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Why Souls Fly Away

"Some parrots are legale but
why cage exotic birds at all?"

—Chris Wille, NAS

Don't ask me, was my first thought. The last parrot I owned was—I swear—killed 10 years ago by an ex-friend who, with Joseph Krutch, believed that hunting was the ultimate evil. He left the bird loose in a room with my cats. Still, the larger implications of the editorial "Wildlife Caught in Miami Vice" (in NAS, the "News-Journal" of the National Audubon Society, April '86) continue to bother me.

On the surface, the editorial looks like a conventional piece of modern conservation wisdom. These days, the idea that you shouldn't "use" endangered species seems self-evident. Once this is accepted as a given, the notion that you probably shouldn't own animals, in whole or in part, begins to make sense at least to the unreflective. But has this always been so?

I am a member of several conservation groups. I write about animals, nature, and sport for my living. For nearly 20 years I have given my time to many and varied unselfish nature-oriented causes. As far as animals and wildlife and such go, I've always considered myself one of the good guys, as well as fairly normal, at least for somebody more interested in ecosystems and the identity of that sandpiper that just flew by than in baseball.

Lately,...

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