Freely translated by Beryl Furman
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The bright sounds of birds fill the apartment of Beryl Furman. Light enters it from big windows opening in three directions. The rooms are decorated with branches, jungle gyms, ropes, swings, and the big cages with open shutters. A blue “pond” for bathing is placed on the table. At the moment the flat is inhabited by 12 budgies (parakeets), two blue bonnet parrots, two tortoises and artist Beryl Furman. All, except Beryl Furman, are rescue animals. Some birds have found a new rescue-home from here in order to make room for new birds in need to be rescued. One can clearly see that life passes on the terms of the animals, - as far as possible.
The first budgies arrived three years ago. Animal-loving Beryl Furman opened her home to them reluctantly, since she has never accepted animals in cages. But she felt sorry for two budgies living in a tiny cage and without proper care. The couple didn’t, however, remain lonely, because Furman began to rescue more birds.
Although the birds may always fly free in her big flat, they do also spend time in cages; they are shelters just like trees in nature. The birds have chosen one cage to spend the nights in, and one for the daytime. The two species want to sleep separately, but some nights they share the same cage. “I control the birds as little as I can, and give them independence as much as possible. They decide when and where they fly, sit, eat or sleep,“ Furman says.
THE BIRDS NEED BIRD COMPANY One rarely finds pet birds as active as these. One bird is peeping out from a box, another one concentrates on a card board box on the wall, and a third one is playing in a tube hanging from the ceiling. Every now and then the birds whiz through the rooms, nearly touching my head.
Wild budgies live in flocks consisting thousands of individuals. Furman thinks that it should be compulsory to allow flock birds kept as pets to live together with many companions. Birds living alone or in small societies should also be given an opportunity for sociality. Birds of different species do not have a common language, so they need at least one companion of their own species. It is a crime towards life to seize this necessity. “Also the males, who compete in singing, need several males around. In my opinion it is wrong to have only one or two birds in order to tame them easily,” says F.. We must learn to prioritise the animals’ needs over our own, especially when our needs are not necessary.
“When there are many birds together, the males do, anyway, once in a while, need privacy in order to hear their own voice, because they practise their singing throughout their lives. Some birds, mostly females, need plenty of solitude because of their temper, so they choose to sit all day long by themselves in an empty cage or behind a curtain. Probably this would never happen in nature, because they simply wouldn’t have the time for just sitting around,” Furman ponders.
Beryl Furman works at home, and one might think that an artist needs peace and quiet for working. “I have often been asked how I can concentrate when the birds make such a noise? I answer that if I had one or two animals quiet in a tiny cage, I would not be able to concentrate!”
Beryl Furman feels great admiration for these “little miracles”, which do their best to make their miserable life interesting. When they have their collective moment for searching food, such as delicious seeds and buds, they pretend to find them on the barren branches they’ve seen for three months already. To function collectively, to share, is deeply rooted in their psyche.
THE PRACTICE OF PET SHOPS MUST BE CHANGED Most pet birds are bought from pet shops. The Finnish Organisation for the Protection Animals is working on a certification project. When it comes in to effect, animals would not be allowed to be kept in shops more than two months. Also their living conditions would be improved. “It would surely make a difference, since today the animals may stay in shops for several years, like a pair of shoes. But in principle I do not approve of having animals in shops at all.” – explains Furman.
Usually people choose a pet according to how much the animals' looks please them. They must be cute, charming or even dangerous-looking. The decision should, anyway, be done by seriously considering the needs of the animal and the buyer’s ability to fulfil them. Each buyer should examine whether they can offer the animal a meaningful life. “We must learn to see things from the animal’s perspective. Do they really want to live with us and in a cage, terrarium or aquarium? If we are not in a position to give the animal a good life, we may not take him/her.
“This mentality would slowly put an end to the keeping of pets, “says Beryl Furman hopefully. Care meeting just the minimum requirements is simply not enough
“If the law allows people to keep birds as pets also in the future, it should be required that the owner arrange daily an opportunity for flying, sociality, stimuli and peace. It should also be forbidden by law to keep birds in spaces without windows, such as closets and garages, place that many consider perfectly acceptable today.”
ANIMALS MEANT TO LIVE IN THE NATURE SHOULD BE OFFERED NATURE’S STIMULI IN CAPTIVITY “If you wish to make life better for your captive birds, whose days look the same throughout their lives, do try find him/her company of the same species; birds of different species will obviously not get along, which will end up in fatal conflicts, where some may get blind, lose one foot or even die. Get the biggest cage you can find, and put in different kinds of branches; a variety of thickness gives their toe muscles good exercise. Curves and swings train their balance. Be careful not to bring in any parasites with natural material! It is always best to brush the branches with boiling water before bringing them to the birds.” – Beryl Furman says.
During the summer period, from April till September Beryl Furman’s birds have a chance to enter the 7 meters long and glazed balcony whenever they wish to. “All animals need visual change, as well as a variety of smells, light intensity, humidity and movement. Nature is in constant flux, which prevents nature-bound animals from getting depressed. On the balcony they have a chance to experience this on a smaller scale. It may be hot, it may be cold, it may be bright and it may be dark. Sometimes it rains, and the humidity enters from the covered openings, “explains Beryl Furman and adds: “Some birds prefer staying indoors, and some stay out all the time.” The birds have learned not to fly into windows by moving the curtains aside slowly. Their right to fresh air can be arranged by ventilation through the windows covered with a mosquito net. Fresh air is very important as are also the sounds from the outer world, especially bird singing. One must not, though, expose the birds to draught. Their cages must also be cleaned often, so the birds do not need to suffer from the stale air while staying in them; in nature they always have fresh air, no matter how much they defecate.
B.F does not regard herself as a bird enthusiast, nor as an expert on birds, but as someone willing to offer the mistreated pet birds a better life, wherever she happens to meet them, such as the shops, for several years. She cannot give them true happiness, that is liberty under the wide open sky, which is what they deserve, but, she can give them a better life than being locked inside a little cage. “I do not see myself as privileged, because I have good circumstances for keeping birds, since I have always opposed having any animals in cages or even indoors and even in urban areas! But as an activist, it is my duty to take them, whenever I see some birds suffering. Quite often, while watching these wonderful creatures, I wonder, what on earth are they doing in a humans’ dwelling!”, exclaims Beryl Furman.
She goes on: “One big problem still remains. The most important thing for most animals is breeding. In the nature they have are kept constantly busy by searching for nourishment, cover for bad weather, shelter from predators etc, which keep them busy. But in captivity they have nothing else to do but breed. The food and water is always there, and nothing new comes on their way, which would ask for some brain work.
And yet, it is impossible to allow them to breed, since budgies have five eggs and three broods after one another. That would make 15 chicks in a very short time. From six females 90! But preventing them from breeding creates new problems. The females reject their males, if they cannot offer a nest. That makes the males restless, unhappy. If some couples manage to nest somewhere, the other females get aggressive out of jealousy. Anyway, it would be against Beryl Furman’s principles to let them have offspring at all, since she doesn’t want any more captive animals in the world! This all means that it is not possible to make pet birds happy as they would be in the nature, so to say, normally happy.
For all the above reasons birds should not be allowed to be kept as pets.”
God loved birds and gave them the sky, humans loved birds and gave them the cages.
Animals equipped with high intellect and lots of energy, such as parrots, are forced to spend a long life in dullness and apathy, and are deprived of everything that reminds of true life.
This article is larger than the one that was published in Animalia. Freely translated by Beryl Furman. Laura Uotila / ANIMALIA