Aviculture: Thirty Years to Self-Consumption
© Howard Voren
The following lecture was presented at the American Federation of Aviculture 30th Anniversary Convention, August, 2004, in San Francisco. It was given with no slides or pictures, and was presented as an evangelistic sermon with appropriate gestures and inflections. When you read it try to imagine it that way. —Howard Voren
I've come here today to talk about a lot of things, but, in reality,
I'm gonna talk — about LOVE
I'm gonna talk about CARING
I'm gonna talk about DEVOTION
I'm gonna talk about TRUST
I'm gonna talk about FULFILLMENT of NEEDS and FULFILMENT of DESIRES
Every person in this room — is here because they love & care about their birds.
Every person in this room is here because they are devoted to their birds.
Every person in this room is here because they want to trust those that are knowledgeable about birds AND Every person in this room is here because they want to fulfill their needs and desires and do the best for them.
— BUT — every person in this room is in danger of losing their right to keep their birds.
AND it is a condition that you, in most cases, have unknowingly supported.
You are the spokes of the wheels that roll us to the precipice of the cliff AND as the spokes of a wheel, if you eliminate your support, the rolling will stop.
ALWAYS REMEMBER — If the Pied Piper's Tune was not Sweet, the Children would have never followed!!
We've spent 30 years...
30 years traveling over a long hard road.
We traveled 30 years to get to where we are today
A lot can happen in 30 years.
In 30 years we saw the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 30 years we saw a simple computer go from the size of 10 refrigerators to something that will fit in the palm of your hand.
Just think of all that can happen in 30 years.
In 30 years a newborn human infant becomes a full adult and those that choose are already involved in raising the next generation.
Now, in order for anyone to really appreciate where we are today, we have to take a look at where we came from. 30 years ago when a bird got sick — the vets would scratch their heads, shrug their shoulders and you'd take it home and tearfully watch it pass away.
30 years ago it was generally understood that most parrots would not breed in captivity.
30 years ago there was no scientific method to accurately determine whether a parrot was a male or female.
Now, of course, everyone knew that macaws bred at Parrot Jungle in Miami, but that just proved the theory of those that claimed "macaws need to soar through the air" in order to breed because they can only copulate in midflight.
30 years ago — Looking back it almost seems like the dark ages.
But you don't have to go back 30 years, to get a good picture of where we came from.
Just 20 years ago no one heard of breeding Parrots as a full time profession.
20 years ago when someone asked you what you did for a living and you said you raised birds! They came back at you with — "I didn't asked what you did for hobby I asked what you did for a living."
20 years ago when I went for my first car loan at a used-car dealership in Florida, the salesman, a very proper Southern gentleman, asked me what I did so he could fill out the credit request.
I turned and smiled and with pride said "I breed parrots"
The gentleman turned red, winced, looked around — and whispered "Son, I don't think we wanna put anything down here about your sex life."
20 years ago imported birds were coming in, by the droves. — A never-ending supply.
But all of us that loved birds and cared for them knew something. — We all knew that one day it would end.
We all knew that something had to be done in order to guarantee that those who wished to do so would always be able to share their lives with something as wonderful as a parrot.
Because, like every living thing on this planet — birds die.
Who would supply the coming generations with our beloved feathered friends when importation ended?
Who would supply you with the birds that you all know and love and share your lives with at this very moment?
Who would devote the Blood, the Sweat, the Tears, the Time, the Energy, the Intelligence and the Resources to do what had never been done!!
The call went out. It went out with urgency.
There must be aviculturists that will rise to the occasion.
There must be aviculturists that will put in the time and energy to turn what had previously been considered luck into an art and into a science.
Now the last time I stood on an AFA stage, was 20 years ago. And what you! — You! — the parrot loving public wanted and demanded and expected, was that there to be a concerted effort for us to have the ability to produce enough baby parrots, so you and no one in the future would ever be denied.
Not one of YOU in the future would ever be denied the opportunity to share their life with a parrot.
There was also a very vocal group — made up of some scientists, zoologists and Animal Rights Activists. They all sang a similar song!!
"This is nothing but a consumptive industry!!" They cried out… "These birds are not going to ever be breed in captivity in the quantity necessary to supply the pet trade!!"
"These birds are just being consumed and will continue to be consumed until we close importation or there are none left in the wilds."
"The breeders are worse than the public because they are consuming birds by the hundreds with the foolish assumption that they'll be able to set up captive breeding populations."
"It has been shown that this can not be done."
"And in trying to do so they are just consuming thousands of birds that should never have been imported and will only die before they ever produce!!"
So now! Let's take stock at where we were at that moment in History.
You — the Bird Loving Public — demanded that we put time and energy — heart, body and soul — into perfecting methods that would supply the pet trade with domestically bred parrots so when importation was shut down your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren would never be denied.
You wanted the art of Parrot Production perfected to the point that your fine feathered friends could and would be produced in commercial quantities so this demand could be met.
You realized the fact that if a species was to survive in captivity, it must be domesticated. And production breeding is a necessary step toward domestication.
You demanded and WE listened to your demands.
And we did so because we shared an equal concern — And an equal understanding of what the future would bring if this was not done.
"Hey," you would say "Do you breed maroon bellied conures?"
"Nope," we would answer.
"Oh come on why don't you breed maroon bellied conures,?"
"Oh come on yourself. How can you expect me to breed maroon bellied Conures when you can buy all you want in Miami for $25 apiece?"
"Oh no, you've got to breed maroon bellied conures!! Don't you realize that some day they're not going to have any more imports. And then there won't be any maroon bellied conures. And the reason there won't be any maroon bellied conures is because you didn't want to breed maroon bellied conures because maroon bellied conures were here by the thousands."
"Okay! OK!! I'll breed maroon bellied conures!"
There was also the mishmash of Animal Rights, scientific and zoological people that warned that we were trying to do the impossible:
These birds would never be productive and in creating a breeder market for the imports we were doing nothing but horribly expanding the consumption.
And so it was.
But we rose up to the occasion. Literally with blood, sweat, and tears, we chartered new territories. We did what had never been done before.
Never mind that it took a commitment of 7 days a week for 365 days a year in order to make this happen.
And — when we did take a few days off — we came to conventions like this one and taught those that wished to learn from our hard won successes.
We published articles and we wrote books.
Many of us loved it enough and were good enough at it to devote our lives to it.
Some of us were actually able to lift ourselves above the poverty level in doing it and get to the point where we could actually support our families and make a good living, — doing what we loved and what you had asked us to do.
So now for the very first time in the history of the world you have a Professional Parrot Breeder, not just an aviculturist but a Psittaculturist.
Psittaculturists were now productive members of our American Economy & Society.
We pride ourselves in the production ethic. We are proud of the fact that we produce what our society wants, holds dear and places value upon.
We are proud that we have the privilege to work toward the domestication of an order of birds, that by their GOD given attributes, have taken their rightful place with mankind.
We are proud that through the Production Ethic we have eliminated any reason to continue to take birds out of the wilds for the purpose of companionship.
Now don't think for one minute that back in the old days at conventions like this, we didn't sit around and talk about bettering our profession.
Don't think for one minute that we never considered the BAD BREEDER. But, if there was one thing that we all could agree on it was that the bad breeders would disappear on their own — when importation stopped.
We all knew that if you didn't care, house and feed your birds in the very best way possible, at the best, production would be extremely limited and at the worst they would die.
The bird mill could not exist and all those that tried had failed. We knew that once imports stopped and domestic production was the only supply, we would never need to worry about humankinds beastly greed.
The sheer nature of parrots and what was required to keep them healthy and prolific would in and of itself prohibit
the Beast from ever existing.
There are no bird mills, not because humankind is so moral!
Not because there are not those that wouldn't do it if they could!
There are no bird mills because the nature of Psittaculture does not allow them to exist.
Parrots that are kept in "Bird Mill Conditions" produce very little or nothing and die young.
Anyone that speaks differently is purposely lying or has been lied to by those with other motives.
So we turned our backs to such worries because our understanding of how important Psittacine husbandry is, proved that this could never be a problem.
We turned our backs and devoted the 16 hour days, 7 days a week that it took to be successful.
We also talked about another problem.
Where would WE the caring breeders get our Future breeding stock?
Yes, importation would end and with its end, there would be an eventual end to all the bad breeders that had large quantities of birds.
But it would also be the end of our ability to acquire more adult breeding stock when we wanted to expand or when what we had became old and less productive.
20 years ago I sat at this convention with the late great aviculturist and President of the AFA Tom Ireland and several other breeders, and we discussed this very issue.
Now we all knew that we would be holding back future breeding stock from our yearly production but we also knew that there were two things to be concerned about.
The first was that it would not represent new bloodlines to our flock
The second was the lengthy time that it took for parrots, especially the larger ones, to achieve the physical and mental maturity that was required for them to become regularly productive.
However it was realized by all of us that we could count on the parrot and the thousands of parrot owners to solve this problem for the benefit of both the parrot and the breeder.
Because no matter how well you raised them and how well you socialized them, they were intelligent thinking creatures.
Like all intelligent thinking creatures, there would always be those that wore out their welcome.
Some would be too noisy, some would grow up to be nasty and some would be cast out when their owners grew tired of them or went through a life change.
It was from this pool of mature birds that we would get our future breeding stock.
IMPORTATION STOPPED and for years we took in the birds where either they matured or their human families matured in a direction that caused the relationship to be an uncomfortable fit.
We found them mates that they fell in love with and turned them loose in a flight to set up their own household.
The birds were happy — Their previous owners were happy — And we were happy
IMPORTS STOPPED and we were proud to be able to supply your needs.
Imports Stopped and the BAD Breeders that existed began to disappear.
They could no longer pick up the phone and order more adult wild caught cheap imports and the baby birds we were producing were too costly and took too long to mature.
They could no longer fill the empty cages of those that had died from improper care.
At that point our work didn't get any easier. The 16 hour days, 7 days a week didn't end.
But somehow—someway — we should have made more time because the literal EXPLOSION in Parrot Popularity was far from over.
As each year brought tens of thousands of new parrot owners to the fold, there were hundreds that wanted answers to the questions
Why does my parrot scream when I leave the room?
Why does my parrot bite me when I take it out of the cage?
Why does my parrot hate my husband?
Over worked, over stressed and in most cases underpaid we didn't find time to return the phone calls, letters or emails and most of us went further into seclusion because being inaccessible was much less rude than not returning phone calls or answering letters.
But ALAS help was on the way!!
There were those that did not have every waking hour consumed with avicultural chores.
There were those that were caring and sensitive to the behavior patterns of parrots.
Never mind that they only owned a bird or two
Or happened to notice that they seemed to have no trouble with a "problem" bird at the local pet shop.
Through sensitivity and caring they discovered that they had a talent for correcting many bad behavior patterns in parrots.
They would fill the gap that the breeders and pet shops left open.
They would use their talents to fill the void!!!
In fact this was actually a natural occurrence.
There are breeders of dogs and sellers of dogs but there are also dog trainers, all of which work with behavior modification or correction.
There are breeders of horses and sellers of horses but there are also horse trainers, many of which work with behavior modification or correction.
So it was normal within our society for the bird trainer to emerge to fill the gap.
BUT here is where the first tell tale sign of a possible problem emerges.
Here is where we allowed a seemingly harmless decision to set us up for future abuse.
They were not going to allow themselves to be called bird trainers!!
Because they not only understood something about the bird psyche but something about the human psyche as well.
It was so much more clever to present oneself as a bird behaviorist!!
Never mind that animal behavior was and still is a legitimate university course of study.
Just think of the how much more respectable Bird Behaviorist sounds compared to BIRD TRAINER!! It immediately pretends to have an educated expertise.
Well, that's OK as long as it's not misused.
An egoistic claim that would leave the average person with the idea that there was some formality behind acquiring such a title.
And it's still OK as long as it's not abused
How noble the title behaviorist sounds compared to trainer.
When the average person hears that someone is a behaviorist they imagine something like Sociologist or Psychologist!
What a wonderful title!!
Now of course these bird trainers that decided to call themselves behaviorists will be the first to complain that they are doing nothing different than what we are doing when we call ourselves aviculturists.
Well, that is not true.
Because there is no formal university study of aviculture, the title Aviculturist does not pretend to have years of university study or a scientific basis like behaviorist does.
Now before anyone takes offense!! — I'm certainly not talking about the particular behaviorist that you hold dear!!
I'm sure that they came along after the name had been coined by those that wished to enhance their credibility.
AND After all, — I don't think that there is one garbage man in the entire USA that resents being called a Waste
I will say that in reality, I, as well as professional aviculture as a whole, have no problem with what they choose to call themselves
Regardless as to whether or not it creates an illusion
But I do want you to know that we do have a major problem when the illusion of authority is used to convince the public into believing falsehoods for a personal agenda
Now I also want you to know that I have read and looked at much of their work and I'm going to tell you that quite a bit of it is brilliant.
I'm also gonna tell you that many have done a marvelous job.
I'm also gonna tell you that they filled a very necessary void.
I'm also gonna tell you that most are extremely intelligent people.
Now there's one major drawback to being extremely intelligent.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS???
You ARE and should be held accountable for the decisions that you make and the things that you do.
Well, as good as these behaviorists might be, they had a problem.
They knew what they wanted. — They wanted much the same things that everyone wants.
They wanted to be successful.
Now we all know that WE, as a society, frown on those that would needlessly step on others to become successful.
But that didn't stand in the way of the behavior of some of these behaviorists!
Their problem was
They found they could not resist an overwhelming urge.
They found they could not resist temptation.
They crossed the line from honestly and sincerity to deceit and manipulation.
They could not resist the egotistical base desire to point the finger and LAY BLAME!!
While basking in the sunlight of their new found profession, many could not resist wallowing in the self-righteous glee of being Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
The one thing that most all concerned caretakers have in common when things go poorly with their wards, is to ask the same question that has been asked of GOD or highly respected humans since we had sufficient language to communicate.
That question is "My GOD, Where have I gone wrong?"
Now when some behaviorists heard this age old question, they had a big problem.
The problem was the temptation I just spoke about.
The dilemma was to remain true to their noble and truthful mission or to place a higher priority on inflating their dubious credibility and to cement the loyalty of their following.
With this temptation in mind how would they answer the question from the concerned parrot owner as to "where they went wrong"?
Every one of them realized the problem in telling their new found client that their bird was a behavioral wreck because they were horrible insensitive people that never stopped to think that a bird is not a dog or a cat!! That would certainly chase them away and eliminate any possibility of referrals.
Unfortunately almost none of them did the honorable thing. Almost none of them made the simple statement —
"Pointing fingers and laying blame is not important. Let's identify the problems and work on ways to fix them."
What many that pioneered the field did — was succumb to the temptation to lay blame.
After all, it wasn't important that they didn't have the expertise to lay blame.
It wasn't important that they knew little or nothing about the developmental stages of a parrot for the first 6 months of life.
What they did know was that their clients had a natural desire to blame someone or something other than themselves.
What they did know was that if they offered up someone or something to rid them of their guilt, they would have
cemented their loyalty.
What mattered was that they wanted to appear all knowing and to do so required that they lay blame.
The PET SHOPS DID IT!!! Was their first proclamation.
Can't you imagine how horrible it must be for a small little child to be torn away from its loved ones and put in a Pet Shop.
The Pet Shops are responsible for your birds problems not you!!
Well, that turned out to be a big mistake and created big problems.
You see the pet shop owners were accessible to these newly enraged parrot parents. And when they went back to the shop for a confrontation, the owner explained just how inexperienced and unknowledgeable that particular behaviorist was.
Well that certainly didn't assure the behaviorist of the cult following that some of them wanted so they looked for a better place to lay blame.
THE BREEDER!!! THE BREEDER DID IT!!! Was their new proclamation!!
What a brainstorm!! What a great idea!!! Why didn't they think of that to begin with???
The breeders were almost always inaccessible. In fact their inaccessibility was one of the reasons for the behaviorists existence in the first place.
Never mind that these BLAMERS had either never raised or only hand raised a couple of birds in their life. That would never be questioned!!
Now you might ask yourself, why was this so important to them? Why did this laying of blame become such an important part of their presentation?
The reason it's important is the psychology behind it. Not parrot psychology but human psychology.
Remember that they are not selling a product that rises or falls on its quality like we breeders do with our baby parrots.
They are selling a service.
Politicians sell a service and many of these parrot trainers are fantastic politicians. Fantastic politicians can inspire a fanatical following
The method that is used and has been used for centuries — is to place blame
And with that you effectively alleviate guilt and give your followers a scapegoat. A scapegoat they can hate. A scapegoat they can blame for all their problems.
History has shown that this not only polarizes a movement against the race, religion or profession that is used as the scapegoat — it also magnifies the importance and stature of the One that showed them the way.
Showed them the path that would alleviate their guilt.
And what better scapegoat is there, than those that have committed the horrible sin of being the most successful in the art of Psittaculture!!
What better scapegoat is there, than those that have committed the horrible sin of making money!!
If you can make just enough money to feed your birds you're okay. But if you make enough money to also feed your family you're an evil sinner!!
Not only that, but later there was another exciting development in Parrot Land!!
The emergence of the national pet chain store.
There was now PetCo and PetsMart. What a wonderful thing!!!
They could now go back to include their original idea of laying blame on the pets shops.
But now it would be the BIG BIG Chain pet shops!
There was no owner that could be confronted by just walking into the store. How perfect!
PetsMart is bad! Petco is bad! They have big breeders with big birdie mills — was and still is the cry!!
BIG BREEDERS ARE BAD!!!!
THE POULTRIFICATION OF PARROTS!!!
THOSE THAT WOULD MAKE MONEY OFF THE BACKS OF THEIR BIRDS!!!
These have become the often heard cries of the parrot trainer's followers.
They now have someone to hate — There are always plenty of people that just love to hate the BIG GUYS —
And the Cult Chants begin — PETNO PETNO PETNO PETNO PETNO
Hundreds of people that have absolutely no idea why or what the big breeders do in raising birds and not the slightest conception as to how the big chains acquire their birds.
I've been selling birds to pet shops for thirty years.
When a local ma and pa pet shop wants birds that they can't buy locally they call up a breeder that they heard sells good birds and all they want to know is how much they are and when can you ship.
When Petco wants your birds, you first need to convince them that you're completely competent in all aspects of Psittaculture.
They then fly to your aviaries and do a personal onsite complete inspection to determine if you meet up to their rigorous Standards of Excellence that make the MAP Program look like a walk in the park.
You then need to promise never to ship a bird that is not in full feather and perform multiple health tests at your expense on each and every bird that you will ship.
After that, they may call you back in a month or so if they have decided that you can live up to their standards.
If PETSMART wants your birds they send their personal representative to inspect your aviaries and if you're acceptable they buy them young and personally drive them to their facility where they raise them themselves.
But forget all that, none of that's important!! — BIG is Bad — PetCo and PetsMart are Bad — BIG Breeders are Bad!!
Everybody knows that the big guy is always the Bad Guy and deserves whatever punishment comes their way.
You All Know that don't you?
Just ask all those wonderful little countries that we financed for years that applauded with JOY over the HORRORS of 9/11
You are allowing the creation of a Taliban mentality!!
You therefore MUST be willing to accept whatever comes of it.
Now with all of this you can certainly forget about the hundreds of unwanted parrots ever being offered to breeding farms.
After all — those of us who devoted our lives to your bidding, to make sure that no one was ever denied — were now — THE Enemy
So now where will all these parrots go? Who will take them in?
Enter stage left!! The new phenomenon of the Parrot Industry
The Parrot Rescue!!
PARROTS FOR FREE.com
Just send $29.95 and we'll show you how to get all the parrots that you want for free, pay off your mortgage and send your kids to college TAX FREE!! For this minimal investment plus the cost of two dozen rusty parrot cages that can be purchased at your local garage sales and the 501c3 corporate filling fees;
You can be your very own boss and open a "SAVE THE PARROT" STP RESCUE CENTER location of your very own.
Donations will come pouring in just like they do to all STP Rescue Centers as long as you remember to follow instructions and tell everyone that you will never allow the birds donated to go into a breeding situation and keep on chanting PetNO Big Breeders are BAD, PetNO Big Breeders are BAD, PetNO Big Breeders are BAD...
To be perfectly honest there are many reputable sanctuaries.
Parrots are intelligent creatures and with intelligence comes certain baggage.
There will always be those birds that are major mental screw-ups or birds that become handicapped. For those birds, a sanctuary existence is necessary.
I as well as all professional breeders applaud the unselfish efforts of such facilities.
But the moment you see the claim that they do not allow birds to go into a breeding situation you know that they have a twisted political agenda.
A twisted Taliban type mentality… The type of Taliban mentality that creates the biggest lies of all:
There are thousands if not millions of unwanted birds!!
We must do everything we can to prohibit breeding!!
In fact since we are in California why don't we make it illegal for a bird to be un-weaned!!! In that way we can put all the breeding pairs of birds in prison for daring to have an un-weaned baby in the nest!!!!
Can you believe that such a law was actually proposed and seriously accepted by politicians and would have passed if it were not for the efforts of an avicultural counter movement.
So now we have all these birds going into so called rescues. Why? Because it sounds good.
It fits the overall lie created by those that called themselves behaviorists and the anti-breeding rescues that followed.
Why would anyone allow their bird to go to a breeding farm!!
Haven't they had a hard enough life as it is!!
Don't allow your bird to go into a birdie mill where it will be forced to produce until it drops in order to supply those evil chain stores.
Bring your bird here to the STP Rescue Center where it can live its life with dignity while we search for an adoptive family that meets our rigid qualifications which include four surprise 3am inspections a year for as long as they own the bird.
Are there really unwanted birds?
Of course!! There are unwanted human children, why wouldn't there be unwanted birds?
Do they exist in vast numbers? NO!!
ARE there birds for which there is no home?
NO — That is nothing but a fantastic and outrageous LIE!!
Those facilities that boast hundreds of birds that they cannot place have acquired them because they have presented a scenario to the parrot loving public that causes them guilt and hence the desire to make sure that their bird goes anywhere but a breeding farm.
At the same time their adoption requirements are so rigid that most prospective owners do not qualify.
This allows their holdings to go up and the tax-free donations to keep pouring in.
Are there birds that need to be euthanized because they're homeless and no one will take them in?
Absolutely not — Only the ARF Rescue facilities would publicize such outright lies. Their goal is to convince legislators that we have the same problem as exists with unwanted Dogs and Cats.
The only ones that cannot seem to find homes for unwanted birds are the ARF rescues, and that's because they don't wish to.
Every unwanted bird that has ever been presented to a pet shop or a breeder has been found a good home AND there are thousands of willing people that will take them in.
Years ago I went to an auction where the owners of a breeding farm had been killed and the County was auctioning off the birds.
I had known these people and they had an aged Hahn's macaw that they pampered like a baby. They felt sorry for the bird because it had a cataract in one eye, a broken wing that had not healed correctly and it limped when it walked.
Up came this little macaw on the auction block and I thought about buying it to make sure it lived out its years in a nice way. My budget was limited, but I was sure it would sell for a minimal price.
Gimme $100 — I have $100
Gimme $150 — Gimme 2 — Gimme 3
Three different people were fighting to buy this bird.
When the dust of the competition settled this little half blind, half crippled bird with a crooked wing went for $900.
As it turned out I saw an acquaintance of mine talking to two of the bidders so I went to her later to ask why in the world they would fight so voraciously over such a bird. Her explanation showed me a deceitful world that at that time I had no idea existed.
"Oh that bird," she said, "It was very important to them all. They all represented different rescue organizations and they all wanted that bird as a poster child for their fundraising. Since it came from a breeding farm they can actually say that this is a real example of what happens to birds on a breeding farm."
So now we have many Rescues making up lies for their own fundraising benefit. Talking about thousands upon thousands of homeless birds.
Birds that by majority were obtained by embarrassing owners into giving them up, or making the public feel that it's a horrible sin to send a bird to a breeder.
The perfect stage for the Animal Rights Fanatics to jump on.
Animal Rights Fanatics — ARF's
Several of these ARF groups have already made the US Government list of TERRORIST organizations right along with Al Qaeda.
Groups that will do anything to achieve their goals of taking your rights away because they devoutly feel that your rights are wrongs.
There is hardly a month that passes by without these groups, along with the support of many rescues, proposing new restrictive laws against you.
My colleague Laurella Desborough will speak after me and give you the sad statistics concerning the ASSAULT on AVICULTURE.
Now the stage is set.
The Behaviorists built the foundation.
The Rescues put up the walls and roof.
And each and every one of you or anyone else that has supported these types of behaviorists and rescues, have opened the door that allowed the ARF's to walk in.
So now that you have allowed these people to stab professional breeders in the back and you have opened the doors of this house to the DEVIL.
What will you do??
Because MARK my WORDS!
The NEXT one they are Coming for is YOU!