'It's inhumane': BC SPCA calls for end to 'cruel' trade of exotic animals
Animal welfare advocates say they're concerned about the treatment of parrots and toucans who were shipping through Vancouver International Airport in December. (Submitted)
VANCOUVER -- The BC SPCA is calling on the federal government to stop the trade of exotic animals through Canada after reports revealed numerous exotic birds faced poor conditions while passing through Vancouver International Airport last month.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed to CTV News Vancouver 50 live exotic birds passed through the airport, even though they shouldn't have been allowed into Canada in the first place. Animal welfare advocates said one bird died and others had little to no food or water.
Those 50 birds were brought in from Guyana and were held at YVR while en route to Japan.
"Birds from Guyana are not eligible for entry into Canada or transit through Canada," said an emailed statement from CFIA. "An order to remove was issued for the shipment of birds."
Now, the SPCA is calling on the federal agency to end the international and domestic trade of exotic birds and other wild animals altogether.
"The exotic bird trade is immense, involving thousands of species and millions of individual birds each year,” said Dr. Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer from the BC SPCA.
"At any given moment, untold numbers of birds are being caught and shipped around the world. Some are destined for the pet trade here in Canada. Others will merely pass through our borders on their way to being sold as pets in other countries."
The SPCA explained that birds arrive in Canada from Africa, Asia and South America. In some instances, like with the birds from Guyana, Canada is a stopover for shipments bound for other countries.
To date, the United States and European Union have essentially banned imports of wild-caught birds, but Canada hasn't, the SPCA says. That means the country could be used as a route for the exotic trade market.
Dubois explained that no matter where the birds end up, many suffer along the way. For example, the SPCA says in some cases, baby birds are taken out of their nests as chicks or eggs and often face harsh conditions during transport, sometimes with poor ventilation or not enough food and water.
"This is happening behind closed doors and we need to tell the federal government this is not acceptable in Canada," Dubois said.
The SPCA says that while captive-bred birds don't face the stress of being captured from their habitats, they can still face negative conditions, like an "avian equivalent of puppy mills."
Dubois also says the animal market can play a significant role in worsening pandemics.
"The close confinement and highly stressful conditions associated with capture and transport makes birds more susceptible to infection, and endangers the people and other animals who come into contact with them," Dubois explained.
Dubois says for those who already have exotic birds as pets, there needs to be education on how to properly take care of them. But otherwise, Canada needs "to turn off the taps."
"Getting it at the source, stopping it at the border, and letting people know it's no longer legal to pass through Canada as well as import them and profit off the lives of these animals," she said.
Dubois says B.C. went through a similar process when banning primates and tigers as pets. For now, the SPCA is hoping Canadians will sign a petition calling on the federal government to ban exotic wildlife trade in or through the country before April 2.
"There's no reason that we need this trade anymore and we never did," Dubois said. "It's inhumane, it's unsustainable, it takes animals out of populations in their home countries."