An Ethical and Safe Bird Store Policy, Part One

December 4, 2011 § 6 Comments

Having an ethical and safe bird store policy has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  This is something that is ever-present on my mind, and is one of the most important things to me as a bird owner.  I’m sure that if you own a parrot, you’ve at one point or another lamented some of the terrible products on the market: sandpaper perch covers, obviously unsafe toys, zinc-plated metals, pellets or foods loaded with sugar and other artificial ingredients.  Why do these products still exist?  Well, one aspect of it is definitely ignorance, because there are plenty of people who simply don’t know that these can be unsafe and harmful.  But a second reason is because we as consumers so often allow companies to get away with producing and selling these, and even indirectly support these practices by buying other products that they sell.

That’s where the ethical and safe bird store policy comes into play.  If you’re a regular reader, you might have noticed that there seem to be a select few stores that I support, and a heck of a lot of stores that I do not.  You might wonder why: well, there’s a good reason.  Every once in a rare while it might be simply that they don’t carry anything I’m interested in, but more often than not, it’s because they break one of my rules of having an ethical and safe bird store policy.  I get a ton of emails and messages regularly from people asking me if I know anything about X company or if there is a reason why I haven’t shopped there, and the answers are always very easy for me when I think about the three aspects of my policy: first, safety and ethics in terms of materials used and types of products; second, safety in terms of spreading avian diseases; and third, ethics in terms of business practices.  I’ll elaborate on each one in a short, three part series, this being the first part.

The first one, which is probably the one that most people think of and probably already are aware of, is safety and ethics in terms of materials used and types of products.  This one’s a no-brainer: if a store sells an unsafe product, I won’t shop there.  Your first reaction might be, “But Coco, you have a different idea of unsafe than the rest of us; yours is pretty extreme!”  Sure, that’s true– I don’t even use nickel-plated metals with my birds– but I don’t expect every store to do that.  I’m aware that there is a difference between what is generally considered safe v. what I feel comfortable offering my flock in particular.  Rather, I’m looking for stores that are at least aware of the fact that zinc-plated metals are poisonous to birds, and go out of their way to find toys or hardware that use nickel, chrome, or stainless steel.

Similarly, I won’t shop at a store that sells sandpaper perch covers, period.  I’ve written to stores that do before, expressing my disappointment.  The responses are always a bit of a shock.  One of them said, basically, that they were well aware that these were dangerous products, but that they made them a lot of money and therefore they wouldn’t stop selling them.  Despicable.  Immediately crossed that store off my list.  Another response I’ve gotten (and have gotten in relation to other items too, such as a budgie cage being marketed for a large macaw) was that they simply had no idea that they were dangerous because they didn’t know anything about parrots.  Well, if you don’t know anything about parrots, what in the world are you doing in the parrot product business?

Some people have the attitude that it’s okay to shop at stores that carry unsafe products, as long as they are not purchasing those products in particular.  I’m definitely on the more extreme side, but for me, this isn’t acceptable either.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we vote with our dollars.  Every dollar that we spend sends out a message: “Great store!  I support you!  Keep doing what you are doing!”  You might not be purchasing the unsafe products in particular, but you are still supporting a company that sells unsafe products.  This is one of the many reasons why cage shopping is such a nightmare for me.  Even though there are some companies who do actually make pretty decent cages design-wise that I would purchase, some of their other models on their product lines are downright unsafe, and I won’t support that.

You might say that it’s easy for me to say that we vote with our dollars because I don’t have a shortage of them.  To that, I have a few responses.  First, I’m a private school teacher, meaning that I make less than the average public school teacher, who most people agree are already severely underpaid.  So no, I don’t have money coming out of the wazoo, but I am simply very frugal with what I spend and try to make my dollars count.  Second, buying better products doesn’t always have to mean more expensive products.  There are a ton of great products out there that are also very inexpensive.  Sure, there are a lot of really expensive ones too, but those are luxuries and not necessities.  Perhaps the one great exception to this is caging, but the nice thing about cages is that if you buy them right, the should last forever.  Third, spending a little bit more for a better product now is an investment in your bird’s health and future.  Yes, that toy with the galvanized wire is probably much less expensive than the one with stainless steel, but the vet appointment and treatment you’ll have to pay for when your bird gets heavy metal poisoning will far outweigh the cost of the stainless steel toy, I promise you that.

I hope that this entry and the next few in the series get people thinking about where they shop and the safety of those products– all of the products, not only the ones that they purchase.  In the next installation, I will write about safety in terms of spreading avian diseases.


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§ 6 Responses to An Ethical and Safe Bird Store Policy, Part One

  • This post has given me great food for thought and it is very rare to find this kind of discussion.
    Thank you for raising this issue and I look forward to reading your next posts.

  • stace says:

    Good post. When I first got my bird (a foundling) I popped in to a few pet stores thinking I could just swing by and pick up a few toys, accessories, and whatnot. I’d already done some quick research via the web on what was safe and what wasn’t.

    To be frank, I was pretty shocked at the shoddiness of the goods, and how little the staff knew about anything.

    It’s what drove me to buy everything online. There are some really good bird safe stores, but they are few and far between.

    I actually found your site looking for bird safe items, and have since bought from two North American stores based on your recommendations.

    I also love things that are artful and beautifully made. I like to think I have passed this on to my bird! Though I doubt he sees anything more than BIG SHINY THING! and CHEWING ITEM, GIMME GIMME!

  • Saemma says:

    Thank you! One of your best posts in my opinion!

  • HungryBird says:

    I admire your commitment to providing only safe and ethical products for your birds. I’m eagerly anticipating parts two and three! I’ve learned a lot about what to look out for and what to avoid just by picking your brain. Or stalking you on the forums. I made the decision to only buy toys and perches with stainless steel hardware based on the things you’ve written. Every time I read a post about you placing an order with a store I’ve never tried I put it on my mental list of stores to someday buy stuff from. I don’t think you’re too crazy either. Maybe just the part about your fear of plastic containers!

  • […] store policy.  To read the introduction and part one on materials used and types of products sold, click here.  To read part two on the prevention of the spread of avian disease, click […]

  • […] What are  parrot safe materials? (An Ethical and Safe Bird Store Policy, Part One) […]

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