Mutilated for Your Viewing Pleasure
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2013:
Mutilated for your viewing pleasure: Pinioning birds in English zoos
Captive Animals’ Protection Soc. (P.O. Box 540, Salford, MS ODS,
U.K.), 2013. Free download from <www.captiveanimals.org>
“In zoos and wildlife parks up and down the country,
thousands of birds stand in large open enclosures, serenely surveying
their surroundings…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 birds in the unnatural environment of a zoo?
“Look closely as wings are spread and you will find the
answer,” Mutilated for your viewing pleasure opens.
In truth, wading birds on exhibition at zoos and wildlife parks
worldwide have usually been pinioned. “The process of pinioning
involves the cutting of one wing at the carpel joint, thereby removing
the basis from which the primary feathers grow. This makes the bird
permanently incapable of flight,” Mutilated for your viewing
pleasure explains on page two.
Pinioning, according to this description, is procedurally
similar to declawing cats. It is illegal, the Captive Animals’
Protection Society argues, if done to farmed fowl in the United
Kingdom, and is illegal if done to any bird in Estonia, Italy,
Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Yet pinioning is practically unquestioned anywhere else.
In just six succinct pages, CAPS outlines the case against
pinioning. The main counter-argument is that pinioning allows captive
water birds to enjoy more freedom than would otherwise be practical for
exhibition facilities, especially when exhibiting birds of species that
might be considered “invasive” and be exterminated if they escaped.
CAPS responds that animals, including birds, should not be kept for
exhibition in the first place. Many and perhaps most animal advocates
agree, but zoos are unlikely to soon give up their collections.
Meanwhile, though most activists have probably never heard of
it, the practice of pinioning seems to be at least worthy of further