THANKS TO READER V. Gibbs for the letter opposite, expressing scepticism about the widespread concern over DEFRA’s proposed Animal Activities Licence scheme. I would love to believe that we have nothing to worry about. But I suggest we look at the case like this: can we think of any recent UK bird legislation which has contained loopholes that have been exploited by animal rights extremists who wish to destroy birdkeeping? Yes: an obvious example is the law concerning British birds. There, the disastrously ambiguous requirement for proof of captive breeding has been skilfully manipulated by a non-government organisation in order (a) to rack up successful prosecutions and (b) to persecute birdkeepers. Now, most of us could appreciate that OK, the law had a decent aim: to prevent the capture of wild birds. But the aim became twisted and the reality, in some cases, turned out to be horrendous, with would-be law-abiding citizens criminalised.

Are you confident, from what you’ve read, that no such loopholes apply here? I’m not. How can we be? This law is all guidelines! Show me a guideline – doesn’t matter whether it’s in sport, business, whatever – and I’ll show you a loophole. Or rather, those organisations who want to cripple birdkeeping will sit down and work away at the guidelines until they’ve spotted several loopholes. Then their real work will begin: tendering for inspection contracts with local authorities. Can you think of any organisations who would fancy a bit of that? I believe I can.

■ Welcome this week to a new writer for Cage & Aviary Birds: Jon Ashby, who on page 10 discusses the pleasures of entering the fancy (the budgie branch of it, in Jon’s case) and participating as richly as possible, without taking it too seriously. What is “too seriously”? Well, see if you agree with Jon, who since taking up the hobby has become a respected contributor to online forums, as well as a dedicated exhibitor and clubman.

■ Welcome also to one of the budgerigar world’s most popular figures, Ken Whiting, who is about to complete his year as a justly acclaimed BS president. Ken describes his experiences on page 9; next week we’ll be hearing from his equally popular presidential successor, Pete Hutchinson. Enjoy your birds this week!

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