In response to a declaration in 2004 from a coalition of conservation and animal welfare organizations to ban imports of wild birds into the European Union, we propose that such blanket or indiscriminate bans are unlikely to be effective as a generic conservation approach to the wild bird trade. We further argue that such trade bans, particularly when imposed by Northern constituencies on Southern countries and communities, can act counter to broader values of equity and sustainable development. Here we draw attention to a range of problems and unforeseen consequences of trade bans and highlight the conservation potential of market-led mechanisms that seek to reform trade chains to make them more ethical and sustainable. We contend that it is time for conservation scientists to critically examine the evidence concerning the efficacy of these two strategies as they relate to the trade in wild birds.
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