I have recently returned from several weeks of being among bird people, attending a bird veterinarian conference (the Association of Avian Veterinarians), a bird owner/breeder conference (American Federation of Aviculture), an avian veterinary clinics (Bird and Exotic Pet Wellness Center) and pet bird owners of flocks. There was a time when I could not have spent enjoyable time amongst them, for I thought they were "wrong" for keeping wild birds in captivity. Through the deep work of Nonviolent Communication that I translate into Compassionate Conservation, I am learning to see that these people are not wrong, nor am I. Life flows through them just as it does me, striving to bring appreciation, beauty, companionship, and nurturing to their lives. They love birds, I love birds. They care for birds, I care for birds. They choose to do so by keeping birds in cages in their homes, or treating captive birds in their clinics, while I choose to work with wild parrots in Latin America. Our strategies differ, but we are interdependent with one another, not separate, but worthy and lovely. We share life. Because I appreciate our common humanity and might empathize with them, I can be among them, and even more important to me, love them for who they are and keep my heart open to the beauty that is their lives. This does not mean that I do not mourn their strategies. Indeed, after several weeks of being among captive birds and hearing of their hard lives in captivity, I am ready for a break. My heart hurts to witness such suffering.
Striving to relate through common needs also doesn't mean that I don't tell others what is going on in my heart. Indeed there were many such discussions. In that sharing, my aching heart does find relief, for at the level of universal needs, of mattering and seeing that other species matter, we were able to connect. By seeing our discomfort as being at the level of strategy, and not at the level of universal needs, we find ways to empathize with one another, support one another, and hopefully help one another see that we matter so that we can work together in ways that reflect the needs of all beings.
This is my dream and my prayer for we who share our lives with birds, especially this year as we work together to develop guidelines for birds under the Animal Welfare Act. I strongly believe that we need all of us at the table, so that we might nourish birds, ourselves, and the world we share with them with our creative, loving, synergy. May this be so.