In zoos and wildlife parks up and down the country, thousands of birds stand in large open enclosures, serenely surveying their surroundings. Flamingos pick their way delicately through shallow water and cranes stand on slender legs watching the world go by. The occasional flurry of wings flapping is seen but, strangely, none of the birds take flight.
Are these birds simply content with their surroundings, choosing to stay conveniently within the boundaries of the zoo? Do they fly away at times and simply choose to return, safe in the knowledge they will find food in abundance and familiar flock mates? Is it a deep connection to their keepers that stops them from taking to the air? Or is it something else that holds these exotic birds in the unnatural environment of a UK zoo?
Look closely as wings are spread and you will find the answer:
At just a few days old, thousands of birds in UK zoos have the end of one wing deliberately severed.
These birds will never fly.
These birds will never be released to the wild.
These birds have the gift of flight taken away from them forever.
March 2014: Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust renege on promise to stop shooting mallard ducks. [READ MORE]
October 2013: Government advisors back Fight for Flight: In a vital step forward in the CAPS Fight for Flight campaign, it can now be confirmed that most of the members of the committee which provides advice to Government on zoo policy, the Zoo Expert Committee, “encourage zoos to move away from pinioning”. [READ MORE]
Week of Action for Birds 26th August – 1st September 2013: Find out more about this important event in support of the Fight for Flight campaign and get involved!
July 2013: It was revealed that UK conservation charity, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust was shooting dead wild birds in order to prevent them from interfering with those birds who had had wings amputated by the organisation. Read more here.
April 2013: A shocking development in the Fight for Flight campaign in late April 2013 revealed that, not only are thousands of birds being mutilated by zoos, but that they are being maimed illegally by unqualified zoo staff. Read more about this important update to the campaign here and find out how you can help to end this cruelty.
Keep updated! The campaign is moving forward quickly. Since its launch, we have been in talks with councils, government officials and partner organisations across Europe to see the campaign extended to help birds across the whole continent. Make sure that you keep up to date with all the latest developments by checking the most recent FIGHT FOR FLIGHT NEWS HERE!
“It is only with birds that we, as a community, have accepted mutilation of an animal to keep it in captivity”
Vice Director of Odense Zoo, Denmark
In 2012, CAPS commissioned research into this cruel practice as well as other welfare and ethical issues relating specifically to the keeping of birds in captivity. The shocking findings of this work have now been released in two reports:
Mutilated for your viewing pleasure: Pinioning birds in English zoos
This report deals specifically with the practice of pinioning in zoos and accompanies CAPS’ new Fight for Flight campaign.
Last in the pecking order: A study of birds in English zoos in 2013
This report summarises the main findings of the wider study of welfare and ethical issues surrounding birds in zoos.
Below are just some of the ways you can help. Please don’t delay – join us in the Fight for Flight!
SIGN the petition
READ the full report
CONTACT zoos to find out if they pinion birds
Pinioning is widespread but rarely talked about by the zoo industry. Get in touch with your local zoo to find out if they pinion birds. Ask them how many birds are subjected to this practice and let us know what you find out. Zoos for which we lack information can be found here.
BOYCOTT nature reserves, parks or other outdoor centres that hold captive wildlife
Some zoos promote themselves as nature reserves or other types of outdoor centre. If you are unsure whether a reserve or centre that you would like to visit holds captive animals, call ahead and find out. Let them know why you won’t be visiting if they do hold captive wildlife.
GET INVOLVED in peaceful demonstrations
Got a zoo near you? Get in touch with us to receive free campaigning literature to use on information stalls or demonstrations. We can help you organise your demo – just let us know if you need advice or help.
“The idea of amputating part of an animal’s limb in order to keep it in captivity is unacceptable. I support the campaign to see this practice banned at the earliest opportunity”
“I had visited wildlife reserves before and, I think like many people, did not think to question why the flamingos and other birds didn’t fly away. I perhaps assumed that they did and came back through choice. But, when I saw the photographs of these beautiful birds missing half a wing after being deliberately and permanently disabled, the reality really hit home. It opened my eyes and I had to speak out. This practice cannot continue. It must be stopped”
“Pinioning is a cruel and unnecessary practice. It is a significant mutilation that has severe long-term consequences for the bird, depriving it of its most basic natural behaviour: the ability to fly. In many cases, pinioning takes place between the age of 2 – 5 days, often without anaesthesia or pain relief. In my opinion it is simply unethical to carry out this practice simply to keep a bird in captivity”
“Zoos do not and cannot do much for meaningfully educating people about the lives of other animals or for conserving then in the wild. While a very few people claim they gain more interest in other animals because of zoos, in the long term they do little for the animals to whom they are exposed.”
“This is shocking. Those who visit such centres and who genuinely want to admire these birds in a natural environment will be horrified and upset to learn how and why they are mutilated in this way”
“This is for the birds” – the phrase, WW2-era US Army slang, connotes something as trivial, worthless. Such language betrays our ideological prejudices; we need to reorient ourselves to appreciate the ecological and ethical importance of cohabiting equitably with other species. We must let them be as they are made to be, instead of maiming them for our spectatorial convenience. CAPS’ Fight for Flight campaign is a powerful eye-opener, and I intend the utmost respect when I say, “This is for the birds.”
Greg Glendell – Bird Behaviourist, Birds First
“Birds are fundamentally flying animals. Flight Deprivation is inimical to the main means of locomotion of many species. It denies birds the ‘Freedom to carry out normal behaviours’ as per the Animal Welfare Act. Depriving them of flight by amputation of the ‘hand’ is a cruel and unnecessary mutilation which should have been stopped decades ago.”
“All of the arguments used to support pinioning are based on the premise that it is a necessary practice to help the birds cope with captivity. If we start from the position that birds do not need to be in captivity, then performing an unnecessary mutilation to remove one of their most fundamental behavioural responses in order to keep them captive is unjustified. Birds fly to escape danger, to find food, to find a mate and to find more favourable habitats. Losing the ability to respond to a stimulus does not remove the drive to respond to the stimulus, and being unable to fly when the motivation to do so is strong will produce conflict, fear and frustration.”
Charlie Moores – Co-founder of the NGO Birds Korea
“Birds are intelligent, sentient animals, and as a lifelong birder I hate to see a bird confined to a cage or an exhibit. To deliberately permanently maim that bird so that it can never be released and will never be able to behave naturally is cruel and adds painful insult to an already unnatural situation. I fully support CAPS in calling for this anachronistic practice to be ended immediately”.
Libby Anderson – Policy Director, OneKind
“Congratulations to CAPS for exposing a practice that few of us realised existed. Apart from being a painful procedure, pinioning denies birds their most basic behaviour and the one that we most admire – the ability to fly. It would be illegal to mutilate poultry in this way, under our animal welfare legislation, yet other birds can lose parts of their wings for “general management” purposes. Managing a flock of birds for public exhibition cannot justify such a primitive approach and OneKind supports CAPS in calling for it to end.”
Virginia McKenna OBE – Co-Founder of The Born Free Foundation and multi-award winning actress
My question is always “Why does a bird have wings”? It is scandalous that zoos appear to consider mutilation an acceptable “tool” in the name of conservation and education. The message is, at best, confusing. Seeing birds walk around or swim in a pond may look delightful – and is better than seeing them in a cage – but they have paid a huge price to live this half-life. And we are being misled , to put it politely. I wholeheartedly support the campaign by CAPS to end the practice of pinioning. When we say “as free as a bird” let it really be true.
Reports based upon a wider study carried out on behalf of CAPS by independent animal protection consultant, Craig Redmond. Click here to read the full study report.
Gosling photo credit: Bill Reynolds/Prairie Photography
Pinioned birds photo credit: Craig Redmond