Saturday , May 28 2022

Devocalisation! Chinese ‘vet’ Slices Dogs’ Vocal Cords to Stop Them Barking

Animal cruelty seems to be the solution to pet problem in a Chinese community where dogs could get taken away from their owners for barking and disturbing neighbours.

A video taken with a hidden camera by a Chinese journalist on September 14 shows a man posing as a vet and cutting out dogs’ vocal cords in a procedure known as “debarking”.

The shocking images were taken in a street market in Chengdu, in southwestern China. The online outcry over the video shows how attitudes towards pets are changing in the country – but also how there’s still a lot to be done for animal welfare.

The Observers reports that the photos show a street littered with bloody bits of vocal cord and cotton swabs, while nearby unconscious dogs are lined up on a step waiting for their anaesthetic to wear off. A report by the local Chengdu Business Daily exposed the gruesome practice in an article published on September 17. According to the paper, a man proclaimed to be a vet and set up shop in Chengdu’s Qingbaijiang market to carry out “devocalisation” operations on dogs. A video and photos of the procedure went viral in China.

Devocalisation is a surgery that removes the vocal cords from the animal to stop it making noise. It’s a risky procedure that can lead to the animal having difficulty breathing and eating. In the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, it is classed as a form of mutilation.

Photos taken by Chengdu Business Daily’s reporter show the man sat at a table in the market and performing the operation on at least six different dogs. The dogs are laid on the table in front of him on their bellies and anaesthetised. His assistant uses a red cord to hold open the dog’s jaws while the man uses unsterilised and bloody scissors to reach into the animal’s throat to cut out the vocal cords.

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According to Chengdu Business Daily, the operation costs between 50 and 100 yuan [between 6 and 13 euros], and can be done in a matter of minutes.

The man told the undercover reporter, who was posing as a potential customer, that he was not licensed to carry out the operation, but had learnt how to do it from copying others. He said that he set up his stall every Wednesday and Sunday in the market   although under Chinese law, it is illegal for veterinary operations to be carried out on the street, in unsanitary and dangerous conditions for both the animals and the public. The police have since shut down his business.

Despite the poor conditions, the images show that the man had no shortage of customers.

Ruby Leslie is a dog trainer and animal welfare professional who also trains up Chinese vets and dog trainers about force-free handling and animal behaviour. She lives in Chengdu where she runs her business Welfare For Animals. She has been living in China for six years, and explains why pet owners would want their dogs to be “debarked”.

The background to this story is that if your dog barks a lot at home in China, your neighbours can call the police and report your dog, and your dog can be taken away by the police. You may have to pay a fine to get it back. In some places in China, they even cull the dogs if they haven’t been registered with the authorities [because it would qualify as a stray in this case].

There’s also the risk that the landlord can evict you, because having a dog is seen as a public nuisance. Landlords might not even let to you if they know that you have a dog.

People are living here in densely populated urban areas, and dog ownership is on the rise, but responsible ownership hasn’t gone with it. People love pets here, but they don’t know how to look after a dog. Lots of people keep dogs in apartment blocks; they’ll keep them on the balcony or in a crate or a cage. Of course barking is a problem. And dog training and animal welfare are new concepts here.

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There are no laws on animal welfare in China. The population is not educated about what is good or not for animals. They don’t know what to do if their dog is barking. They don’t know that you can train your dog to be quiet.

Debarking is hugely traumatising for the dog. Before a dog bites, it growls. If you take the growl out of a dog, you are creating a ticking bomb. You are taking away the dog’s ability to communicate that it is not comfortable in a certain situation.

Leslie also traces the lack of awareness of animal welfare in China back to the country’s history with rabies. China suffered a series of deadly rabies outbreaks in the 1980s, with over 5,000 people dying annually between 1987 and 1989. Even now, China has the second highest number of reported rabies cases in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, and dogs are the primary carrier for the rabies virus.

However, pet ownership is on the rise in the bigger cities, particularly among younger people. China is now only behind Japan and the United States when it comes to the number of pet owners in the population. As a result, some Chinese cities (including Chengdu) have even started imposing a “one-dog policy”, fearing more rabies outbreaks. But as part of this rising trend in ownership, people are becoming more accepting of animals as pets, the Observers says.

Attitudes to companion animals are changing substantially. The video went viral here, and my WeChat feed [WeChat is a Chinese social media app] was inundated with Chinese people speaking up against it. Everyone opposed it, from vets and NGOs and dog trainers to normal citizens. Everyone said it was wrong, cruel, and inhumane.

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People certainly want to care better for their animals, but they don’t always know how. I have only respect for the Chinese trainers and vets I work with, who are doing what they can to bring international welfare standards to China.

Do you think Devocalisation of dogs is inhuman?


The Observers

About Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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  1. Onuorah Adaeze Chidimma

    This is actually wickedness
    Quiz number —073

  2. Onuorah Adaeze Chidimma

    This is actually wickedness the culprit has to be sued for this wicked act
    Quiz number —073

  3. Anagboso chimdimma joy

    this is pure wicked, it is the nature of dog to bark either for threat or to express happiness. the man should to sued for this.
    quiz no:74

  4. Be it as it may seem,this is Animal abuse…How can you devocalise a living thing??
    Quiz number:021

  5. Why get a dog if you don’t like it barking?
    Quiz number: 56

  6. Oh my God,this is wicked!
    Quiz no:119

  7. Ezike Onyeka Emmanuel

    This is a feature story .

    Quiz No : 69

  8. How can they devocalise dogs? ,this is wickedness
    Quiz no:28

  9. It is seriously in human y would it be that some people can be so wicked would any human stay & would let some one devocalize their throat no its not possible, so this issue is not really appealing at all
    Gabriel precious
    Quiz no 83


    Deprivation of animals right!
    I wish there is a law concerning inhumanity to animals


  11. There is nothing that one wont see in this country …trying to stop dog from their right to bark..nawah o

  12. This is against God’s plan for what he created
    quiz number 1

  13. This is inhuman o…so they just slice a dogs vocal cord just because it barks….
    quiz no:102

  14. This is an act of Wickedness.
    Quiz no:116

  15. This is cruel. This is truly inhuman

  16. Chinese and their ways.
    Quiz no 39

  17. Chukwunedu Nkechi Francisca (117)

    This is not right. How can animals be treated like dat? Even if they aren’t humans,they are living things. People should treat them right

  18. Then whats the essence of having a dog…. Its the barking that even scares some robbers away

  19. Udogu Ogechi Victory

    Dogs are naturally created to bark and is there own language and the barking is also for security. (58)

  20. otukpaspencer Joseph

    Is this acceptable?(107)

  21. ezenwajiugo somto prosper

    Mehn…This need to happen in my neighborhood(105)

  22. Arinze obiageli .p.

    Quiz no: 29
    we should be able to know what is right and wrong. Dogs are animals, they are not human beings. No matter the training given to them, it can backslide.

  23. Yes its inhuman because dogs are meant to be watchdogs for the nation. Quiz no:104

  24. yes its not good how can you perform a surgery on a dog so it will not make noise .dogs ar e supposed to watch over us.quiz no 103

  25. The devocalisation is inhuman indeed, there is nothing somebody will not hear
    Quiz no 2

  26. It is really inhuman
    Dogs are supposed to be barking so I wonder why they will be taking away their vocals
    quiz no 101

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