culture. These activities have been going on for a long time and unfortunately on an increasingly large scale. Millions of parrots are produced by breeders who sell as many as possible for as large a profit as the market will bear. A cursory glance at Kijiji will reveal the spectrum of current prices: several thousand dollars for a macaw, an African grey, or a cockatoo. Several hundred for an Amazon, a pionus, or an African red bellied parrot. Parrot breeding is good business. What is wrong with this picture? Any business person understands the phrase, “follow the market”. When we follow the parrot market, it is immediately apparent that something remarkably unusual is going on.
 
Parrots are not domestic animals. Never has a healthy wild parrot voluntarily put himself into a cage or agreed to be chained to a perch. The absurdity of this notion rests on the commonsense assumption, that for the parrot, freedom to fly is preferable to captivity. Parrots fly toward water, food, and nesting areas, and away from predators, unfriendly weather, and human hunters.
 
The anatomy, coloration, intelligence, instincts, and defensive and aggressive behaviors of parrots evolved to sustain them within a wide variety of environments. These attributes are survival mechanisms; they were not designed for human pleasure.
 
We didn't breed them this way. They are this way.  


Why Are There So Many Unwanted And Un-Well Cared For Companion Parrots?

Parrots are beautiful, unusual, and exotic. They don't cost much more than a purebred dog. They live in a cage, don't require walks, and are potentially trainable. And they talk.
 
Many potential parrot owners make the decision to buy a parrot for some very selfish reasons. They think it would fun to have a parrot to train to do tricks and to talk. They think owning a parrot is different and prestigious and will impress their friends. They think a parrot would look decorative and exotic in their home. They think a parrot would be a great conversation piece when they have friends and family over. Basically, people are just bored and want something new and exciting in their lives. They want the fantasy of owning a parrot and never consider the reality of it, or how many decades that reality will last.
 
The fact is, in spite of heightened awareness of the negative aspects of the parrot trade, it has never been easier or more affordable to obtain a parrot. And because of this, more people own and care for parrots now than at any time in our history.
 
With the industrial revolution and the growing middle class over the last 150 years, more people have acquired more disposable income. Although this has been great for both people and society, this has not been great for both captive and wild parrots throughout the world. Because of the exponential growth in new middle class that started in the late 1940s, more people have enjoyed a higher standard of living. This allowed first hundreds of thousands, and then millions more people who previously could not afford a parrot or would not consider spending money on a parrot, to easily obtain one if they so wished.
 
By the mid to late 1960s, parrots were still quite expensive for the average middle-class family. This was true for 2 main reasons. First, although there were some parrot breeders in North America, and some illegal parrot poaching and smuggling into North America, the parrot trade was not very organized and this limited the availability. Secondly, due to the fact that there were few parrot breeders breeding for profit, there was little competition. It was easier to keep their margins high and to keep the cost of purchasing a parrot as a pet high. Breeders and sellers simply did not have a lot of parrots available to exploit and make money on. It was easy for them to not oversaturate the market and to avoid driving prices down. There also was not a lot of information available on the proper care for parrots, and to own one meant that you were in a very exclusive market. As a result of limited availability and high costs, few people were coveting parrots as pets.
 
From the early 1970s to the 1980s, commercial aviculture really took off. More and more people wanted to be in the commercial aviculture business. And with more and more parrots coming into North America, mostly for breeders, more parrots became available. Because of this, prices started to fall as the competition to make a buck heated up. By the early 1980s, only 30 years ago, parrots were becoming much more available in pet stores and from breeders, and starting to be more accepted as pets. Parrots were still considered exotic and were more expensive to acquire as pets compared to other companion animals such as cats and dogs. Because of this, most people still did not consider trying to purchase a parrot based on price. The exception was for the more domesticated parrots such as cockatiels and budgies.
 
On the heels of the late 1970s, which had the worst recession/stagflation seen since the Great Depression, the western economies, lead by the United States, started one of the biggest growth stories ever. This growth continued over the next 2 decades. An economic and technology boom was underway that would forever change the dynamics of commoditizing animals of all types, from all over the world. This made obtaining animals much easier, quicker, and more cost effective for the end consumer.
 
Big corporations got into the act on a large scale, as so many corporations do, when they saw an opportunity to promote, facilitate, and commoditize animals as pets on an accelerating growth scale that had never been attempted before. It used to be that most pet stores would go to local breeders to supply them with animals to sell, and this still happens today. But corporations such as PetSmart, Petco, and Petland are in the business of running their own parrot breeding farms to produce parrots at a lower cost/unit basis so as to keep the margins high but at the same time bring and keep the end cost to the customer down. By bringing and keeping the retail cost down, more end users (customers) can afford exotic parrots, which at one time would have been out of their reach financially. The potential customer base is now larger, and anyone with $1,000 to $2,000 to spare can obtain an exotic talking animal without much forethought. According to Karen Windsor Foster Parrots, Ltd. & The New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary:

[...]PetSmart and Petco do not have the market cornered on parrot sales.  In general, independent pet retailers generate a higher percentage of sales from live pets than the cost-minded pet supply superstores.  And it is important to consider the fact that the greatest source of all for the direct sale of parrots to consumers are breeders.  There are more than 2500 parrot breeders in operation nationwide, each producing anywhere from 10 to over 65 different parrot species per farm – or factory.  It is common for large breeders to house anywhere between 500 and 1000 breeding birds.  The AVMA Pet Demographics survey of 2001 indicated 10 million parrots in homes in the US.  According to a 1996 PIJAC survey which included breeder information, that number was as high as 40 million.

The more people that can afford a parrot as a pet, the more parrots, cages, toys, food, etc., the pet stores (both private and conglomerate) can sell, and the more money can be made off the backs of all the parrots that are being bred for our amusement.
 
Before the Internet was in full swing, there were usually only 2 ways to obtain a parrot, and that was through a pet store or through a breeder. So if you were to purchase a parrot pre-1980, and then later you chose to get rid of it, selling that parrot would be very difficult. The only options were to sell it back to the breeder that first sold the parrot or list it for sale in the local newspaper and hope for a buyer. More thought had to go into wanting and purchasing a parrot back then. It was a bigger investment cost-wise relevant to today's costs, and you were more or less stuck with keeping the parrot or not getting the money back that you spent on it. You were much more likely to have to live with the consequences of your actions.
 
But nowadays, like most other things we purchase, if we decide, for whatever reason, that we have grown tired of our parrot, we have a much easier way out. We can take a quick photo of the item, write a quick description of our once-beloved object, and find someone else who thinks it might be great to have a parrot as a pet. Only now that parrot is considered to be used goods and, as with most other used goods, the cost of that parrot is more likely than not to be even less. This makes it even easier to purchase and re-sell a parrot, to indulge a whim, discover your mistake, and move on. The once coveted and loved parrot, along with millions of other parrots in the same situation, will find its way into this vicious cycle of constant re-homing for decades to come.
 
Yes, this happens to most companion animals at some point in their life. But dogs and cats may only go through 1 to 4 (on average) different homes within their lifetime of 10-15 years. Parrots, on the other hand, have life expectancies of 25-80 years. So even if a person were to acquire a parrot and that parrot were to live with that person forever, the odds of the parrot outliving the caregiver and needing to be re-homed are quite high. Because of this, it is a very rare occurrence for parrots to not be re-homed repeatedly throughout their lifetime. In most cases, a companion parrot will be re-homed 7 to 9 times on average. This is best illustrated by MAARS director Eileen McCarthy from the book "Of Parrots and People" by Mira Tweti:

[...]People surrendering their parrots" she says, "always say the same thing; 'If I knew then what I know now, I'd never have bought "it" in the first place." Unlike dogs or cats, overpopulation in parrots is not the result of mating run rampant. Dogs and cats mate at will without the need for human assistance (which is why getting them spayed and neutered is so important). Breeding exotic birds is complicated, and often difficult to do in captivity. To succeed in producing offspring, nest boxes must be provided, the right birds must be paired up, and they have to be proper ages. McCarthy makes the point that overpopulation is based not on the number of unwanted parrots but on the number of available placements available for them. "There are not hundreds of thousands of good homes for parrots, not even one hundred thousand," says McCarthy, "so it really doesn't matter how big the number is of unwanted parrots. We know it's big and we know it's going to get bigger, and nobody's prepared to handle what we have now. So how are we possibly going to be able to handle it coming down the pike?  That is really the bottom-line issue. The more they keep selling parrots as ideal companions for the new millennium, the more will end up in shelters. It's just cause and effect.

With the constant re-homing, and LARGE differences of the types of homes that these parrots find themselves in, parrots experience a great deal of stress. Parrots' natures are constantly being challenged and in some cases totally suppressed by their owners, who have no idea of what to realistically expect from a parrot. They expect an easy-to-care-for, compliant, and uncomplicated creature that can talk and do tricks. This is much, much harder on parrots than any other companion animal, and not just because of the number of times they go through this merry-go-round of re-homing. Emotionally and psychologically it is a lot harder on them because parrots are much more intelligent, hormonal, and emotionally needy. Once they bond with their caregiver, separation can be very traumatic. They need and rely on one-on-one interaction with their caregiver much more than with most other companion animals. Parrots can take a very long time to accept new situations and are usually not even given the chance to adjust before being moved to yet another home.
 
Even with the best of intentions, most people just don't have enough time in the day, the level of commitment required, or a good enough understanding of a parrot's telos to properly care for their parrots. But this reality is not what is being promoted and advertised by the pet industry!


PARROTS AS PETS & PARENTS OF PARROTS

Do People In General Make Good Caregiver's For Parrots?

In today’s society, people tend to have a very short attention span. We are easily bored and lose interest quickly, discarding yesterday's toys, fads, and fashions for the next new and improved thing. The pace of people's lives has increased as well, and their time is much more fractionalized. We skim through the day trying to do more and more in the same amount of time (24 hours in a day has not changed) and not spending a great deal of time on any one thing. With the advent of the Internet and cell phones over the last 25 years, and more recently the social network phenomena where we spend time befriending people who we've never met, and who share dubious common interests, we are constantly being filled with external stimuli. This puts more demands on our time and attention.
 
Because of this, people have become more impatient, quick to judge, shortsighted, and uptight. We have become uncomfortable with even the slightest bit of downtime and are forever looking for something to fill that "void". For a lot of people, this endless search for the next bit of external stimuli is as addictive as a drug. And because of this, most people don't really know what they want from one moment to the next. They don’t take the time to develop insight into why they want something, to think about the long term consequences of their actions. After all, if they don't like it, they just discard it and move on to the next great desire. We have become so accustomed to our fractionalized natures that we can jump from "likes" to "dislikes" instantly, with no information or reasons, but with much justifying. There is a term for this condition. It is called "miswanting". Miswanting describes the situation of mistakenly believing that getting a particular thing will make you happy, when in fact it is nothing more than an "idea" of "thinking" that we "may" want something." (Macmillan Dictionary.com 2013).
 
So because of miswanting and our propensity to make very quick judgments on our likes and dislikes, it has become a lot easier to convince ourselves to follow through on our first impulses, to grab what we want, to get that instant gratification. And this is exacerbated by the fact that it is easier and much less expensive than ever to purchase things (smartphones, ATVs, iPads, pets, and so on). As with most pets, purebred or not, parrots are available to anyone with the slightest inclination to own one.
 
You don't even have to go to a pet store or through a breeder. A couple of clicks of a button, and you find Craigslist or Kijiji, a source of instantly available and cheap parrots. This easy and user-friendly medium not only makes it easier, quicker, and less costly to obtain a parrot of your choice at a moment's notice, but it also instills the reassurance that if (but more likely when) you change your mind after purchasing a parrot, you don't need to go any farther than your own home to discard it. Just snap a photo and list your used parrot for sale and, voila, mistake fixed. And another step down the long and vicious road of re-homing for the parrot.
 
This brings up another negative aspect of the way we've become so fractionalized in our daily lives. We have become much more matter-of-fact and self-centered in how we communicate with one another. We are very quick to move on once we feel that we have addressed a concern or dealt with daily tasks that we deem unimportant to us, even if it's of the utmost importance to the other individual involved.
 
Because people have the ability to measure time and to judge how long something should take to do, we have become very good at parceling out blocks of time for commitments and fitting in other things and activities throughout the day (pushing our time limits). Most of us are bent on filling our day with these commitments, projects, tasks, and responsibilities, to the point of having very little or no time for ourselves or others. In some ways, this is about feeling like we are accomplishing something of significance, when in fact a lot of this is just about filling time.
 
Because of this, many of us are stressed, overtaxed, and forever in a rush. There always seem to be good reasons for this daily chaos, but little thought about how this may affect others in our lives. For many people, whether they have taken on too much, or they only know one way of functioning, being constantly busy and distracted has become the norm. Allowing ourselves to enjoy quiet times at home has become more and more difficult. The feeling of hyperactivity has become so familiar that we often do not realize that our perception of time is often skewed.
 
All vertebrate animals are capable of measuring time. If you were to feed your pet skunk at only a certain time in the morning every day, the day that you are late and do not feed the skunk at that time, rest assured that you will be reminded. That skunk will make good and sure that you will be less likely to be late again. Dogs and cats know when their caregivers are due home from work and when they are late. They know the timing of events within a daily routine, and they know what day it is as well. They know when a weekend is due to start, or when a regular visitor is due to show up. Dogs and cats plan their own activities around these times. They use their time alone to nap, or play, or spy on the neighbors, and are ready to engage in activities with their owner at the appropriate time.
 
Parrots judge time too, and are aware of the time of day and the day of the week. They also know the timing of routine events. They too will spend their alone time doing their own thing, be it napping, playing with their toys, rehearsing their vocabulary, chewing something into sawdust, or watching the neighbors. Parrots know when the caregiver should be home, when mealtime is, when they will be allowed out of their cage and for how long, when they will be interacted with and for how long, and when bedtime is. They know that these activities should happen every day and they know when they are being gypped.
 
Many parrots are not let out of their cages even when the caregiver does come home from a long day of work. The caregiver is too tired or has too many other things to do and has no time to be with the parrot. In some cases the parrot's world is similar to a fish in a fish bowl. From the point of view of the caregiver, the parrot is something nice and amusing to look at (as long as it still has all its feathers), and maybe something to talk to sporadically when it’s convenient. From the parrot's point of view, it’s a life of boredom, isolation, waiting, and rejection. It’s solitary confinement with no one to talk to and with a jailer who may or may not feed you. It’s endless days of nothing. It’s hell.
 
Because parrots are very intelligent creatures, they are active, need to be stimulated, and need to interact with their surroundings. They are wired this way; it’s their telos to be interactive with their environment and with other living beings. For a parrot to sit alone and wait for so many hours during the day and then to be constantly disappointed when they are not let out of their cage, not handled, not played with, not fed fresh foods, puts a huge strain on them. They live in a cage and this is ALL they have to look forward to. This stress can build over time. Parrots who live interesting and interactive lives can withstand some changes to their schedule. An hour less out of the cage occasionally or dinner being a little late may be disappointing, but it’s not going to destroy the parrot's psyche.
 
For some parrots, however, most of their days—for decades—are spent waiting, bored, ignored, slowly losing their minds until they resort to self-mutilation just to feel something. They scream and develop neurotic behaviors. They may become too big a burden to ignore and be are sold or given away. While it is true that not every caregiver ignores their parrot, enough do that thousands of parrot rescue organizations are overwhelmed. This type of barely adequate care should not happen at all, under any circumstances. Parrot buyers need to realize that providing a clean cage of appropriate size, good food, and clean water is not even scratching the surface of what a parrot needs to be healthy and sane.
 
Most people buy a companion animal with the best intentions and truly want to look after the animal well. With people becoming increasingly busy in their daily lives, and lives becoming more erratic and unpredictable, circumstances are often out of our control. Good intentions and reality are not always compatible, and people end up having less time to spend with their parrots. There are many successful parrot owners and happy parrots out there, but these owners have made hard choices and sacrificed their time and lifestyles. Unfortunately, an increasing number of parrots end up in homes that just don't have what it takes to make their companion parrot feel wanted, loved, important, cared for, and most of all, an integral part of the family.
 
"For me, the sight of a parrot living alone, living in a cage, deprived of flight, miserably bored, breaks my heart. And the parrot's too, perhaps." Dr. Jane Goodall


What Does A Parrot Experience When They Are Re-Homed?

Imagine yourself as a 3-year-old child. Your parents invite some strange people over whom you have never seen before. After being told to be on your best behavior, you are brought out of your room to meet the new strangers. The strangers stare at you and make comments about you. They talk to you and maybe pat you on the head a few times. You are asked to speak a few words, walk around a bit, jump up and down, and are encouraged to sit on their laps and give them a hug. After the people leave, you are sent back to you room and life seems normal again.
 
Then a few days later, your parents let you out of your room, grab you, stuff you into a crate, and lock the door. While you are sitting in the crate wondering what just happened, the strangers who were in your home a few days earlier show up. They grab your crate, throw a blanket over it, and cart you out the door. The crate is put in the back seat of their car, and the car drives away with you. After what seems to be a very long and bumpy ride, the car stops, your crate is picked up, and you are carried somewhere.
 
When your crate is uncovered, you do not recognize anything, and your parents are nowhere to be seen. You are placed in the same room that you were in at your first home and all your stuff is in it. Nothing else is familiar. Not the house, the sounds, the views that you were so accustomed to. You are confused and frightened. You have no idea what's going on, who these people are, and why you are here. You wonder where your parents are and when they are coming to get you.
 
Then the situation gets worse. The strangers take you out of your room and demand that you talk and walk around just like the first time they saw you. They place you in a corner on a stool, talk to you some more, pat you on the head, and want hugs. They tell you that you are very good and offer you a cookie. You eat it because you are hungry. You are also very scared, stressed, and exhausted. You don't know where you are or what's going on.
 
Then more strange people show up and you discover that there is also a dog in the house. The new strangers stare at you. The dog stares at you and barks. The strangers start talking to you and touching you, petting you, and carrying you around the house. The new strangers also want to hear you talk and see the tricks that you can do. You are so scared, tired, and overwhelmed that you just want all of it to stop. You try to defend yourself from this unfamiliar and unwanted attention. You try to bite one of the strangers but you are told "NO" and placed back on the stool in the corner.
 
Finally the strangers get tired of you. They feed you and send you back to your room. You are too scared to sleep, and you miss your parents. As the days go by and your parents don't come to get you, you slowly give up hope. You become very depressed and resent these horrible strangers who changed your life forever. The strangers don't like your behavior. They want you to be the same as when they first saw you and do not understand why you have changed.
 
You are told that you are lucky to have a good home where you are given food and water, a clean place to live, and toys. You also get a lot of attention whether you want it or not. You should be grateful. You should love them. No one cares that you had no say in the matter or that you do not like the situation. You are only a 3-year-old child, what do you know? You'll adjust because children are resilient and not all that aware of their surroundings anyway. And if you don't, well too bad for you. You'll just find yourself in another strange home.
 
Parrots experience all of these things when they are re-homed. They may be leaving a very good home where they were very attached to their caregiver. They will miss that caregiver and will mourn the loss. They do not automatically and instantly form attachments with someone just because that person feeds them. Parrots choose their own friends and they can take a very long time to decide if someone is trustworthy. They will also miss the familiar routine of their old home. New sounds and situations can be very stressful and frightening.
 
Again, they can take a very long time to adjust as they try to figure out where their place is in this new environment. Even if the home that they left was less than ideal, or even downright abusive, parrots will not be instantly relieved and happy in their new surroundings. They don't assume that new is necessarily better; they need proof. They will watch and wait, and slowly decide for themselves that their situation has indeed improved.
 
Whether they are coming from a good home or a bad one, parrots need time to observe and adjust to their new environment. This will happen in the parrot’s time. New caregivers cannot make it happen faster, but can certainly slow down or halt the process by demanding too much too soon. Caregivers must also realize that the relationship that a parrot had with one person will not automatically transfer to another. The dynamics of the relationship with the new caregiver will be different from the relationship that the parrot had with his or her original caregiver. What you see when you purchase the parrot is not usually what you get
 
 
THE HIDDEN PAIN IN CAPTIVE COMPANION PARROTS

Animal Boredom

Boredom. How long can or will, anyone, any animal live with boredom?  

Wikipedia's definition of boredom;
Boredom is an emotional state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, and not interested in their surroundings. Boredom has been defined by C. D. Fisher in terms of its central psychological processes: “an unpleasant, transient affective state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity.” M. R. Leary and others describe boredom as “an affective experience associated with cognitive attentional processes.”  In positive psychology, boredom is described as a response to a moderate challenge for which the subject has more than enough skill.

FRANÇOISE WEMELSFELDER Animal Boredom - A Model of Chronic Suffering in Captive Animals and Its Consequences For Environmental Enrichment 1998;
 
The initial stage of attention impairment, I submit, may be characterized as boredom. As the animal is deprived means for behavioral interaction, his or her attention becomes increasingly dispersed towards inappropriate stimuli, such as another animal's tail, or his or her own limbs. One could say in that stage the animal "does not know what to do." The animal suffers from a general lack of meaningful behavioral goals, and becomes increasingly listless and withdrawn. In the final stage of impairment, attention disintegrates. The animal may respond chaotically to his or her environment, or become apathetic. In both cases, he or she becomes virtually helpless to cope with andor change the situation. This stage may be regarded as evidence of depression andor anxiety.

Generally speaking, animals housed in a barren environment show an overall decrease in interaction with the environment. This comes to expression in a variety of symptoms. The animals lie down and sleep more, and spend significantly more time sitting. On the other hand, they over- react to novel and/or unexpected events with fearful and aggressive responses. Furthermore, the animals may develop stereotyped patterns of behavior. Such patterns consist of high repetitive and uniform sequences of behavior which seem to be of no direct functional value to the animal.  Examples are bar-biting in tethered sows, stereotyped pacing shown by zoo animals such as polar bears and wolves, and various locomotory stereotypes in laboratory primates. Sometimes such behavior can be damaging to other animals; licking and nibbling tails and ears of offspring may for example induce cannibalism in rats and mice.

As time of confinement proceeds, such patterns tend to become increasingly directed towards the animal's own body or products thereof. Primates may spend long periods of time masturbating, rocking their own body, or eating and regurgitating their own feces. Rats may chase their own tail, tethered sows may show long bouts of chewing air, with no other apparent effect than producing large amounts of saliva. Such tendencies may eventually develop into various forms of compulsive self-mutilation. Laboratory monkeys gnaw at their own limbs or genitals, while parrots will pull out their feathers until completely naked. In summary, the overall decrease in interaction shown by captive animals comes to expression in decrease in behavioral variability and an increase in self directed behaviors (Dantzer, 1986).

As mentioned earlier, dogs and cats are indeed domesticated, and in most cases are allowed to move at will and feel the sense of freedom within their own home. Most people have lived with a pet dog or cat or have been around others who have. Dogs generally tend to be more dependent on human caregivers for their interaction, affection, and entertainment, whereas cats are more comfortable with periods of down time and tend to tolerate solitude more naturally than dogs. But even with the freedom of limited movement within the home, a lack of external stimuli and interaction with their caregivers can produce boredom in most dogs and cats to varying degrees. This is why you DON'T leave your dog or cat alone if you are away for a one-night stay-over or weekend. 

If you care for a cat, here is something to keep in mind by knowyourcat.info;

Have you ever heard people saying that their cat sleeps all the time?  If the owner is complacent about this, he would be shaken by the reality - the cat probably sleeps because it is bored out of its mind. It simply has no other way to pass the time.  It is true that cats spend a lot of time sleeping and they need a quiet place to do so, but excessive sleeping is unhealthy. Cats need something to stimulate them and if they do not get it they will slump into this sleep of boredom or show signs of neurotic behaviour such as aggression, excessive grooming, or eating strange objects. These symptoms are more often seen in indoor cats, because there is much less in their world to stimulate them.  

If a pet becomes bored enough, destruction of the home in some way, shape, or form is bound to happen. Cats have their own ways of coping, especially if they have claws. Dogs like to chew and enjoy finding new and exciting ways to pass the time. This is best illustrated by “Bored Dog”, written by Karen Peak, Pet Editor, “Your Life Magazine”;

[...]Dogs who are bored tend to develop destructive and annoying behaviors such as barking, chewing, and digging. The dogs are not getting back at humans; they are just trying to entertain themselves.  Dogs who spend all day alone and isolated from the pack may develop barking problems as well as become escape artists. The owner views the dog as hard to handle, trying to "get back at me" and refuse to take him out even more as a form of punishment for not behaving. This does nothing but exacerbate the situation. The dog is not being given the opportunity to learn and he is being even more socially deprived.[...]

Dogs respond in many ways to boredom. Dr. Stanley Coren, author of the book "The Intelligence of Dogs (2006)," states that 

[...]the smarter a dog is, the more likely he will become easily bored, which leads to anxiety.  Bored pets will often scratch, chew or jump on household furnishings, destroying them in the process. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of boredom, taking the dog for a long walk may have a calming effect or cause it to go to sleep, resulting in less destructive behavior.

Separation anxiety is the most common form of anxiety.  Dogs that experience this will show atypical behavior.  Some of the most common symptoms are whining, loss of appetite, excessive licking and barking. You can diminish separation anxiety in your dog by such methods as quietly leaving and re-entering your residence to avoid exciting the dog or diverting the dog's attention with a treat or toy before heading out the door.
The preceding examples illustrate how a lack of interaction, stimuli, and the provision of a happy environment for a pet dog or cat can allow boredom to set in, and how this boredom causes a number of neuroses to develop as a means of coping. If this can happen with a cat or a dog, both of which usually enjoy the freedom to move around the home, why do people feel they should be any less diligent in interacting with their parrot? It is because people have been conditioned to believe that parrots are domesticated pets and that it is normal and acceptable to house parrots in a cage for their entire life. Those bars form more than a physical barrier between parrot and caregiver. They have a tendency to form psychological and emotional barriers as well. Their presence becomes so acceptable to the parrot owner that the bars and their meaning become invisible. They are certainly not invisible from where the parrot is sitting.
 
Behavioural Problems in Companion Parrots by Greg Glendel states;

Were dogs and cats to be confined to small cages and only let out for an hour or two each day we would not be surprised to see more incidences of ‘behavioural’ problems in these animals. Captive birds are, by default often confined to cages for most of their lives. For parrots, over-use of small cages which may also be bereft of environmental stimulation commonly leads to stereotypical behaviours, particularly route-tracing and self-plucking (Meehan, Garner and Mench 2003). However, where birds have many hours each day out of their cages and are provided with a stimulating environment which includes facilities to forage for some foods they are far less likely to suffer behavioural problems. Without direct, physical contact with their keepers or other birds, the caged bird is, essentially in solitary confinement.

While captive parrots are commonly subjected to some or all of the above conditions (conditions which are inimical to their behavioural needs) they have a further common problem. This relates to how their keepers interact with them when they are out of the cage.

Not only are companion parrots not domesticated like cats and dogs, but they are also prey animals—as opposed to cats and dogs, which are predators. This means that parrots have a completely different view of life. Predators are on the lookout for a single potential prey. They wait patiently for their opportunity and act quickly. They eat when they are successful and do not waste energy. Prey animals, on the other hand, are constantly aware of their environment and constantly on the lookout for multiple sources of danger. They have a fast metabolism and must eat often. Their reflexes are instinctive and fast, with a well-honed fright-to-flight response. When startled, they err on the side of caution and react without thought. Parrots are always in a heightened state of awareness, as their survival depends on it. Because of this, the bird's vision is much more acute and is best described by Wikipedia;

Vision is the most important sense for birds, since good eyesight is essential for safe flight, and this group has a number of adaptations which give visual acuity superior to that of other vertebrate groups; a pigeon has been described as "two eyes with wings". The avian eye resembles that of a reptile, with ciliary muscles that can change the shape of the lens rapidly and to a greater extent than in the mammals. Birds have the largest eyes relative to their size within the animal kingdom, and movement is consequently limited within the eye's bony socket. In addition to the two eyelids usually found in vertebrates, it is protected by a third transparent movable membrane. The eye's internal anatomy is similar to that of other vertebrates, but has a structure, the pecten oculi, unique to birds.

Birds, unlike humans but like fish, amphibians and reptiles, have four types of colour receptors in the eye. These give birds the ability to perceive not only the visible range but also the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, and other adaptations allow for the detection of polarised light ormagnetic fields. Birds have proportionally more light receptors in the retina than mammals, and more nerve connections between the photoreceptors and the brain.[...]

Birds can resolve rapid movements better than humans, for whom flickering at a rate greater than 50 Hz appears as continuous movement. Humans cannot therefore distinguish individual flashes of a fluorescent light bulb oscillating at 60 Hz, but Budgerigars and chickens have flicker thresholds of more than 100 Hz. A Cooper's Hawk can pursue agile prey through woodland and avoid branches and other objects at high speed; to humans such a chase would appear as a blur.

Birds can also detect slow moving objects. The movement of the sun and the constellations across the sky is imperceptible to humans, but detected by birds. The ability to detect these movements allows migrating birds to properly orientate themselves.

To obtain steady images while flying or when perched on a swaying branch, birds hold the head as steady as possible with compensating reflexes. Maintaining a steady image is especially relevant for birds of prey.

For all birds. Even just eating and foraging is a highly involved process. Because the parrot by nature is always in a state of vigilance to avoid being eaten by predators. "[...]While moving the head, birds can focus on two images at the same time (one per eye, as eyes are placed peripherally). However, to keep track of what is going on around its head, birds move their heads very quickly.[...]" (Esteban Fernandez-Juricic Bird vision explained http://estebanfj.bio.purdue.edu/birdvision/ 2010).
 
It is essential to understand what this very important part of a parrot's telos means to a captive companion parrot. Parrots know instinctively that they must maintain awareness of their environment, that they must know where sources of food are, that they must be in contact with other parrots to share information about possible dangers, and that they must be able to flee within seconds of detecting danger. Survival is a full-time and energy-intensive endeavour which occupies the parrot from sunrise to sunset. Caged parrots have all of this energy and the instinct to use it, but no outlet. Because they are primed to deal with myriad stimuli, they are easily bored and very prone to neurotic behaviours which channel this undirected energy.
 
A parrot sees more than what humans see for all the reasons stated above. The way the parrot’s visual cortex works with neuro-pathways and the ability to integrate them with the other senses is truly remarkable. Parrots are in a much more heightened state of awareness of the nuances of their environment, of whereabouts and activities of their companions, and the emotional tone of their flock, than humans can ever comprehend. A parrot's natural state of being is survival mode. Humans cannot even begin to understand what that means.
 
Parrots, like most companion animals, are with us because of what they give us. Beyond food, water, and a clean safe place to live, we often do not consider what companion animals really need from us. This is particularly true for companion parrots. They have an absolute requirement for companionship and interaction from us. They need to be acknowledged and talked with. They need to be picked up, petted, scratched, and preened. They need to play, forage, and vocalize. Most parrots will appreciate having another parrot around, but if they have been hand raised and around people for all of their life, it is people that they identify with and people they will want to interact with. They need to be included in all aspects of family activity, because they need to feel that they are an important member of the flock.

Parrots need to be busy, and they need to remain interested enough in their environment to want to be busy. They do not switch off or go into suspended animation when humans are not around. They get anxious and bored. Companion parrots are condemned to a life which requires that they spend 70 to 90 percent of their life locked in a cage completely dependent on their caregiver. Parrots sit alone anxiously waiting for their flock to become active, and waiting to interact with the flock. Sitting alone in a quiet, sterile environment causes more stress and boredom. Sitting alone and hearing the rest of the flock going about its business, but excluding the parrot, causes more anxiety and stress. All of this boredom, angst, and pent-up energy is eventually released by developing neurotic and often self-destructive behaviours.
 
It is very difficult for a human to understand that, from a parrot's point of view, there can never be too much togetherness. This basic requirement of a parrot's telos, to never be alone, makes the task of providing the parrot with suitable living conditions nearly impossible for a caregiver. Companion parrots require a lot of simulation, both internal and external, within their own space and in all of the area that they can see; enrichment both inside and outside the cage; and activity and companionship with their favourite person. This is a huge demand on a usually time-strapped and overstimulated person who just wants to relax and do nothing.  
 
Chewable toys, foraging toys, and puzzle-type toys are essential components in the struggle to keep a companion parrot interested and busy. Background noise provided by a radio or television is also helpful, as is positioning the cage with a view to the outdoors. But these things can never and should never be a substitute for what a companion parrot really needs—and that is companionship. By giving the parrot companionship, the caregiver is giving what the parrot most wants and needs. Filling a parrot's cage with toys and leaving them to fill the day with chewing and playing by themselves, and then assuming that since they were busy all day they must be tired and not need much interaction when the caregiver comes home, is a recipe for disaster.
 
Happy, secure, self-confident parrots that get regular human interaction and attention will happily chew and play with their toys and keep themselves busy while the caretaker is away for short periods of time. For these parrots, toys are part of a full and satisfying life. However, a neglected parrot will often sit, withdrawn, uninterested, and inactive, in a cage overflowing with a variety of fun toys. These toys do not make up for the deficits in other areas of the parrot's life. A parrot soon becomes bored with toys if these are the only focus for interaction and stimulation. This is similar to a neglected child being given toys to make up for a lack of attention and love. Very soon these toys become meaningless, pointless, and unwelcome. Child—or parrot—for intelligent beings, toys do not compensate for the bleakness, unhappiness, and loneliness experienced in their life.
 
Because parrots are so intelligent and perceptive, they know when their caregiver is distracted, too busy to fully focus on them, or unwilling to interact with them in a meaningful way. Parrots are also very aware of time. They know that a day has begun and ended, and they feel the passage of time. They know when important events in their day should occur. Their day is scheduled with feeding times, alone time, time allowed out of the cage, petting times, play times, the times that the caregiver leaves and returns each day, and bedtime. They know when this schedule changes and when the caretaker devotes less time to important parrot-related activities. Parrots will not just amuse themselves with toys to fill the extra time in their day. They need and expect a certain amount of quality interaction with the caregiver every day.
 
All companion parrots already have to deal with boredom in some form just from being locked up in a cage. Boredom is a condition that companion parrots are subjected to every day and which caregivers must fight every day. Each individual parrot has varying requirements for resisting boredom, but the development of any unhealthy coping mechanisms tells the caregiver that these requirements are not being met. The caregiver must provide as much enrichment in the parrot’s environment as possible.
 
The parrot's diet should be interesting and include fresh fruit, vegetables, and a favourite treat twice daily. The parrot should be acknowledged and talked to for a few minutes in the morning before the caregiver departs for the day. Leaving a radio or television on to provide some background noise when no one is home and leaving lights on for the parrot keeps the environment from being too boring. Providing 2-4 different chewable toys, foraging toys, and puzzle toys which are changed regularly gives parrots the opportunity to amuse themselves while they are in their cage.
 
Having the parrot's cage in an area of the house where the family gathers for most of the day when they are home lets parrots feel like they are an included member of the flock. Acknowledging the parrot immediately when the caregiver comes home lets the parrot know that the wait is over. Allowing parrots out of the cage for as much time as possible every day, and spending regular, meaningful, and dedicated time with them every day, gives them something to look forward to and assures them that they are valuable members of the flock.  

We bring a companion parrot into our home as a cherished pet.  But, to a companion parrot our home is a prison.  We do not have to turn it into solitary confinement.  

 
The Tipping Point!
 
The tipping point is the breaking point. The tipping point is the moment in time when people or animals cross a certain stage of stress and their mental state changes. They snap. Once this point is reached, it becomes obvious to observers that there is a problem. The stressors that led up to this point may have been low level, long standing, and built over time, or may be a series of isolated, but very intense, events. No matter how this point is reached, once it is crossed, the problem manifests itself. This is quite possibly a point of no return where even if the stressors are removed, the person or animal is changed forever.
 
People and animals who are under an immense amount of stress and strain may experience anxiety, psychoses, neuroses, and ultimately, a complete breakdown of their ability to cope with their environment. This can be devastating and in some cases irreversible. Both people and animals rely on various coping mechanisms to help them endure the adverse effects of negative or oppressive environments that they cannot escape. The variety and effectiveness of these coping mechanisms are different for each individual, but everyone has a breaking point. This tipping point varies with each individual.
 
Some individuals seem to be able to withstand horrible treatment and conditions for very long periods of time and remain relatively unscathed. Others may succumb quickly to what appears to be minimal or innocent sources of stress. Once the tipping point is reached, the problem will be manifested in individual ways. Some may act out violently, screaming, showing unprovoked aggression, and exhibiting manic activities. Others may withdraw, lose interest in their surroundings, become depressed, and self-mutilate. Still others may exhibit a bizarre mixture of these behaviours. The trigger for these behaviours is not something that has just happened. It is something that has been happening, or often not happening, for a very long time. The individual simply cannot take it anymore.
 
Chronic boredom is probably the worst type of neglect that any sentient being has to cope with. People and animals are designed to be active throughout the day. It is an innate part of our natures, our telos, to be active and to have purpose. Animals and people need to be engaged with their environment. Unless people are in prison in solitary confinement, most will have the ability to stimulate and control their own environment in some manner. This interaction and shaping of the environment helps to alleviate stress. When there is no sense of control over the environment, stress builds, and neuroses and neurotic tendencies develop as a way of coping with the stressors. Caregivers need to understand that it is seldom what IS happening in a parrot's environment that causes stress, but what is NOT happening.
 
Companion parrots have their own telos, their natural innate instincts and urges which they need to express every day of their lives. But from the they hatch, companion parrots are unable to exercise their telos. They never learn how to be a parrot. They grow up living in a cage, imprinted on humans, usually unable to fly, and having their food brought to them instead of having to find it. And at some point in their young life they are going to have to live alone, deprived of contact with their own kind. This unnatural life, at odds with a parrot's telos, causes stress from the start.
 
This only gets worse as parrots mature and experience instinctive urges which they don't understand and have no way of satisfying. This constant frustration can be a huge stressor in a parrot's life. Captive companion parrots are entirely and forever dependent on their caregivers for every aspect of their life. This means that really good care must acknowledge the parrot's telos. The provision of a clean cage, fresh food and water daily, and toys is such a basic requirement for keeping a parrot that it cannot even be considered to constitute a minimal level of care, let alone good care. Maintaining the physical body is not enough if the spirit and the mind are allowed to decay.
 
So how does that sweet, impressionable, playful parrot fresh from the pet store or breeder and equipped with all of the paraphernalia that a parrot is supposed to need reach the fork in the road that leads to either a lifetime of happiness and good care, or a lifetime of neglect and ultimate insanity. No one buys a parrot with the intent of willful neglect or torture in mind. How does it all go so wrong? Why does it go wrong with so many parrots and so many people? What drives so many parrots past their tipping point?
 
The obvious answer of course is that parrots were never designed to be kept in cages as pets. Everything about the situation is foreign to their telos, and as they mature they begin to sense this. An important factor also is that most people do not buy a parrot to satisfy the parrot's needs, but to satisfy their own selfish desires. Little is considered past the aesthetics of the parrot and the potential fun to be had. People either don’t do enough research, or, in true human fashion, do not believe that all the warnings out there apply to them.
 
Another consideration is that most parrots from pet stores and breeders are sold as juveniles. These adorable babies are quiet, playful, and pliable. They may not differ much physically from adults, but everything else about them is different. Even with the very best care, these juvenile parrots are going to mature, they are going to have a shift in attitude, and they are going to experience raging hormones. These changes take years but they do happen. On the outside, no obvious change has occurred, but on the inside. Jekyll has turned into Mr. Hyde, and people cannot deal with this evolution. They want the parrot to stay exactly the same as the cute baby they purchased, and do not know what to do with this foreign creature that has inhabited their parrot's feathers. People often feel hurt, rejected, and betrayed by the parrot's changing attitudes, and in turn, reject the parrot.
 
What kind of commitment must a caretaker be willing and able to make in order to ensure that a parrot does not stray down the wrong fork in the road?
 
Firstly, a potential parrot caregiver must fully acknowledge that the life of a captive companion parrot, even under the most ideal circumstances, is not natural. However, these parrots cannot just be set free; in most cases they would not survive. So by taking a parrot into the home, a caregiver is attempting to make the most of a bad situation. This means that the parrot’s environment must be appropriate to the parrot's telos. This comes at the price of human convenience and desires.
 
Secondly, the potential caregiver realizes that a parrot is not a static automaton. The parrot will mature and change over the years; the needs, expectations, and alliances may change over time. This comes at the price of human ego.
 
Thirdly, the potential caregiver realizes that this commitment lasts forever. This commitment has to survive past a caregiver's lifetime, because most parrots will outlive their owners. Parrots, at some point in their life, will have to find a new home. A caregiver is responsible to ensure that the new caregivers are also willing and able to make this commitment to the parrot. How many people are willing to sublimate their desires for a parrot's happiness? 
 
A parrot’s telos induces a craving for constant physical, visual, and aural contact with others. Parrots want to touch and be touched, see and be seen, hear and be heard, from sunup to sundown. Parrots naturally want to fill their days with periods of activity and periods of rest. They will forage for food, play, chew, climb, walk, fly, preen, talk, and interact with each other, have a nap, and start again. They are prey animals and so are very curious and aware of their environment.
 
Parrots naturally have a rhythm to their life. They wake with the sun, forage for food, socialize, nap, play, watch for predators, care for their young, call the flock together at dusk to roost, and are quiet and asleep through the dark. They are hatched into a social group, are cared for by their parents, taught appropriate behaviour and survival skills, leave the nest to survive on their own, find a mate, and raise young. They are never alone, they work hard to survive, and they are never bored.
 
Captive companion parrots have the same telos as their wild cousins. In spite of living in a cage, they still sense the rhythm of the life they should lead. But the reality of their life in captivity is discordant with the natural rhythm they feel. Companion parrots are very often alone, have no need or opportunity for survival skills, and are extremely bored. Their whole life revolves around the routine and company of their caregiver. If this routine is fairly consistent and always includes the parrot, then the parrot can adjust and find a way to synchronize with the environment. But if the routine is chaotic, often excludes or isolates parrots, then there is no way for them to reconcile reality with instincts no matter how hard they try. They are pushed down the wrong fork in the road. They become anxious, stressed, and depressed. They may start to act nervous or paranoid, may scream, show aggression, become territorial around their cage, develop neurotic behaviours, or self-mutilate. The tipping point is reached.
 
Living locked in a cage is not normal for the parrot, even if this is all the parrot has ever known. The fact that parrots have to live in a cage—for their own safety as well as the safety of everything in the house—is already isolating for them. If that cage is too small, then it is also claustrophobic. If the parrot is never allowed out of the cage, then it is a prison. If that cage has limited perches and few or no toys, then the cage is a sensory deprivation chamber. If that cage is also placed in a closed room, away from family activity, then it is solitary confinement. If that cage is covered to keep the parrot quiet, then it is like gagging and blindfolding the parrot. If there is activity around the covered cage, the parrot is not sleeping; the parrot is alone, isolated, blind and mute, confused and powerless. All of these conditions are counter to a parrot's telos and any one of them can send the parrot down the road towards the tipping point. 
 
However, the fact that parrots have to live in a cage does not mean that they should be in the cage 24 hours a day, every single day of their life, even if the cage is placed so that they are involved with family activities. To most parrots, the cage is home base. It is where the parrot sleeps, eats, plays, socializes, and feels safe. If the parrot is never allowed out of the cage and encouraged to be away from the cage, then a pathological attachment develops. The parrot becomes unwilling to leave the cage and will be defensive and frightened if forced. The parrot becomes difficult to handle, is consequently left in the cage, and the problem is reinforced. The parrot doesn’t stay in the cage due to happiness with the confinement, but because the tipping point has already been reached and this is the resultant behaviour.
 
Part of a parrot's telos is to be free and active. A parrot needs regular time every day outside of the cage. This time does not have to be totally structured around human interaction, and in fact parrots should be allowed several hours to engage in whatever activities they want. It is a time for parrots to stretch or exercise their wings, to explore and forage, to chew, play, or nap. Yes, many of these activities are the same as might occur inside the cage, except that the parrot feels free and has choices.
 
It is also a time for human interaction, but this is a very small part of the total time outside the cage. If the only time a parrot is allowed out of the cage is to be handled by someone, or to be taught tricks or words, then this is perceived as forced and unwanted activity. Parrots may become resentful, resistant to interaction with the caregiver, and this "free" time outside of the cage becomes a stressor that pushes them to their tipping point. It is not that parrots do not want to interact, in fact they want to very much, but interaction is a two-way street. Parrots do not want to be dictated to, or put through their paces and dismissed. They want to have a conversation, to be heard, to elicit reactions from the caregiver other than just a "good bird" when they perform some obscure action "right".
 
Parrots differ in the amount of free time they need. But they need it regularly, every single day. Parrots will also differ in the amount and type of human interaction they require. Again, they need it regularly every single day. There is generally a fairly large gap between what parrots need every day and what they actually get. Juvenile parrots fresh from the pet store or breeder are not generally neglected or left locked in their cages. Like all babies, they are appealing. They are adorable, funny, and enjoyable to be around. They are demanding, time consuming, and want to be with the caregiver, but at this point the neediness is a novelty that is satisfying in a way.
 
Whether it takes months or years, the novelty does eventually wear off and the parrot does grow up. The parrot time commitment competes with other commitments in the caregiver's life, and the parrot is allotted less and less valuable time. The neediness is not balanced with the satisfaction of caring for a loveable fun baby, but becomes just another responsibility. Spending time with the parrot becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. The parrot senses the reduction in time with the caregiver and that the quality of the time spent is deteriorating. The parrot becomes increasingly more demanding, screaming, and even attacking the caregiver in a bid to be noticed. This behaviour results in more rejection and even less time with the caregiver. Bad behaviours escalate, an already time-strapped caregiver finds fewer reasons to want to spend time with the parrot, the cycle becomes self-perpetuating, parrot’s tipping point is reached.
 
Parrots do not understand human time commitments, family, friends, jobs, vacations, and other distractions. Parrots do not understand human illnesses, disabilities, good intentions, or plain fickleness. Even very real and legitimate reasons that a caregiver may have for not being able to spend time with the parrot are meaningless from the parrot's point of view. Parrots do not play games with time like people do. They have no concept of making up time later; lost time is lost forever. To captive parrots, whether they like it or not, that human caregiver is the source of everything, the only path to the fulfillment of their needs.
 
Captive parrots do not have other friends to visit, or somewhere else to go. They sit alone waiting for the caregiver to acknowledge them. And while some species are very vocal and will complain quickly about the change in circumstances, many react in the opposite way. They become quiet, withdrawn, disinterested, almost catatonic. Busy caregivers often do not notice these changes, or assume that the parrot is just very undemanding. The parrot is still being fed and still eating, so everything must be fine. These introverted parrots are suffering just as much as their louder, more demanding brethren. They are quietly and unnoticed stumbling down the road to their tipping point, until the day comes when the caregiver comes home to a very plucked and naked, undemanding parrot.   
 
Caregivers may also tire of the feeding routine and cut corners. They may start out offering fresh fruits and veggies, and a variety of seeds and nuts; some may even cook and bake for their parrots. Over time, however, as they watch most of their special offerings end up on the floor covered with bird poop, they feel less inclined to put so much effort into feeding that fussy, feathered ingrate. They may at first only offer foods that the parrot is inclined to eat. As the parrot gets bored with those foods, they too will end up on the floor. The amount and variety of fresh food decreases to a point where it is nonexistent. The caregiver decides that the parrot is just fussy and will have to make do with pellets and seed.
 
This makes feeding the parrot a lot easier for the caretaker, but also makes it much easier to forget to check that the pellets, seed, and water are not dirty or in need of replacing. The parrot no longer has the guaranteed time and interaction that feeding time offered, no longer has the opportunity to forage and search through different foods, and may not even have regular access to fresh pellets, seed, and water.
 
Parrots need to forage. Finding food is a daily adventure. It is normal behaviour to pick through food and find the choice bits to eat first. This may mean that everything else ends up on the ground, but it does not mean that the parrot wouldn't eat it later if given the chance. The parrot has even less to look forward to, less interaction, and may now be suffering nutritionally or may be forced to pick through old, soiled food. Since eating is no longer interesting, the parrot may resort to other activities to pass the time. The parrot is heading for the tipping point.
 
The behaviours that manifest when a parrot reaches the tipping point never just happen. They build for a long time. Caregivers are tempted to look for immediate reasons such as disease, parasites, vitamin deficiencies, changes in the environment, new this or that, but they are looking in the wrong place. They try a few things to stop the behaviour, usually to no avail, and declare it a mystery. A careful, honest look at the parrot's history will usually reveal a precipitating event or series of events that set the parrot down this path. It may be difficult for the caregiver to accept, because these events usually reveal a decline or lack in proper care and attention, rather than some horrible catastrophic experience in the parrot's life.
 
Because of their disfiguring and alarming appearance, feather plucking and self-mutilation may be the most apparent neurotic behaviours, but they certainly are not the only ones. Parrots may chew their feathers (similar to nail biting in humans), over preen, become cage bound, exhibit repetitive movements such as circling, screaming, eating or playing with their feces, constantly chewing the cage bars, sitting for long periods of time in a catatonic state, banging their beaks excessively against the cage bars, pacing, and excessive biting and unprovoked aggressiveness. These are not just some weird things that the parrot does. These are behaviours that developed because a parrot’s cries for help went unheeded—and the parrot snapped.
 
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of parrots languishing in cages (most not large enough for the parrot) in North America. These are parrots that have not been let out of the cage for any social interaction, emotional bonding, playtime, or to even to feel like they are a part of the family, for a very long time. At best, they are an afterthought. As sad as that fact may be, the real tragedy is that parrots are considered mere commodities. Many parrot owners refuse to re-home the parrot or give the parrot to a shelter, even though they themselves have lost interest in the parrot and are barely providing adequate care. Many have been ignoring the parrot for so long that the idea of re-homing does not occur to them. Some are too lazy to try to find a new home for the parrot. In some cases, parrots are in such bad shape that they aren't worth what the owner paid for them. Many of the reasons, such as, "It's my property to do with what I will" or, "I can't live without it" or, "I'm not going to just give it away" are plain selfish.
 
Most of the cruelty that is inflicted on companion animals is unintentional and done out of ignorance. Most companion animal caregivers do not go out of their way to inflict physical, emotional, or psychological pain on their pets. But ignorance does not excuse the fact that companion animal caregivers don't understand the complexities and dynamics of the pet that they choose to care for. Much harm is caused by good intentions and too little knowledge. A parrot owner has ultimate control over every aspect of the animal's life and destiny.  

"Are you loving your parrot the way you want to love them? Or the way they want and need to be loved?" Bird Tricks Dec.12 2012


Re-Writing A Parrot's Brain

Most neglected or abused parrots can be rehabilitated and will recover to a certain extent if given a chance. Like people, a parrot's life experience is part of who they are and cannot be undone; but how they live in the present and for the rest of their life can be changed. Some parrots will need only a few weeks or a few months of rehabilitation, because the difficulties they endured were not overly severe and did not last very long. They may have just reached their tipping point.
 
Other parrots will have had decades of neglect and/or abuse, usually at the hands of more than one caregiver and in many different homes. These parrots are well past their tipping point, their minds have changed, and their behaviours are ingrained. They may be so withdrawn that another change in their environment or another new caregiver makes no impression on them. Their issues are long standing and severe. And it may take several months or even many years to rehabilitate them, for them to learn to trust and to engage with their environment again. A few may ultimately decide that they have no desire at all to interact in a meaningful way with humans ever again. These parrots often do not interact well with other parrots either. For these lonely few, we can only hope to halt the decline by ensuring that the remainder of their life is as free of stressors as possible. 
 
Every parrot that comes from a background of neglect or abuse, whether it was physical, emotional, or psychological, and whether it was intentional or unintentional, will have a different story to tell. There is a wide variety of parrot species popular as pets, and while all parrots share common characteristics, each species has evolved unique characteristics designed to fit into its own natural environment. Also, each individual parrot within a species will have its own personality and its own way of coping with stress. This means that while certain species may be more prone to developing certain neuroses and neurotic behaviours, not every individual will display these behaviours, even when subjected to stress.
 
It is true as well that just because a species is not known for certain behaviours, that an individual of that species may show these behaviours given the right situation. Whatever the expectation of the species, the reality that has to be dealt with is that the individual is exhibiting neurotic coping behaviours and this is due to some stressors in their environment. If those stressors are not recognized and acknowledged, and if they are not removed or changed, then those neurotic coping behaviours will become ingrained. These behaviours become part of the parrot's personality and the normal behaviour when stress is encountered. Although these behaviours often hurt the parrot physically, they also calm the mind. This is similar to people who hurt themselves with substance abuse or cutting as a way to cope. These behaviours are difficult to eradicate because they serve a purpose, they are effective, and they are self-reinforcing.
 
Brains are not static. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe the changes to neural pathways and synapses which occur in the brain in response to changes in behaviour, environment, and physical injury. An animal's experiences result in changes to both the physical structure of the brain and its functional organization. They change in response to stimuli or a lack of stimuli. Brains change as an organism ages, as it learns, and as it responds to pain and stress. It is accepted in psychology that brains have plasticity and that this adaptability of the brain's structure is influenced by the experiences of the organism.
 
Chronic physical pain, ongoing physical or psychological stress, constant fear, sensory deprivation, boredom, and an unstable environment where the organism has no control are among the experiences that alter the brain in a negative fashion. Learning, puzzle solving, visual and auditory stimuli, positive physical interaction, exercise, and a stable, interesting environment that the organism has influence over precipitate positive changes in the brain. These changes do not occur instantly, but develop over time. The brain cannot grow new brain cells to replace those that die. It does, however, develop new connections between the remaining cells, which can allow the animal to regain lost functions. The brain does not return to some pre-set correct architecture and function; it will be permanently changed. It is not enough to just stop a stimulus that has a negative effect in order to change the brain. An animal must unlearn negative behaviours and relearn positive ones.
 
So a parrot's brain will be permanently changed by the environment it is in. In an abusive or neglectful environment, the stress that the parrot experiences will result in changes to both the structure and the chemistry of the brain. These changes will be manifested as neurotic, obsessive-compulsive behaviours. The changes to the brain will alter the manner in which the parrot reacts to any stress in the future. Once this process starts, it will take a positive intervention to change it. Although the parrot's behaviours and attitudes may be improved by replacing negative stimuli with positive ones, the parrot will never truly be the same as before it experienced the negative effects of the bad environment, and there is a risk of the parrot reverting back to the neurotic behaviours with little provocation.
 
To rehabilitate a parrot fully, the parrot must unlearn the coping mechanisms developed in its need to survive the boredom, anxiety, and stresses of its life. This is called rewriting a parrot’s brain. Someone who is in the process of rehabilitating a parrot and trying to lessen or eliminate neuroses, neurotic behaviours, and aggressiveness, is attempting to rewrite the parrot's brain to allow it to function more normally. The rewriting of the brain happens only as an effect of a very slow, progressive rehabilitation process that is dependent on the parrot's trust in its caregiver and willingness to interact with the caregiver. This happens in the parrot's own time and no amount of good intentions, reading, researching, training, or cajoling on the part of the caregiver will heal the parrot. This process is all about the parrot, and not human ego.
 
The parrot does not immediately realize that life will be better or that the new caregiver is responsible for this potentially better life. They are not grateful—they are wary. The parrot must be allowed the opportunity to observe and interact with a positive environment that speaks to the parrot's telos. At this point, the caregiver is simply one more natural part of the environment. As the parrot becomes interested in the possibilities of the new environment and begins to explore the freedoms offered, they slowly come back to life. As they regain confidence in themselves and their place in the world, they have less need for their coping mechanisms. They display fewer neuroses and neurotic behaviours. They learn to trust again and at this point may decide to develop a relationship with the caregiver. 
 
The process of healing for a parrot that was lacking proper care takes time and a GREAT deal of patience on the part of the caregiver. The caregiver must consider the process from the parrot’s point of view. Caregivers who are attempting to rehabilitate a parrot seldom know the whole story behind the neurotic mess they are dealing with. They may not be aware of the extent of the problems or the real timeline. So they have to rely on what the parrot tells them.
 
Even a happy and well-adjusted parrot will be scared and stressed by being introduced to a new environment, new handlers, new rules (whether they are positive or negative), different food (again whether it's positive or negative), and possibly having other parrots around. Even if the parrot is quarantined, it will still hear the other parrots in the background and this may be either a positive or negative experience at first. A damaged parrot will find these events extremely difficult to deal with. Any change will be stressful. Any stress, whether positive or negative, can trigger the parrot’s neurotic coping behaviours. The parrot needs time to adjust to the stress in the present before damage caused by the stress in the past can be addressed.
 
Regardless of the degree of neglect or abuse the parrot has experienced, the parrot needs to feel safe from the first moment they arrive in their new home, or in a sanctuary or shelter. But they also need to start with a clean slate. The new environment must include a different cage from the one that they had been living in. The new cage should include different perches, toys, and bowls. This removes any old associations or triggers from the past and lets the parrot understand that the dynamics of the environment are different. The parrot should be kept in the cage for the first 24 to 48 hours so that they can become accustomed to the cage and feel safe. They can observe the routine, people, and other pets that are part of their new environment from a safe vantage point. This time also allows the new caregiver to observe the parrot before attempting to interact with it. 
 
The caregiver must understand that the first 24 to 48 hours in a new environment will be the most stressful time for the parrot. Everything must be done to allow the parrot to feel safe. The parrot should not be the centre of attention or be treated with special care. The caregiver should have an attitude of nonchalance and make the parrot feel that it unquestioningly belongs in the environment. The parrot must be treated with respect and be allowed to interact with the caregiver in its own way and in its own time. Attention should not be forced on the parrot, but the caregiver must be observant and willing to respond quietly to any overtures the parrot may make.
 
The caregiver is attempting to set the stage for a new type of relationship for the parrot, one which respects the parrot's space and preferences, which allows the parrot to have a say and be heard. This does not mean that the caregiver is complacent or submissive to the parrot, but rather is simply trying to convey to the parrot that they are beginning a new phase of their life with new rules of engagement and that their old behaviours are not needed anymore. Only when the parrot indicates that it is willing to try can the caregiver begin to help the parrot to develop healthier behaviours.
 
If the parrot is aggressive in any way the caregiver must take the time to study the triggers and targets of the parrot's aggression. This is generally just another form of coping mechanism, but the caregiver does not want to be hurt by the parrot or reinforce the behaviour by showing fear. Depending on the parrot's history, aggression may have been its only way of communicating with its owner or its only means of expression. The behaviour may be long standing and done out of habit, like any other maladaptive behaviour.
 
The caregiver must not take the aggression personally and must treat the parrot with respect and patience. By observing the aggression dispassionately, the caregiver will begin to notice slight nuances in the parrot's behaviour that indicate the parrot is starting to realize things have changed. The tone of the aggression will change subtly as the parrot begins to understand that the caregiver is not a threat and the old triggers are no longer relevant. Any new avenues of communication that the parrot may initiate will still be layered with aggression, as this has become part of their personality. 
 
The diminishing of negative behaviours and the establishment of more positive behaviours takes time, reinforcement, and will happen at the parrot's own pace. A caregiver should never assume that the parrot is fully rehabilitated at the first positive signs. This is only the beginning. Like any maladaptive or addictive behaviour, the chance of backsliding is greater than the chance of continued progress. Rehabilitation is never a smooth process, but an erratic one of a few steps forward and a few steps back.
 
The caregiver must reinforce positive behaviours, avoid inadvertently reinforcing the negative behaviours or creating new ones, and never force or rush the process. The caregiver must always listen to the parrot and be willing to backtrack or find a new approach if things start to go badly. The caregiver must always determine that what they think they are teaching the parrot is the same thing as what the parrot is actually learning. Each and every behaviour a parrot exhibits reflects a change in the parrot's brain.
 
Rehabilitation is usually easier when the parrot is in a completely new environment with a new caregiver. The old environment is eliminated and any old triggers and associations are removed. The parrot has no relationship with the new caregiver and the caregiver has no reflexive responses to the parrot. It is an entirely new start for the parrot. While rehabilitating a parrot in the original environment and by the original caregiver is not impossible, it is not easy either.
 
This is because two brains need to be rewritten: the parrot's and the owner's. Both need to abandon the old way of relating to each other and find a new way of communicating. Both need to agree to wipe the slate clean and begin again. Both have to admit to past mistakes and really want to change. Anyone who has been in a relationship for a long time knows how difficult this is, how built in and automatic the responses to the other individual are, how easy it is to push each other's buttons, and how nearly impossible it is to change one's behaviour for the sake of the relationship. It is no different between a parrot and its owner.
 
If the original owner is initiating the rehabilitation process for the good of the parrot, to allow the parrot to live a better life, and not just because they want the parrot to behave in a certain way; and if the original owner can abandon ego, admit to past mistakes, absolve the parrot of any responsibility for the current situation, and be honestly willing to change and do what the parrot needs from this point forward, then there is a chance. There is a long process of healing, forgiveness, and trust building to go through before the owner will even know if rehabilitation is possible. The scars may be too thick and the wounds too deep for the parrot to risk trusting the owner ever again.
 
By attempting rehabilitation, we are asking a traumatized parrot to give up the coping mechanisms that it developed to survive an impossible, unescapable situation. We are asking the parrot to expose itself to possible disappointment, emotional turmoil, and psychological pain. This is difficult enough to do with people who are able to understand that they are being helped. It is very difficult to convince a damaged parrot to try again, to allow itself to leave its comfort zone, to rewrite the parrot's brain to expect to relate in a positive way with the environment. The protective wall that the parrot has built to protect itself from further harm has to be brought down carefully one brick at a time.

"[...] It is not the act of kindness to treat animals respectfully. It is an act of justice. It is not "the sentimental interests" of moral agents that grounds our duties of justice to children, the retarded, the senile, or other moral patients, including animals. It is the respect for their inherent value. The myth of the privileged moral status of moral agents has no clothes. [...]" (Tom Regan; The Animal Ethics Reader 2nd Edition 2008).


WHY SHOULD WE CARE & WHY WE DO WE CARE?

Why Does The Plight Of Parrots Matter?

Countless parrots across North America have been forgotten. These parrots have been locked in a cage—frequently way too small for them—and covered, placed in a dark closet, bedroom, basement, or even in a cold shed or garage. This is often done to keep them quiet, or because the owner is tired of the mess that they make. They endure days, weeks, months, years, and even decades of this treatment. They are put into storage and forgotten like an old piece of furniture. They are invisible. No one sees them, no one hears them, no one knows their plight except for the owner who put them there. They have no chance of escape, and only a few are ever rescued. 
 
Why does this happen? It is never the parrot's fault, no matter what kind of excuses and justifications the owner may find. The parrot did not jump into a cage and beg to be a pet for the rest of its life. The blame does not even lie with parrot breeders. This is a problem created by people, and the blame rests entirely on the person who decided that it would be a great idea to bring a parrot into their home for all the wrong reasons. They make the decision without any clue as to what it might realistically involve.
 
When the great idea sours because the parrot does not behave the way that the owner expects, or it involves too much time and work, makes too big a mess, and is just generally inconvenient, the owner is too selfish to do what is morally and ethically correct. There is no consideration for the living creature trapped in the cage, but only concern for how this mistake in judgment affects the owner. Many try to sell the parrot, but refuse to take a financial loss. So the parrot is moved out of sight, given food and water when the owner remembers, and becomes one of countless neglected parrots condemned to a lifetime of silent suffering.
 
Of course, not every parrot owner is irresponsible. Many do the research, and the decision to bring a parrot into their life is an informed one. The owner has every intention of cherishing the parrot and giving it a good home forever. But it is very difficult for anyone to predict how life will change in the next 50 years, and so almost impossible to guarantee a home to a parrot for that long.
 
Often circumstances arise which make it impossible to care for the parrot anymore. These owners are willing to take a financial loss to find a good home for the parrot but innocently think that, because they cherished the parrot and did their best to give it the very best of care, everyone interested in owning a parrot will do the same. They do their best to find good caregivers for the parrot, and are very sad to have to give up the parrot, but often do not consider that the parrot will be very sad as well. 
 
In either case, whether the parrot was purchased on a whim or after lengthy deliberation, whether it ended up sadly neglected or a cherished family member, the sale of that parrot made room for another parrot to enter the system. Another parrot will be bred whose destiny rests with the fickleness of human nature. Another parrot will enter the black hole of the pet trade to end up just as forgotten as its predecessors. Another beautiful, intelligent, emotional parrot will be condemned to a long, futile life of waiting. Waiting for love and understanding, waiting for attention, waiting to be heard. Waiting to be allowed to simply be a parrot.


Why Is It Important To Not Buy Or Breed But To Re-Home A Parrot In Need?

For every fledgling parrot that is bred for sale to a new caregiver, there are millions of unwanted and neglected parrots languishing across North America. Each one of these forgotten parrots was at one time a sweet baby parrot waiting for its first home.
 
Some new caregivers who want a companion parrot as a pet believe that it is best to get one very young, as they don't want to deal with any issues that may have developed with the parrot's previous owner. If this is the sole reason a new caregiver has for wanting a fledgling parrot over a rescue parrot or a parrot that is being given up by their owner, then the new caregiver-to-be is not only part of the problem, but is wanting a parrot under false assumptions.
 
Assuming that every used parrot is somehow undesirable because it has been re-homed and may have neurotic tendencies or behavioural problems is simply wrong. Other reasons that caregivers may have for wanting a fledgling parrot—such as they are cuter and more cuddly; they will bond with the new caregiver faster; they will be easier to care for; or they will acclimate faster with their new caregiver and home environment—are somewhat misguided.
 
Some of these reasons have merit, but only to a point. The people who want a companion parrot as a pet for any of the reasons above should think twice before they rush out and buy one. Using ANY of these reasons in determining to bring a captive companion into the home is self-centred and unrealistic. Baby parrots, like any baby animal, eventually grow up. And they are adults a lot longer than they are babies. If a cute, cuddly, easy-to-care-for pet is what a potential parrot caregiver wants, then the caregiver is bound to be disappointed, and the baby parrot is bound to soon join the ranks of re-homed, used parrots.
 
Not every parrot that needs to be re-homed comes from bad homes or has neurotic tendencies or behavioural problems. Plenty of well-adjusted parrots are looking for a new home simply because their owners are not able to care for them anymore. There is more information out there than ever explaining why it is best to take in an unwanted companion parrot, as opposed to perpetuating the problem of too many unwanted parrots by purchasing a new parrot from a breeder or pet store. There are already insufficient  homes that can provide proper care for parrots, and thousands of parrot rescue organizations are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unwanted parrots. Purchasing from a breeder or pet store just adds another companion parrot to the system. Even with the best intentions and an informed commitment by the new caregiver, it is very likely that the brand-new baby parrot will need to be re-homed at least once, and more likely several times, in its lifetime.
 
If the potential parrot caretaker truly thinks that having a parrot in the home is what they want, then the onus is on them to educate themselves. Not only must they understand the nature of parrots, but they must fully understand and acknowledge the impact that their decision will have on the plight of all captive companion parrots. The caregiver must be humble enough to accept that any problems a used parrot may have are created by humans, and that it is very likely they too will make mistakes and create problems in a baby parrot.
 
The relationship that they develop with the baby parrot will change as the parrot matures, and there is a chance that the maturing parrot will reject the caregiver. No baby remains a baby forever, and no maturing animal remains with its parents forever. A caregiver must be able to commit to caring for the parrot in accordance with the parrot's telos, through thick and thin, through love and rejection, resisting hurt feelings and bruised egos, without retaliation for the slights that the parrot may inflict, FOREVER. The caregiver must also acknowledge that, even if they are able to make and keep this promise for a very long time, the parrot will most likely have to be re-homed at some point in its life.
 
Many parrots need a new home, and there are many ways for a potential parrot caretaker to find them. Some are available through pet stores which will take parrots in on consignment for owners. Many are available on the Internet through sites such as Kijiji. However, as with most things on the Internet, there are many scams associated with parrot sales, and the buyer must be very cautious. And of course, there a many parrots available through non-profit parrot rescue organizations. These rescue organizations are not in the business of promoting parrots as pets, and are the ones on the frontline trying to deal with the parrot re-homing crisis. No matter which of these avenues a potential parrot caretaker chooses, the results are the same. A needy parrot is removed from the cycle of re-homing, and no new parrots are bred to replenish sale stock.
 
Mature parrots looking for a new home have several positive attributes. These parrots have some life experience, most have basic social skills when interacting with people, and they have developed a personality. There are no surprises as far as care requirements go for these parrots. The size of cage required, the noise and mess that they make, and their preferences in food, toys, and companions are all readily apparent and are not going to change much.
 
If the parrot has a penchant for talking, it will be saying words. If the parrot enjoys learning and performing tricks, it will be displaying these skills. If the parrot has some neurotic behaviours, it is readily apparent what coping mechanisms the parrot resorts to, and often the triggers that pushed the parrot to these behaviours are known. In short, the parrot is a known entity. The potential caregiver will know immediately what they are taking on. They will know if the parrot is appropriate for their lifestyle, the amount of room that they have, and if the parrot is willing to interact with them. They will know if they have the confidence and skill level to handle the parrot.
 
These used parrots have done nothing wrong and quite simply need a new place to live and a new family to interact with. By the single act of giving a used parrot a forever home, two lives have been saved from the re-homing roller coaster: the parrot being given a home and the parrot that would be bred to replenish stock at the pet store or breeder.
 
Pet stores and breeders sell parrots to make money. They are not concerned that the parrot may live for 80 years, that the purchaser may not know what to expect from parrot ownership or how to care for the parrot. They don't think about how many times a parrot will be re-homed, how many end up neglected, or how many end up in sanctuaries. They don't think about whether the parrot will be happy or end up a neurotic mess. Their job is to get the parrot out of the egg and past the cash register. After that, the responsibility falls to the unsuspecting purchaser. Parrots are bred for profit, not for the welfare of the parrot. As with any animal bred for the pet industry, there are good breeders and bad breeders. Regardless of the size of the breeding operation, or the conditions that the animals are kept in, the fact remains that breeders want to make a profit. 
 
The biggest problem is the industrialized parrot-breeding farms. Not all these farms are owned and operated by corporations. The term "industrialized parrot-breeding farms" is used to describe the type of parrot-breeding facility that has a goal of producing as many parrot fledglings as possible at the lowest cost per "unit". Regardless of who runs them, whether they are private or corporate, these industrialized parrot-breeding farms are the parrot equivalent to puppy mills in the way the parrots are housed, cared for, and treated.
 
Although most people can grasp the horror of what puppy mills are and why they still exist, most people don't know, understand, and can't comprehend what parrot farms are. Breeding parrots is not as easy as breeding puppies, and a good breeding pair can end up producing fledglings for decades. These parrots spend 20 to 30 years as confined egg-producing machines to supply the parrot trade with low-cost product so that consumers can have easy, cheap access to parrots as pets.
 
According to Karen Windsor Foster Parrots, Ltd. & The New England Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary;
 
[...]There are more than 2500 parrot breeders in operation nationwide, each producing anywhere from 10 over 65 different parrot species per farm – or factory.  It is common for large breeders to house anywhere between 500 and 1000 breeding birds.
 
For example:
Scudder’s Parrot Depot in Washington State came under fire starting in 1999 with at least 800 parrots being held and bred under what can only be described as criminally negligent and abusive conditions so abhorrent as to incite a legal battle that waged from 1999 to 2006. This legal battle, of course, ended in a sweeping victory for Scudders and the larger Washington State breeding community when, with a legal team funded by the AFA, they succeeded in blocking proposed legislation that would mandate licensing and standards of care in breeding facilities in the state of Washington.
                                                                                                                                                
Beech’s Bird Nest Ranch of North Carolina, a one-time field research farm for Kaytee Pet Products, liquidated it’s stock of 500 parrots in a public auction in March of 2007.
 
The Luv Them Birds Breeding facility located in Loxahatchee Florida, owned and operated by former Gabriel Foundation Board member Kathleen Szabo,  put 642 breeding birds up for public auction in September of 2009. These represented over 300 proven breeding pairs producing between 2 to 8 babies per pair per year, as disclosed by the breeder herself.[...]

[...]To this day, the standard set-up for a breeding facility is a succession of barren cages devoid of enrichments with boxes attached.  Aviculture has dictated that toys and enrichments – and even daylight – distracts parrots from their job, which is simply to mate and produce eggs. To this day shipping unweaned parrots that are merely days old to retail locations and/or selling unweaned babies directly to consumers is perfectly legal and widely practiced.[...]

It's unfortunate, but because people are so focused on what they want now, they don't pause to consider the implications for ANY parrot involved. New caregivers are still purchasing fledglings from breeders and pet stores. Here is an example of a blue and gold macaw that was breed to be sold, and is being sold again, at only 9 months of age. The ad was listed on Kijiji in 2013: "9 months old blue and yellow macaw $3,000 with brand new cage which the cage alone is $1,000. No time to really care and watch the bird. Speaks and knows lots of words. Born July 7, 2012. Friendly tamed not wild can be let out the cage with no problem or harming anyone."
 
How quick we are to want something, and how quick we change our minds once we have it. This parrot is still a juvenile. It has not even made it partway through the first year of its potential 60-year lifespan, and it is already looking for its second home. Just like the breeder and the pet store, this owner is selling the fact that the parrot is "Friendly tamed not wild can be let out the cage with no problem or harming anyone." At 9 months old, of course it is. But once it matures and the hormones kick in, this will change very drastically. And depending on the care that this parrot receives over time, not just anyone and maybe no one at all, will be able to handle him. And the cycle continues …
 
We as a society understand that in the past, people did things that needed to be done in order to survive. We hunted, killed, and used animals to eat and to make our lives easier. With our industrialized animal agriculture and technology today, we have sanitized the process in our own minds. We have distanced ourselves from what actually happens to animals and how they are commoditized in all aspects of the animal trade. We have become a society that struggles with fractionalized time. We divide our attention between career advancement, family, entertainment, and diversions. These diversions at the end of the day are of no consequence to our survival. We are just bored enough to want our diversions fulfilled at the cost of an animal's happiness.
 
The problem of unwanted parrots is huge and continues to grow. As long as breeders and pet stores can successfully market parrots as tame, easy-to-care-for companion pets, and as long as there are people who believe the hype and are buying parrots, there will always be an abundance of unwanted, neglected, and improperly cared-for companion parrots looking for a new home. Every companion parrot sold is, at some point in its life, looking for that elusive forever home where it will be allowed to be a parrot and live according to its telos.
 
There are few enough homes, good or bad, available for unwanted parrots. If you still want a companion parrot as a pet after all you've read, if your lifestyle allows you to properly to care for a companion parrot, if you fully understand what that parrot's needs are, if you fully acknowledge the responsibilities that you incur by taking in a companion parrot, if you can give of yourself and do what is necessary to provide a parrot with a proper life forever, if you do not want to be part of the problem, then open your heart and your home to an unwanted parrot. By taking in an unwanted companion parrot you are not only making a positive difference in that parrot’s life, but in the lives of many.


THE CHOICES "WE" MAKE

Parrots And People, A Question Of Choice
 
Individuals in our society have every right to choose how they live their life. They can choose what they need in life to make it happy and meaningful. They have choices in the costs they are willing to bear to exercise their freedom, whether those costs are financial, emotional, or both. They can choose how much risk they are willing to take. Adults, in most cases, have control over their environment. They choose who they want to spend time with, whether it be family, friends, or partners. They choose where they want to spend time, and how much time to spend on various activities. Whether or not they feel they are in control of their life, whatever the consequences of the choices made, individuals are free to make choices.
 
Animals owned by people, domesticated and undomesticated alike, do not have choice. They cannot choose who is going to own them or for what reasons. They cannot choose where they will live or for how long they will live there, what activities they participate in, what they will eat or when they will eat, where they will sleep, when to sleep, when to wake. They cannot choose to leave a bad, abusive situation or to stay in a good, loving home. All the decisions in their life are made by their owners, made from the owner's perspective, and made for the owner's convenience. They are our property. If they do not meet our expectations, they are sold and replaced.
 
This absolute subjugation is harder on companion parrots than any other companion pet we choose to own. They are the ones who bear the brunt of our decisions and who are forced to live counter to their telos. The impact of our decision affects them daily, from the day someone decides to bring a parrot into their home to the day the parrot dies. A parrot may live up to 80 years and go through as many as 9 different homes before it dies. And every day of its life, it suffers the consequences of human choice.
 
Parrots, like all other animals, feel physical, emotional, and psychological pain. Companion parrots experience anxiety, loneliness, boredom, wanting, hormonal, and desire issues. Parrots cannot be spayed or neutered to relieve some of their natural urges. Parrots cannot choose not to feel these things just because they are inconvenient to people. Parrots have no choice in the environment in which they are forced to live and have no choice but to respond to that environment according to their nature. These responses may not be what people want or expect, but they are all the parrot has. A parrot has to be a parrot and when this is not allowed, the parrot has no choice but to break psychologically and emotionally.
 
This does not have to happen. It all comes down to a question of choice!

"The most fundamental moral question is this: What entitles us to use animals for human benefit in invasive research that causes them pain, fear, distress, loneliness. injury, boredom, and so on?" Bernard Rollin; Putting the Horse before Descartes: My Life's Work on Behalf of Animals


For People Out There Who Don't Believe or Choose Not To Believe that Animals Feel Pain, This is For You!

From the time we first become self aware as children, we question why the world is the way it is. As we grow up, most of us look to our caregivers and our leaders to give us answers to this question. Why?
 
From a very early age, children adjust their feelings about what they observe to comply with what society says they should feel about those things. Children are told that what they feel is wrong, that they don't understand, and that what they are told is the truth. Children grow up adjusting to the world around them, and reconciling their view of the world with what they are told the world actually is.
 
As we grow older and wiser, we stop questioning and just accept the views of the world around us. These views are acceptable and normal. We do not even pause to ask ourselves if they are moral.
 
Why do we have companion animals as pets? Because we can? There are a lot of things we do just because we can. But it seems that we have lost touch with the reasons we are attracted to animals and the reasons why we want to be with them in the first place. Why are they so important to us that we want their company and to keep them as pets? The pet trade certainly understands this connection, and successfully exploits it to great profit. Pet buyers often succumb to the pull on their emotions that an animal elicits, and do not consider that they don't have the time, knowledge, or commitment to properly care for that animal.
 
It is up to us to understand the true reasons behind why we want something. We need to question ourselves. Why do we want to bring a living creature into our home and share our life? What do we hope to get from this dependent being, what void in our life are we expecting it to fill? What commitment must we make to the animal in return? What are the costs, to ourselves and the animal, of initiating this relationship?
 
Deep questions, but ones that need to be asked and answered honestly. An animal's life and happiness are at stake. Once you can honestly answer this question, then you will know why. And when you know why, you will remember. It's because animals feel.
 
As "Plato said that when dealing with ethics and adults, one must not teach, one must remind. In other words, one must show them that what one is trying to get them to do is implicit in what they already believe, only they don't yet realize it. [...] the public must be made to realize that "they" is "us", that often our treatment of companion animals is as egregious, shocking, immoral, and unacceptable-indeed more so- than any other animal use in society." Bernard Rollin; Animal Rights & Human Morality


Bernard E. Rollin is an American philosopher, currently professor of philosophy, animal sciences, and biomedical sciences at Colorado State University

Professor Rollin specializes in animal rights and the philosophy of consciousness, and is the author of a number of influential books in the field, including Animal Rights and Human Morality (1981), The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Scientific Change (1988), Farm Animal Welfare (1995), Science and Ethics (2006). He is also co-editor of the two-volume, The Experimental Animal in Biomedical Research (1989 and 1995). He published his memoir in 2011, Putting the Horse Before Descartes.

This section is a cumulation of Bernard E. Rollin's works from many of his books and lectures. Within some of these quotes, is empirical evidence of the fact the animals feel pain.  Animals feel physical, emotional and psychological pain.

"[...] the denial of the reality (or the scientific knowability) of pain in animals provided yet another vector for ignoring ethics, since ethical concern is so closely yet linked to recognizing mental states.""Putting the Horse before Descartes: My Life's Work on Behalf of Animals"

"Laziness, ignorance, habit and ideological disregard of animal suffering and of questionable morality of animal use all combined to assure that animals did not receive the best treatment [...]" "Animal Rights and Human Morality"

""Negative Mattering" means all actions or events that harm animals from frightening them to removing the young unnaturally (early), to keep it from being unable to move and or socialize."  ""Positive Mattering" would of coures encompass all states that are positive with the animal; freedom of movement, pleasure a sense of security and so on.[...] If our analyses is correct, it is morally obligatory to expand to scope in veterinarian medicine and more animal welfare science to study all the ways that things can matter negatively to animals.  And how to alleviate them.  In addition it is necessary to understand which forms of negative mattering that are most problematic from the animals perspective?" Video Lecture

"For example; Ron Kilgore who is a New Zealand ethologist showed that if you measured the stress hormones in cattle. Exposure to new conspecifics, causes a far more significant stress reaction for longer periods of time then does electric shock." Video Lecture

"Also necessary to study is the way in which quality of negative experiences the animal's cognitive and mental state modulate to the degree to which the animal experiences the event in question, as negative." Video Lecture

"Virtually no one denies that animal mentation is far less sophisticated than human-indeed, various versions of the Cartessian clam that animals are machines are still flourishing today.  But the consensus seems to have emerged that animals do experience morally relevant states of awareness such as pain, pleasure, fear, boredom, loneliness, anxiety, and so on." "An Introduction to Veterinary Medical Ethics: Theory and Cases"

"Philosophically, it follows from what we have argued throughout this book that one cannot rationally own an animal the way one owns a wheelbarrow, if ownership means that one can do with one's property whatever one sees fit to do. In short, acquiring an animal is morally more like buying a wheelbarrow.  If this is the case, society certainly has the right to demand from the person who acquires the animal, as from a person who adopts the child, proof of one's fitness to do so." "Animal Rights & Human Morality"

"Stress-related or stress-induced behaviours include cannibalism and feather-pecking in chickens, tail-biting and cannibalism in pegs, homosexual behaviour in cattle, cribbing and weaving in horses, and stereotypical pacing in zoo animals such as caged tigers." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"One needs to know some people quite well to become aware that extreme quiet, rather than voluble outcry, is a sign of pain in that person. (In the same way, excessive cheerfulness can be a sign of depression in certain people.)  All of which leads to an inevitable result: namely, that to be morally responsive to pain in animals, one must ideally know animals in their individuality." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"[..] While most of the work published in the area is primarily physiological and only secondarily behavioural, it seems evident that no sense can be made of the notion without implicit or tacit reference to the animal's state of mind or awareness-that is to what the animal is experiencing.
   The term "stress" is, in fact, used in at least three distinct ways in the literature. Sometimes it is applied to an environment situation: in this sense, scientists talk of cold stress, heat stresses, noise stresses, and so on. Sometimes it is applied to the psychological state of the animal or person subjected to a noxious stimulus, as in the talk of emotional stress or separation or isolation stress. And sometimes it refers to the effect of noxious situations on the physiology of the person or animal. In the latter use, stress is most often dealt with physiologically in terms of what Hans Selye, in his pioneering work begun some fifty years ago, called the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Selye's work distinguished between the physiological effects of short-term and long-term noxious stimuli. In the short-term case, what occurs is activation of the sympathico-adrenal axis-that is, the mechanisms mediated by the nerve hormones called catecholamines, namely, epinephrine and norepinephrine. This is what is commonly called the "fight or flight reaction", which is evoked by perceived threats or dangers of short duration, as when someone jumps out at you and yells "Boo", or when a cat is suddenly confronted by a dog. This aspect of stress was first described by Cannon.  With resect to longterm stress situations-for example, crowding or exposure to cold or to heat-Selye talked primarily in terms of the activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis-yhat is, the interrelationships between the pituitary hormone ACTH (Adreno-cortivo-tropic-hormone) and the adrenal hormones called gluco-corticoids, steroids released by the adrenal cortex. Prolonged exposure to stresses resulting in longterm activation of the pituitary-adrenal axis can have incalculably damaging affects on the body and its heath. Furthermore, a variety of other bodily systems are affected profoundly and directly by prolonged stressful conditions, as the emphasis on the pituitary-adrenal axis being merely a historical accident.  There is virtually no aspect of an organism which cannot be deleteriously affected, directly or indirectly, by prolonged stress. Cardiovascular health, blood pressure, shock response, susceptibility to infection, susceptibility to cancer, reproductive ability, gastro-inteninal activity, ulcers, post-surgical or other wound recovery, headache, migraine, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ability to tolerate toxic and mental disease, behavioural pathologies, kidney disease alcohol and drug abuse in humans (and in experimental animals) can all be affected, induced and exacerbated by long-term stress. And a great deal of research has been done on unearthing some of the physiological mechanisms by which this occurs.
   Ironically, there is conclusive evidence that failure to control stress variables and their effects can wreak havoc with animal research results. Isaac has shown that virtually any stimulus can be a source of stress to the laboratory rat. Known sources of stress which can profoundly skew all sorts of metabolic and physiological variables and thereby jeopardize research results. are heat, cold, noise, crowding, isolation, light, darkness, change in temperature or air quality, infection, restraint, trauma, fear, surprise, disease, and behaviour of the investigator or laboratory technician towards the animal. Relatively few researchers are even aware of these facts; even fewer control them." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"If something as apparently trivial as moving a cage can cause such profound effects, then it goes without saying that innumerable other intrusions on animals' natures can have similar consequences." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

[..]"Reciprocally, as concern for animal treatment continues to mount, more and more questions about animal awareness will be raised - for example, questions about boredom, loneliness, fear, happiness, ect, modalities that go beyond the more obvious aspects of pain and suffering currently being looked at." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"Anesthetics and analgesics control what appears to be pain in all vertebrates and some invertebrates; and, perhaps most dramatically, the biological feed mechanisms for controlling pain seem to be remarkably similar in all vertebrates, involving serotonin, endorphins and enkephalins, and substance P. (Endorphins have been found even in earthworms.) The very existence of endogenous opiates in animals is powerful evidence that they feel pain. Animals would hardly have neurochemicals and pain-inhibiting systems identical to ours and would hardly show the same diminution of pain signs as we do if the experiential pain was not being controlled by these mechanisms in the same way that ours is." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"Denial of pain consciousness in animals is incompatible not only with neurophysiology, but with what can be extrapolated from evolutionary theory as well. [..] Human pain machinery is virtually the same as that in animals, and we know from experience with humans that the ability to feel pain is essential to survival; that people with a congenital or acquired inability to feel pain or with afflictions such as Hansen's disease (leprosy), which affects the ability to feel pain, are unlikely to do well or even survive without extraordinary, heroic attention.  The same is true of animals, of course-witness the recent case of Taub's deafferented monkeys (monkeys in which the sensory nerves serving the limbs have been severed) who mutilated themselves horribly in the absence of the ability to feel.  Feeling pain and the motivational influence of felling it are essential to the survival of the system, and to suggest that the system is purely mechanical in animals but not in man is therefore highly implausible." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"Outside positivistic-behaviouristic ideology, there seems little reason to deny pain (or fear, anxiety, boredom-in short, all rudimentary forms of mentation) to animals on either factual or conceptual grounds." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"[..] And since to even begin to have science, we must accept other people's mental states (perceptions) without being able to experience and observe them, why not those of animals?" "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"[...] one can in principle assess the genetic similarity of the wild to the domestic. If they are close, yet the living conditions are significantly different for the domestic animal, then one may have a prima-facie reason to believe that the animals' telos is being violated - that a square peg is being forced into a round hole - and that it is not living as it evolved to do." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"The term "suffering" implies a particular type of mental experience, a subjective consciousness, and that is what the Brambell committee was trying to take account of when they referred to "mental well-being" and "feelings of animals"." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

[..]"Some farmers (not labouring under the common sense of science) have ascertained that providing confined pigs with toys such as hanging chains and bowling ball cuts down significantly on what the common sense of science called "vices": tail-biting, bar-biting, vacuum-chewing, and so on, which the farmers saw as plainly a result of keeping fairly intelligent animals in a sterile environment, in which they did these things as a form of stimulation." "The Unheeded Cry Animal Consciousness Animal Pain and Science"

"It is evident that an animals cannot weigh being treated for cancer against the suffering that it entails. Cannot affirm with desire or even conceive of desire to incur during suffering for the sake of future life. Cannot understand that current suffering and maybe counter balanced, cannot choice to lose a limb to preclude mantissas... To treat animals with respect morally, we need to consider their mentational limits. And that means their extreme unlikelihood that they can understand the concept of life and death in themselves rather than the pains and pleasures associated of life or death. To the animal in a real sense, there is only quality of life. That is experiential content is pleasant or unpleasant in all the modes it is capable of; whether their board, or occupied, fearful or not fearful, lonely or enjoying companionship, hungry thirsty... We have no reason to believe animals can grasp the notion of extended life, let alone do a trade off with current suffering. This in turn entails that we realistically asses what they are experiencing. So when we're confronted with life threatening illnisses that does effect our animals. It is not axiomatic that they be treated in whatever qualitative experiential cost that may entail. The owner may consider the suffering a small price for extra life, but the animal nether values it nor comprehends it. A very important corollary emerges from this discussion.  We've argued that animals have no concept of death or life and consequently it cannot value that more than pain. We also indicated that people sometime value death over pain. As a way of ending it. If this is true of humans, it would be anthropomorphic true of animals who cannot value life at all. In these sense, pain may well be worse for animals than for humans. The standard line is among pain theorists say that human pain is much worse because you can worry about it, you can anticipate it. The same logic however decrees that a animal cannot look forward to a time without pain. Their universe is pain. Their horizon of cognizance is pain. And so they don't have hope. Humans can anticipate an end time to their misery. Animals can't." Video Lecture

Every living being has the right to live the way they were meant to live according their telos.  

We don't need to poach wild parrots, or to breed and keep captive parrots to ensure our survival. The ONLY reason we do any of these things is for our own amusement.  And this is amoral!

For the sake of all the tens of millions of captive companion parrots in North America right now and all the tens of millions of captive companion parrots still to come into the pet trade through poaching and captive breeding, we as a society must be made aware of what is happening and the magnitude of the problem. Right or wrong, companion parrots are a commodity and the pet trade is market driven. There would be no incentive to produce more pet parrots if there was no market for them. These parrots are not bred to ensure species survival, the are bred to be sold as pets. They are bred for profit. 

Captive companion parrots owe us nothing. We, on the other hand, owe it to them to do everything in our power to make their lives, FOR THEM, worth living.


                Written by Wesley J Savoy with contributions by Elizabeth Herbert & Georgina Riddell 
                                                            June 27, 2013
© Parrots Forever Sanctuary and Rescue Foundation
2012-2019