Autumn 2004
The Easy Way Out?



Bob Cleaver

 Am I becoming an angry old man?     Probably! 

I recently saw something on TV that seems to be all too common these days and it makes my blood boil.    It was one of those animal rescue programs that included a segment about a lorikeet (they didn’t say what it was but it looked like a Musk (Glossopsitta concinna)) that had sustained a damaged wing rendering it flightless, but “otherwise in good health” (their words not mine).    The wing was apparently un-repairable, and the only option was to amputate.     They said the bird “did not make it” without further comment.    By the tone of voice, I understood this to be a euphemism for euthanased.

Unfortunately, this is a legal requirement in most states of Australia and I know many carers to whom this has caused great distress.    Maybe the laws should be changed.     I am one of the lucky ones, living in a State of Australia where the laws are somewhat enlightened in that we are allowed to care for these unfortunate creatures.     I have absolutely no empathy towards a system that advocates the euthanasia of creatures that cannot be returned to wild, rather than, at least attempting to give it (or them) a life in captivity; particularly when it comes to the more common species.    Take this Lorikeet for example.     If the operation had been carried out and the bird had recovered successfully, it could have had a very long and satisfying life in a nicely planted aviary with some of its own kind (important for a flock bird like the Lorikeet).    It may have even been happy and settled enough to produce offspring of it own, which, if it had been a less common species, could have been important to the viability of a wild population.      A good example of this is the Orange Bellied Parrot, which was bred up in captivity to bolster the dwindling wild population.

In addition, here is another thought on which to ponder.    If you want to be anthropomorphic in reverse for a moment, why don’t these laws apply to humans?    The answer is obvious and I am sure none of the people with missing limbs and the like would consider it a better option to be euthanased rather than spend the rest of their lives coping with their disability.

So what gives us the right to apply it to other animals?     Are we playing God?

If the creature is untreatable and unlikely to have an enriched life in captivity or its disability is likely to cause it distress, then I agree, the creature should be euthanased.    But an otherwise healthy bird with a missing wing?    No, I don’t think so, especially a bird such as a lorikeet.    Lorikeets will adapt very well to a captive situation, especially when kept with members of their own kind.

Having got that of my chest, each case still needs to be considered on its merits but being forced to euthanase any creature JUST because it cannot go back to the wild, is nothing short of ludicrous.

We are abdicating our responsibility to the creature(s) concerned – or if you like, taking the easy way out!    

Maybe we should explore this issue further…..?

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