John Abraham To India On Independence Day – Give Birds Their Freedom

For Immediate Release:
10 August 2005

Mitali Parekh (0) 98201 22602, [email protected]

Model-Turned-Actor Says Freedom Is Their Birdright

Mumbai – Standing tall, his sculpted body silhouetted against the blue sky, model-turned-actor John Abraham holds an empty birdcage this Independence Day, asking for independence for caged birds as well. John Abraham has always been among the first to stand up for the rights of animals, whatever it takes – whether that means slapping an errant tonga-wallah for whipping his overloaded horse or stuffing himself into a birdcage to pose for a PETA ad. The ad was shot by animal-friendly photographer Alan Abraham.

Under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972, it is illegal to trap or trade in all indigenous birds. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species restricts the trade of foreign birds. However, even though India has some of the best laws protecting these colourful and intelligent beings, black markets thrive openly in most parts of the country, involving 300 of India’s 1,200 species. One can still find muniyas being sold at road signals, and quack astrologers stuff gentle parrots into wooden boxes to help them “tell the future”.

There is no such animal as a “cage bird”. All caged birds are either captured or captive-bred. No bird was born to be in a cage. In the wild, these beautiful beings are never alone, and if separated even for just a moment, they call wildly to their flock mates. Flock-oriented, they preen each other, fly together, play and share egg-incubation duties. Many species of birds mate for life and share parenting tasks. Most birds will not take a second mate in the wild if their first is lost.

Both hand-raised and wild-caught birds often become neurotic, pulling out feathers and mutilating themselves, sometimes to the point of death. When ready to breed, many species naturally pluck some feathers to prepare for nest-building and egg-sitting, but when humans interfere with their natural behaviour and disrupt biological and instinctual cycles by imprisoning birds, plucking becomes a destructive compulsion.

“Independence Day should spell freedom for all – humans and animals alike”, says John. “Birds aren’t meant to learn silly human words or swing in a cage. They are supposed to roam free in the skies and sing songs for each other.”

Unfortunately, many people do not care about the emotional intelligence of birds and see them as nothing more than colourful pets. It is this demand that encourages poachers to bring in birds from the hills and forests of North and Northeast India. The birds are packed in small boxes and transported on trains. An estimated 60 per cent of them die in transit from broken wings and legs, thirst, hunger and sheer panic. Baby birds are caught in traps and nets, which can hurt or kill them. For every one bird who reaches the market, two have died en route.

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