Why isn’t there Freedom for all Living Beings?

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Since time immemorial, people have been talking about freedom in one form or the other. Freedom from slavery, from political domination, from bondage, and from social oppression and economic ills. Then people started to talk about and strive for freedom of thought, expression, choice, occupation, as well as the freedom to follow a particular religion and also freedom from fear. If we take some time and think, humans have been striving for freedom in each and every aspect of their lives.

Now in contemporary times, we are talking about freedom from worry and anxiety. It is now argued that freedom is, in fact, a state of mind, and not something to be achieved in the external realm of our existence. And deprivation of freedom is considered to be the worst punishment for human beings.

So, should humans who constantly think about and strive for further freedom from their present state, not value freedom and understand that other living beings also need freedom? This presumption seems obvious but in reality, this is seldom the case. As humans became more and more aware of and started to enjoy their right to freedom in different aspects of their life, they somehow became more estranged from the basic understanding that freedom is an inalienable right not only of humans but also of other animals.

Isn’t the desire of humans to keep animals as pets as well as seeking entertainment by watching animals caged in zoos a manifestation of the hypocrisy of humans? I am especially critical of those who are completely oblivious and insensitive about the way certain animals feel when they are caged within the four walls of a house.

Birds have always been the symbol of freedom. They fly wherever they feel like flying and never have to care about national boundaries. They fly high in the sky to the remotest parts of the world. I always thought birds are the most free of all animals and enjoy real freedom. It is no wonder that every human loves the sight of birds flying and playing. But, paradoxically, humans who desire and strive for freedom the most love to cage birds and keep them as showpieces in their homes. Most of these people who like to keep birds as pets argue that they love birds, love their company and treat them kindly. But I really do not understand such a kind of love, which entails denying freedom to your object of love.

However, earlier I was critical and abhorred people who sell birds as I thought they are the ones who are on the wrong side. They catch and sell birds for money. And this opinion remained intact in my mind until one day I visited a market near my university campus. The market was in Katwaria Sarai, a suburb in South Delhi. I was with a friend and she knew that I love birds. So she took me to a market and said it’s a surprise. It was a bird market.

There were different varieties of beautiful and colorful birds locked up in small cages. Parrots, rosy-ringed parakeets, different types of pigeons, Java Finches, lovebirds, White Cockatoo, Cocktail bird and many other exotic birds that I saw for the first time. I was indeed surprised. I was surprised not out of happiness but in fact, shocked to see the demand for pet birds. There were many buyers who were haggling with the sellers of those beautiful birds. One of the sellers told me that there is an increasing demand for exotic birds in Delhi and people are even coming from other cities to buy such birds. I was really astonished to find that people are so eager and enthusiastic to keep such beautiful birds within the confines of the four walls of their homes and in a cage. I was wondering if these people have really forgotten that these birds belong in the wild?

First of all, the way the birds were kept in the shops was really awful. They were stuffed into small wire cages without any flooring and kept on roadsides near heavy traffic and it seemed to me that the emissions from the vehicles really bothered them. That day I realized that birds are not more free. There is no longer any guarantee of their freedom as humans are now targeting them for money and some kind of weird love buyers claim for birds. I was really disappointed that day and after I came back I tried to get in touch with some animal rights activists. I was really naïve to think that those activists can free the birds that I found in an utterly bad condition.

However, after meeting those activists, I realised that this issue is really complex and murky. I was really disheartened and shocked to know that the birds are cruelly smuggled into India and in truly appalling conditions. The birds are crammed into bottles, PVC pipes, socks, in shoes and small boxes. Their beaks are taped shut and they are left without food or water for days. The smugglers capture birds in their hundreds and smuggle them across porous borders to different countries. Most birds die in the process, but those that survive cover the costs. The traders often force-breed these birds by injecting them with chemicals and hormones that speed up their reproductive cycles. Such treatment and confinement often lead to the birds suffering depression.

But what was appalling for me was the knowledge that most buyers are usually aware of the way these birds are smuggled. But yet they indulge in buying birds and in turn encourage such ill-treatment and smuggling.  In fact, it is the demand for birds as pets which has led to such an increase in bird smuggling all across the world.

I would not deter from commenting that the tender mercies human show animals which they have confined within the four walls of their homes are nothing but wicked cruelty. Irrespective of whatsoever kindness an owner bestows, it is enough misery for a bird to live in a wired case hung from a nail in the wall of your home.

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4627382436_6ee9595dbe_o 4627382436_6ee9595dbe_o Basheer Tome CC BY 2.0