Falconers treat birds of prey, such as falcons, owls, and eagles, as living props and put them on display for tourists. Tied to a block of wood with a short leather strap for hours or even days, their life is one of boredom and torment. Only during air shows are they allowed a short period of “freedom” to fly, which is far from satisfying their need to engage in natural behaviour.
A Life in Chains
In 2021, PETA Germany investigated eight German zoos that kept birds of prey. It was found that the birds spent most of the day tethered on a lead close to the ground. When they tried to fly, they were yanked back by the leather strap on their feet. Some of the birds chewed on their ankle cuffs in an attempt to free themselves.
A UK investigation by Freedom for Animals showed that birds were only able to move freely for an average of 11 minutes during the flight demonstrations and that they remained tied up for most of the day. Some birds lived in such cramped conditions they couldn’t even stretch out their wings, and many were denied food and water.
Props for Selfies
When birds of prey are tied up, falconers have easier “access” to them. This enables tourists to take selfies and hold and touch them. For these sensitive wild birds, this forced contact with humans is enormously stressful. Regardless of whether they are scared, exhausted, or just want to be left alone, raptors are confined and forced into interactions with the public. Many owls are nocturnal, that is, mostly active at night or dusk, but in falconry centres, they are often used for demonstrations during the day, which disrupts their natural life cycle.
Falconry Is Cruel
Flight demonstrations give the appearance that the birds are returning voluntarily. But this supposed closeness between falconer and bird is based on abuse. Falconers steal baby birds from their mothers, then “trainers” deprive them of food to make them dependent and docile so that they keep returning.
Many falconers display birds at events across the country. Just imagine being moved from place to place in small cages or trailers, exposed to loud noises, music, bright lights, and strange smells.
“Circus events with birds of prey – and such air shows are nothing else – thwart animal and nature conservation. Birds of prey and owls usually form lifelong partnerships, but being tethered also means social isolation. Water is often only offered intermittently to prevent the birds from bathing before the air show. Life expectancy in such establishments is not very high, as stress and regular food deprivation lead to immunosuppression. In addition to these animal welfare-related aspects, the type of husbandry and the enormous scope of these events also promotes illegal animal trade to a considerable extent.”
– Dr Hans Frey, veterinarian and bird of prey expert
What You Can Do
Never visit falconry centres, zoos, or any attractions at which animals are displayed for entertainment, and inform your family and friends about the suffering of birds of prey in captivity.