This article was previously published in Bird Breeder magazine and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Call To Action
by Laurella Desborough
In our previous discussion on the critical issues facing aviculture, we discussed the need for a widely supported avicultural organization to act as industry spokesman and proactively address the issues. On the positive side, the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) has from time to time successfully taken on the task of representing the interests of aviculture. On the national level, the AFA has been responsible for positive changes in a variety of proposed regulations, including the regulations under the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) of 1992. The AFA has acted in a somewhat advisory capacity with individuals and groups dealing with proposed restrictive city, county and state regulations. In addition, the AFA has for some time sent representatives to the meetings of the internationally important organization, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is composed of official government representatives from over 140 countries and of representatives of nongovernmental organizations or NGOs (including AFA and several animal rights groups, among others).
Serious discussions on issues relating to birds, plants and animals are held at CITES Animals Committee meetings and resolutions are formed that are presented at the main conference meeting for approval or disapproval by the member nations. (The WBCA was designed to meet criteria established by CITES resolutions.) Since 1994, the AFA has sent a representative to the meetings of the Animals Committee and provided significant input to the discussions on captive breeding and the definition of commercial trade.
Although the AFA has sought to meet the needs of aviculture in the United States in these important ways, the AFA has largely failed to succeed in becoming well-known throughout the avicultural community and failed to receive the active support of a large portion of that community. Many aviculturists simply believe that they do not need to actively support the AFA with their time or money; they want to be independent of any organization. They believe the AFA will just go ahead and do what is needed, whether or not the funds are available or individuals have volunteered to do the work. Some individuals hold long-standing political differences with members of AFA and work in concert with the organization only in crisis situations, if at all. The U.S. avicultural community needs to actively support the AFA and work with the organization to make it more effective in dealing with the problems facing aviculture. Or serious bird breeders need to create and wholeheartedly support another organization that is designed to meet the serious challenges facing aviculture today.
If we fail to come together and work in a proactive professional manner to meet the challenges facing aviculture, we will find ourselves regulated out of the bird business. We will find prohibitive restrictions on the number and kinds of birds that can be kept as pets by citizens, we will find inspections and permits required for bird breeding farms and we will find requirements governing the sale of birds and the transportation of birds. As new coalitions are formed between the organizations and agencies that want to regulate us, we will find ourselves less and less able to successfully defeat proposed restrictive rules.
We need to be less like the ostrich and more like the eagleóget our heads out of the sand and rise up high enough to see the big picture. Or, like the flightless dodo that was unable to escape its predators, we, too, may become extinct as our predators eliminate us, regulation by regulation. Time is short and the situation is grave...from Albuquerque to Atlanta, from Sacramento to Toronto, the rule-makers are at work on their proposals to regulate the keeping, breeding, transportation and sale of birds. The big question is will the serious hobbyists and the serious bird farmers see the problems, understand the issues, and work together to create and support a professional organization which can proactively address the problems?