Free As a Bird in a Cage

Learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings

April 23, 2023

Edited September 27, 2023

Reading and Writing

I learned by listening to the Jazz segment "La boîte de jazz" on ICIMUSIQUE last night that yesterday was World Book Day. Turns out the day was inaugurated on April 23rd, 1995, to mark the passing of several famous authors, including Miguel de CervantesWilliam Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors. Although I must confess that I am not an avid book reader, mostly because my eyes bother me too much to read comfortably, I do love to write. For some reason, when seated in a fixed position at the computer, typing away, my eyes cooperate (enough) that I can actually write. My wife turned me on to reading when we first met, and for a while, until my eyes started acting up, I was reading most evenings at bedtime. Now I only read articles online. Why am I bringing all of this up, you may ask? Actually, when I learned it was World Book Day, I thought I should write something to mark the day. So here goes.

Learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings

I saw something today that really jarred me. After meeting a close friend for lunch, I decided to take a stroll and walk through the local pet shop. I must preface by saying that I condemn the practice of putting animals in cages, especially birds. My apologies in advance to anyone who has a bird in a cage, as I won't be very supportive of this inhumane practice that serves only to make the owner feel some sort of misplaced pride in keeping a creature that is meant to fly in the sky and live in the trees captive in a cage. I should add, however, that despite my opinion on animals in captivity, I respect others' opinions that may differ. This is not meant to offend anyone but rather to bring a sensitive topic to light. Really, it's about sharing a moment that really stuck with me. I don't want to lose friends over this!

I saw a red macaw in a cage, gripping the door with its claws, holding and pulling on the chain and padlock that kept the door locked. I wish I had taken a picture. (I have mocked up a photo below) It was such a sad sight. It was as if the bird knew the lock was the way out. He probably observed the caretaker unlock and lock that door hundreds of times and figured out that it was the key to getting out of that cage. He was holding the lock in his beak and tugging on it. Is there a more graphic image of a creature desperate to escape? I don't know. The poor bird's tail is tattered from rubbing up against the bars because the cage is not big enough. No cage would be big enough. 

I found this picture online posted with an article about returning the macaw to the wild, so I decided I should use it. I added the padlock just to get a sense of what I saw in the pet shop.

All creatures, great and small

I looked at all the creatures stolen from their habitats, like exotic tarantulas, hermit crabs, snakes, and lizards sunning themselves under a hot lamp in their terrariums, and could not help but think, "Why?" Why do we as humans want to keep these animals in small, confined artificial environments just to look at them? You can't play with these animals, and they aren't interested in you. Cats, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs; these animals I can understand being "owned" by humans. The burrowing kind, hamsters and guinea pigs like to tunnel and be in "homes" where they can feel safe. I can sort of see that being okay. Same thing for rats and ferrets. I don't think they suffer when kept as pets, but I don't know for sure as I've never been a rat or a ferret. As for fish, I'm still on the fence. As long as the holding tank is big enough, they probably don't suffer feelings of captivity, but again, I've never been a fish. All creatures would be better off in the wild where they belong. 


I've had pets in the past. I had salamanders, fish, turtles, and snakes as a child. And, as a family, we had a couple of canaries and even had a turtle dove for a while. We had dogs, Dobermans, when I was very young, which I have no recollection of. As a young adult, with my first wife, we had a lovebird aptly named Cupid. So I know what it's like to keep animals in captivity. But, with time, age, and awareness that grew, I realized how wrong it was to keep these beautiful creatures in cages, tanks, and terrariums.

The Human Cage

As I watched the macaw struggling with the padlock, I could not help but draw a parallel between being trapped in a cage and trapped in a body - as I am. I live in a cage; it's just that my cage can travel. But I'm always in my own health-imposed cage. My body holds me hostage, and I can do nothing about it. I suppose that my life experience, both as a previous pet owner and now a sickly person, has made me more empathetic to what these animals are living. If you really think about it, no animal should be captive other than domesticated animals that depend on humans for survival. It's imprisonment, plain and simple. 

When I returned home to my own "cage," my condo, I observed the sparrows outside my patio doors enjoying themselves in the rain, flying from bush to bush, or just pecking at the grass for insects. They would take off and fly in whatever direction pleased them, with the rain in their faces. Pure freedom. Why would we ever think to put them in cages?

Let’s evolve

I believe that in the years to come, there will be an uprising, an awakening if you will, where collectively, as humans, we will realize that what we've been doing was wrong all this time. Just like we figured out that wearing seat belts saves lives, smoking is going to kill you, recycling matters, and killing elephants and rhinos is criminal, etc. There are so many other issues that we once considered acceptable, like slavery, for example, that we condemn today. We are constantly evolving, but some of us evolve more quickly than others. Let's hope we fast-track the evolution for the sake of these birds and all captive creatures!

Written by Patrick Franc - a.k.a. Your Friendly Neighborhood Bionic Man

Learning To Fly – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers


  • PAUL G

    Nicely done Patrick. Excellent Analogy. I share your feelings about keeping animals caged which is a reason we encourage those who eat meat to choose to only purchase pasture raised. As for birds being in a cage is the ultimate in torture. Had parakeets growing up...but we did at least let them fly around the house a few times per week...still, not the same as being free in the tropics.

    Kudos to you for a well written article...and one right to the point well made.

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