Caged Birds

There are four aspects to this BWC campaign which aims to get the import, poaching, trade and caging of all birds banned.

Import: In 1991, in response to BWC’s representations, all birds were shifted to the Banned List of the Export Policy. Like all Government policies, this policy gets reviewed each year and exceptions have been made. Unfortunately, in 1997 the export of exotic birds of foreign origin was reopened.

Poaching: Birds originate in dense forests where they are illegally and cruelly trapped, usually using bird-lime (a thick and sticky adhesive substance smeared on branches and twigs to which birds get stuck) or by keeping a female bird as “bait” in a cage in order to attract male birds in large numbers which are immediately captured in the clap-net laid down. Moreover, many birds (including migratory ones) fly into the mist-nets or get caught in the mechanical traps laid down, struggle in panic to escape, hurting themselves severely, and are therefore simply left to their fate. Bird poachers have also begun initiating children and teenagers in the hope that forest officials will not arrest minors.

The State of India’s Birds 2020 assessment raises the alarm that several spectacular birds, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins including pesticides, hunting and trapping for the pet trade.

For detailed information on trapping birds please see

Trade: The poached birds and then clandestinely transported across different states in India and displayed for sale in bird markets and pet shops. They are passed off as having been born in captivity because it is unadvisable to release such birds due to re-adjustment in the wild. They should never be purchased for release. Please read

Caging: Birds are for flying free in the wild. Not for cruel caging – they do not deserve life-imprisonment even if kept in so-called comfort. Prevention (not caging) is certainly better than cure (releasing) and people should desist from caging birds in the first place. Vegetarians should especially regard this as an extension of their principle of non-violence.

The person who buys and flaunts a caged bird at home is as much responsible as the person who sells the poor bird, and before that the person who has trapped or bred the bird.

On 22 July 2021 the Animal Welfare Board of India sent its third Advisory (the earlier two were of 28 October 2011 and 06 May 2013) to The Chief Secretary, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and the Director General of Police of all States/UTs requested them all to ensure that the ban on caging birds was implemented and to take steps to wrap up illegal bird markets. The operative part of the judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat dated 12 May 2011 was stated:

“This Court is conscious of the fact that this court is dealing with the interim custody of the muddamal birds/animals but in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and the manner in which the birds/animals are kept in the cages and looking to the pain suffered to the birds/animals, this court is of the opinion that the only order which can be passed in the interest of justice would be enlarge the birds/animals free in the open sky/air. As such the learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate had rightly passed an order directing to enlarge the birds free in the open sky, however, the Revisional court, without assigning any reasons, had set aside such a direction. Even section 451 of the Code of Criminal Procedure confers powers upon the Court for custody and disposal of the property pending trial and the Court may make such order as it think fit for the proper custody of such property, pending conclusion of the inquiry or trial and if otherwise expendient to do so, Court may, after recording such evidence as it thinks necessary order it to be sold or otherwise dispose of. Considering the aforesaid provision and considering the fact that if birds in question are not ordered to be disposed of by way of enlarging them free in the air/sky, in that case looking to the hot weather, there are all chances that the birds may die. Under the circumstances also, it will be expedient and in their interest to enlarge the birds free. Under the circumstances the order passed by the revisional court to that extent deserves to be quashed and set aside and the order passed by the learned Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate directing to enlarge the birds/animals in the open sky deserves to be restored.”

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated 7 May 2014 had also recognised the five fundamental rights of the animals including the right to live with dignity, and announced 12 stringent measures/directives for the Government and other implementing authorities to stop cruelty to animals and birds, one of which stated “The Governments would see that if the provisions of the PCA Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 as amended in 1982) and the declarations and the directions issued by the Court are not properly and effectively complied with, disciplinary action be taken against the erring officials so that the purpose and object of PCA Act could be achieved”. Without doubt, the caging of birds also violates the five fundamental freedoms as stated in this judgement: freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

Moreover, the Hon’ble Judge of the Delhi High Court in his order dated 15 May 2015 was “of the view that running the trade of birds is in violation of the rights of the birds. They deserve sympathy. Nobody is caring as to whether they have been inflicting cruelty or not despite of settled law that birds have a fundamental right to fly and cannot be caged and will have to be set free in the sky. Actually, they are meant for the same. But on the other hand, they are exported illegally in foreign countries without availability of proper food, water, medical aid and other basic amenities required as per law. Birds have fundamental rights including the right to live with dignity and they cannot be subjected to cruelty by anyone including claim made by the respondent. Therefore, I am clear in mind that all the birds have fundamental rights to fly in the sky and all human beings have no right to keep them in small cages for the purposes of their business or otherwise.”

Lastly on 31 May 2019 the Punjab and Haryana High Court accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals granting them the “corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person” adding that animals can not be treated as “objects” or “property” and are “entitled to justice” signing off the verdict with the motto “live and let live”. Many of the directions in the verdict had been passed on 4 July 2018 by a division bench of Justices for Uttarakhand by issuing the following mandatory direction: “The entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person…”

It is unfortunate that despite so much sound legal backing, birds are blatantly trapped, traded and caged. Or bred in captivity and caged. It can easily stop if the police and wildlife authorities take strict action against the offenders.

Beauty Without Cruelty condemns poaching of birds, and discourages people from trading in and keeping caged birds irrespective of their origin: wild or captive-born, Indian or foreign.

Page last updated on 07/10/23