The cruelty of falconry and bird shows

 

Today I spotted a birds of prey show and it made me so sad and angry. A group of people gathered round to watch a falconry show and didn’t seemed unfazed by the tethered, shivering birds. Some people may find these shows harmless and entertainment but I can’t help but condemn the treatment of these animals. These birds are wild and should be kept so, not kept chained and tethered., unable to fly free and soar the skies that is the birthright of every bird, These creatures belong in the wild.

The first bird I spotted was an eagle, it looks cold, and miserable with it’s legs chained to the post. This magnificent creature was getting wet in the rain and had an unmistakable look of sadness in it’s eyes. I didn’t manage to get a picture of this poor creature as by the second time I went up for pictures it had been moved.

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This bird is wearing something called a hood that is used for keeping the animals ‘calm’ and ensure the the bird is alert when the falconer needs it, it basically covers their eyes.
This device looks restrictive and uncomfortable and more like a torture device than something used to keep the bird calm.

 

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This cute little owl was shivering, and according to a little research owls are strongly recommended not to be the tethered, it’s even frowned upon in the falconry online community. This owl was swaying from one foot to the other it looked like it was either uncomfortable or cold.

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Three more birds were in an open enclosement, getting wet on from the rain, according to the welfare guidelines these birds should be kept out of these weather conditions.

This is a practice that goes back far in history and was a very popular sport in medieval Europe, a time where human and animal cruelty was rife, giving more indication that falconry is something that should be left in the past. Falconry is illegal in some parts of the world and I wish this was widespread.

PETA condemns falconry as does as does The League Against Cruel Sports that believes that in the interest of raptor welfare no further licenses should be issued and that this blood sport should be banned.

What are your opinions on falconry? Should it be banned?

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27 thoughts on “The cruelty of falconry and bird shows

    1. Its not if you agree with birds being chained up, and taken out off their natural enviroment and being left in the rain shivering. Just seeing the birds you could tell they were unhappy. All those factors equal cruelty to me and I’m sure many others agree with me.

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    1. Many things are cruel and arent banned so that doesnt mean much. Foie gras for instance can be found in resturants all over the country yet the way its obtained is very cruel. Although i do agree this particular bird show breached many rules of falconry, its still not something i agree with and the league against cruel sports even condemns this practice and deem it to be cruel.

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    1. I appreciate that but I’m afraid we will never share the same opinion but thank you for sharing yours, it seems we have experienced falconry shows differently although I did read that the falconry community condemn many techniques this particular falconry show displayed, however I personally dont agree with this practice as i believe birds of prey should be allowed to fly free and not spend the majority of their lives with hoods on their heads and tethered to polls.

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  1. Just because I have not used the correct term for ‘ perch’ doesnt mean i havent researched this topic. Before I deem something as cruel I ensure I research it and research it from both sides in this case from anti animal cruelty organisations and the falconry community and I still find this ‘ sport’ cruel. I dont believe in using animals for sport full stop. Even if I hadnt have researched into falconry I still witnessed first hand the effect falconry had on these birds and the conditions they are kept in. My blog features heavily on stopping animal cruelty, so any cruel animal sport will not be seen as exceptable by me and i will write about any animal injustances I feel need to be addressed. You obviously feel very strongly about this subject but so do I and my opinion will not be changed.

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      1. If someone mistreats their horse then they shouldnt be allowed to own them. I do think horse racing should be banned as many horses are hurt during the race, especially over the jumps and many of the horses are disgarded when they become unraceable or if the breeding standards arent up to scratch and that horse doesnt meet the requirements. Again another prime example of animal sports being cruel and not considering the welfare of the animal.

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  2. So I just happened to stumble across this and feel like I have a moral duty to point some things out to you, in a totally non-confrontational way. More so in the way of educating you a bit about falconry. Please read this, and engage me in some meaningful conversation because I truly wish to broaden your perspective here. It may be a little lengthy but please please please hear me out 🙂

    I 100% understand your view point, I myself advocate against cruelty and the use of animals for sport. However, I don’t think you fully understand what falconry really is at its core.

    Unfortunately you may have stumbled across a poorly run falconry display, which is too common. It shouldn’t happen at all. I’m not sure how I feel about falconry being adapted into entertainment, i.e. flight displays, because that’s not really what it is. More often than not, people who focus on doing just flight displays with their birds don’t know what they’re doing 100% and often do abuse their birds directly or indirectly in some way. HOWEVER, THIS IS NOT FALCONRY! (there do exists bird shows run by people who do know what they’re doing. These are done to educate the public about raptors, especially children, so they develop an appreciation for this part of the global ecosystem (predators)).

    First, I want to kindly correct some of the statements you made in your post.

    1) Captive birds are not in any way “chained”, and are not unable to fly. They are tethered yes, but with very light and very soft leather jesses that can’t harm them in any way. Birds that are kept by falconers are regularly exercised and given the chance (often hours upon hours, which is plenty of time for them) to fly every single day. In the wild, and I stress this A LOT, raptors DO NOT just fly around all day! They actually sit for the majority of their waking hours in trees or wherever, resting and waiting to spot prey. The only time they expend energy is if it’s mating season, or they’ve been waiting too long without spotting any prey so they’ll soar for a little bit. Birds of prey have extremely intense metabolisms, so unless they know for sure they’re going to get a meal out of their exercise, chances are they’re going to stay put. They can’t afford to waste energy.

    2) Birds used for falconry are largely not taken out of the wild, and are therefore not being removed from their natural habitat. At one point they were, but now, about 80-90% of falconry birds are captive bred and raised. They’ve never known the wild. Which, in a way, I agree is sad. However, when birds are trapped from the wild in the fall, they are taught to hunt by a falconer and are later released in the spring. It’s a fact that here in North America, about 70% of red tailed hawks die before they’re even a year old. There are various reasons for this that you can look up yourself. When a falconer is able to take a juvenile red tailed hawk from the wild, and give it the chance to develop proper and successful hunting skills over the winter, it is released back into the wild with these skills and are able to survive in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before.

    3) Hoods are not restrictive and are not torture devices. Again, the material they’re made of is very soft and actually very loose. When a hood is tied to a bird’s head, it’s not done very tightly at all. No falconer wants to hurt their bird. A hood is only used in falconry when a bird needs to be kept calm, because they can become very stressed in strange environments. In this way, hoods do these birds that are kept by poor handlers a service. They’re similar to peripheral vision blinds that are used on cart horses.

    4) I assure you that rain does not phase a bird of prey, no matter how cold or pathetic it looks. Do you not think these birds would be rained on in the wild..? They’re highly insulated against the temperature rain brings and are not in away way “tortured” by it.

    5) The swaying back and forth exhibited by the owls is a behaviour they do in order to help them visually focus on objects better. Their physiology does not allow them to move their eye sockets, which is also why they can swivel their heads around. The rocking side to side on the feet allows them to move their bodies and heads more in slightly different positions, again, to help them focus on objects better.

    6) Falconry is illegal in many places because people abuse it. Is driving evil because some people drink and drive, and hurt others? No. For example, in the Yukon (Canada) falconry is illegal because in the 1970’s people were taking too many birds out of the wild and exploiting them. This law hasn’t been updated with current falconry practices because there aren’t enough people living in this province to warrant change. However, in the majority of North America, falconers take avid part in biodiversity sustainability and raptor conservation. So, it is legal.

    7) Falconry is in no way a blood sport. Falconers do not hunt for sport like big game hunters do (something I absolutely hate). Falconry is a totally different type of hunting altogether, because the game caught is not done in excess or greed, and it goes to the bird. I personally do not like killing – I’m like you in that I believe life is precious and animals are better off left alone, untouched by humans. However, I also recognize that predator-prey relationships are absolutely fundamental to the very fabric of life, of ecosystems. Falconry is simply what would happen in the wild any way, except that a human is giving a bird of prey chances to excel and get ahead with its hunting skills that it would not have in the wild. The only birds of prey in the wild that you see are the 30% which some how manage to luck out with the process of natural selection.

    I hope these points make sense to you, you don’t seem like an unintelligent person. I really do value your perspective, because like I said I’m against animal cruelty and human ignorance as well. However, I think you just haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the true essence of falconry.

    PLEASE look up Mongolian falconry, I think you would benefit from learning about it.

    (One more thing I want to say, sort of a food for thought, is that falconry birds who are kept with love and appreciation choose to stay with their human counterparts. I know a girl who trained a wild red tailed hawk, kept it for 2 years, and after releasing it, it came back to her after being on its own for about 3 months. She had seen it hunting, living, doing its thing, but it knew it had an upper hand over other wild birds by being able to hunt with a human being.)

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    1. Thank you for commenting and providing so much information.
      I 100% agree that this particular bird show was very badly run and as I did state in my post the falconry community online does even condemn some of this groups practices such as the tethering of owls.

      To reply to your comments:

      1. Unfortunately although I did see some of these birds with leather jesses and can appreciate these might be very soft, the Eagle that I didn’t manage to take a picture of was indeed chained up literally with thick chains.
      It was also very interesting to read that birds of pray do like to stay put to not waste energy.

      2. As I’m from Britian these birds, particularly the Eagle will certainly not be released into the wild but I can appreciate this is a practice that is done in North America and can be beneficial to the bird.

      3. The hoods just looked very restrictive and it was quite shocking to me as I’m obviously far from a falconry expert, it did look rather unsettling.

      4/5. I did not know this but I did go on information regarding falconry practice that birds should not be kept in bad weather conditions so this is how I came to that conclusion.

      6. That makes perfect sense to me as this show I witnessed proved that some bird keepers go about this the wrong way and I feel this particular group did not keep their birds as well as they should and unfortunately I can imagine other birds will suffer much worse abuse at the hands of some sick individuals but can understand this is not the case with all participating in falconry.

      7. If the pray hunting is for the benefit of the bird then although this is not something I could personally participate in directly, I can’t condemn it as its essential to the animals survival and natural instincts.

      Thank you again, you really have educated me on this subject and glad you approach the defence of falconry with animal welfare heavily in mind.
      I’m going to edit this post to clear up any misinformed opinions I had before reading your comment and I will look up Mongolian Falconry as suggested.

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      1. Thank you so much! I appreciate the fact that you’re open minded. It’s too bad that this show you saw was so poorly run. I wish I could show you, and any other individuals who have had a bad experience with falconry because of poor animal husbandry, what proper falconry looks like when the birds are the #1 priority. Although you’re not a hunting person, I think you might still find the concept of Mongolian falconry interesting. It’s a massive part of their culture and way of life 🙂

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  3. I can understand your point but Falconer’s have helped save many from extinction. Take the peregrine, California condor. Also because of their help old wind farms that killed thousands of birds are removed. Many Falconer’s start with red tailed Hawks. 90% of them die the first year. After a falconer works with them on hunting they get released back into the wild to find a mate and live at most 5 more years. Conversely, Hawks live 35 years if kept with a human. It should also be said Falconers typically weigh their birds once a day to make sure they are healthy.
    While I agree not all people should be Falconers, there is something positive about Falconer’s showing birds of prey to students and the public. Many of these birds come from rehabilitation. Educational birds are birds that were Wild and found injured. Instead of killing them they use them to show why we need to protect their habitat and food sources from builders and poisons.

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  4. Why do you ask for opinions if you are not open to genuine discussion? You are only looking for “yeah right!”s and “you go girl!”s. As for rain, what do you think happens to a hawk when it is in the wild?!? You yourself note it was light rain. And how can you possibly have seen the “miserable” look in its eye when it had a hood on, which you complain about in your next para? Your post is illogical and uneducated. As Dom notes, it is thanks to falconers that the toxic pesticide DDT was banned – but not before the Peregrine Falcon became extinct in the Eastern US. Get your facts before you start throwing stones.

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  5. Falconry has been around for over four thousand years. I am a falconer with a red tailed hawk. I do agree that keeping the raptors for our personal entertainment is cruel and inhumane. However, this is not falconry. Falconry, in it’s true form, is hunting wild quarry in it’s natural state of habitat with a trained raptor. These people obviously do not hunt with their birds. Those birds are used as “education” and “demonstration” birds which I think is absolutely terrible. Raptors should be allowed to fly free if they are in these types of conditions. However, falconers have completely different jobs. A falconer’s job is to keep a bird safe and well fed, as well as allowing it to take part in it’s natural state. I, personally, hunt with my red tail at least six times a week, if not seven. Almost every day she gets flown freely without any tether, and is allowed to hunt while I am there merely assisting her to make her hunting job easier. In the wild, reds would just sit on a pole and wait for something to cross their path. My job is to show quarry to the bird and try and make it easier so the bird can catch it. I always allow my bird to fill up on the prey that she catches, as it ensures her to become a better and more confident hunter. Tethering birds is not cruel unless they are not exercised. I let my bird sit on a perch and “weather” which is basically allowing them to get natural sunlight and fresh air. I keep my bird in prime condition and make sure that she is safe, fit, and well fed. Falconers have been the conservationists of the world. If it wasn’t for falconers, then the peregrine falcon and bald eagle would be extinct forever. Falconers can take juvenile birds from the wild when they are inexperienced and very vulnerable and teach them to hunt and fend for themselves. Over 80% of juvenile red tailed hawks die in their first year. Thus, a falconer who traps a juvenile red tail is basically giving the hawk a second chance at life. These birds will be released after the falconer feels they are fit, strong, and smart enough to thrive on their own in the wild. I am releasing my red tailed hawk this March. Hooding a bird is also not cruel because it is just keeping the bird calm. The hood is not restraining on the bird at all, they just cannot see. The hood is secured by loose braces in the back which just hold the hood in place but do not touch any part of the bird’s skin. The hood is merely resting on feathers, which have little to no feeling, just like a person’s nails. I do agree, though, that fully functional raptors that are not being hunting is cruel, but that is not falconry. That is pet keeping. Raptors are wild animals and should not be kept as pets. A true falconer will not keep their bird as a pet. That is why they let their bird roam free. If the bird wants, it can fly away for good and not come back. But the bird chooses you above the wild because it knows you are a better and safer option than staying out in the wild and being vulnerable. I hope that I helped to change your view on falconry, but I agree that this particular case is mildly cruel (although I have seen much worse). Hopefully I explained the important differences between falconry and demo birds.
    Best,
    Julia and Freya

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    1. I agree with this entirely! I am trying to get a part time job at the Minnesota raptor center. I have all ways loved falconry

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  6. Before condemning world heritage, be sure to research falconry and what it entails. It is a beautiful sport that has done more for raptor conservation than most “animal welfare” activists.

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  7. I am a 15 year old girl and today I am going to take the falconry test with my mom. We will (hopefully) be trapping birds this fall for falconry. I Have done much research on the topic of falconry. I am currently doing a project for my speech class on why falconry should continue to be legal and I stumbled across this post. I get why you don’t like falconry but I think you jumped the gun on it because after one experience you bashed the whole community of austringers (falconers). I have been studying falconry about a year now. Yes there are places like the one you saw that are cruel to the animals, but all the ones I know do it right and no harm come to the birds.

    This post did make me angry, but not at the so called cruel conditions the birds were in. I was angry at how uneducated you were when you posted this. People like you who see one bad person and assume everyone is like that give people false ideas on falconry. If you never saw someone own a dog before and saw someone simply yelling at their dog you would think that all dog owners are bad and no one should own one. However we know that dogs are great pets and love to be pets if conditions are good for them. The hawks used for falconry are not pets. They are partners. Our job as falconers is to help the bird survive because they would likely die before their first moult (one year). Yes it is very fun but that’s not the point of falconry. Falconry is defined as the partnership between man and hawk to hunt for the bird.

    I do understand that you were uneducated in the true meaning of falconry and that is why you said those things However the “chains” used are not chains. they are strips of leather. They do not hurt the bird. The hoods used are not cruel either. They are loose fitting and both physically and psychologically comfortable. They are to put the bird at ease. The weather that they endured out there are exactly the same if they were in the wild. The jesses (“chains”) do not magically change the weather conditions for them. If they were on the perch without them they would still get wet. Or even in a nearby tree they would still get wet. Also water isn’t bad for the birds. They have an oil on them called bloom to protect their feathers. Yes they could have been put up into the muse (house for hawks) but it wasn’t bad for them to be out. Most falconers are not mean or cruel to their birds. They love them and would never dream of hurting them. They are simply giving them their best chance.

    I hope that you are now educated on falconry. If you are still against falconry I get that. Lot of people are, but I’m not. I plan on being the best chance my bird has. I plan to help it survive and live a long life.

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  8. Fascinating, it’s almost as if the writer has no concept of history, or understanding of falconry. These birds are neither pets nor display animals and are closer to a mutual trust and partnership that is beneficial for both hunter and bird. Furthermore if you had any actual interest in their welfare you would have likely done enough research to know this sport is heavily regulated both by federal and state laws and actively enforced to ensure their welfare comes first. It has to because before the introduction of animal protection legislation many domestic birds were nearing extinction until the Migratory Bird Act was enacted and falconers have been instrumental in ensuring the continued survival of raptors by making sure they are well taken care of and properly managed and introduced back to the wild. Before then peregrine falcons were nearing extinction, and now they are no longer threatened to the point they no longer need federal protection, though there are still strict federal and state laws prohibiting unprofessional and uneducated and unpermitted taking, ownership, killing, etc of domestic bird species.

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