Editor's letter (Feb 5 issue)

When we first ran a news story about the plight of Rachael Wakefield, a young woman who has contracted a disease from her pet cockatiel and is now seeking a life-saving lung transplant (see our January 15 issue), several readers called me to say we should not have run the story. They thought it would put people off keeping birds.
My argument then, as it is now, remains the same. To pretend that bird fancier’s lung (BFL) disease does not exist is foolhardy – and will do more to damage the hobby than sticking our heads in the sand and hoping it will go away. BFL is a rare disease. Extreme cases, such as that suffered by Rachael, are even rarer. But if birdkeepers are made aware of the potential dangers, their chances of contracting it will be reduced.
Cage & Aviary Birds is not in the business of fear-mongering. We aim to promote best practice in all aspects of our hobby and for that reason we think it is vital to educate our readers about how to avoid contracting this potentially deadly disease.
In fact, the week after we printed Rachael’s original story, we ran an article by our budgerigar expert Judy Higgins explaining simple precautions every birdkeeper can take to lower the risk of developing BFL.
Meanwhile, one reader, who suffers from a lung condition called Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis and recently had to give up his birds because of it, couldn’t thank us highly enough for helping to raise awareness. And troubled by Rachael’s predicament – she needs a staggering £400,000 to go to the USA for the life-saving operation – he offered to donate one of his beautiful framed paintings for a fund-raising raffle. We have taken him up on his very kind offer.
Readers are now being urged to back the appeal by calling our competition phone line and answering one simple question: in which year was Cage & Aviary Birds established. The number is 0904 160 0140. Calls cost £1.50, and the shares of both IPC and Eckoh (the phone company) will be donated to Rachael’s charity, Breathing Is Life
All those who enter will be in the running to win Trevor Richardson’s exquisite painting of robins perching on brambles. 
Full details are on page 5 of this week's issue.
In the name of a good cause and the good health of the fancy, please pick up the phone – and urge your friends to do likewise.