Surgical Beak Altering

An Alarming & Disturbing Procedure Being Done To Parrots

Very recently, I was made aware of some controversial and disturbing procedures being done to parrots to either "treat" aggressive behavior or to make their pet potential more desirable.  There has been, and will continue to be, heated debates & discussions concerning this topic. The first procedure I'd like to bring to your attention is "Surgical Beak Altering", which I consider "Beak Mutilating".  

Surgical Beak Altering is a procedure being done primarily to "disarm" aggressive male breeder cockatoos.  These are cockatoos that have apparently harmed or killed their mate.  There was a recent article published in a veterinary magazine, Exotic DVM, written by Dr Scott McDonald, which explained in graphic detail, how the procedure is done.  Dr. McDonald does address "management techniques" to first try with the aggressive cockatoos before seeking this procedure.  He encourages breeders to provide large cages/flights to allow some flight, avoid pairing large males with small females, to provide 2 openings to the nest box which would allow the female to escape, pair only compatible birds, in addition to trimming the male's flight feathers on both wings while leaving the hen fully flighted in order to escape.  

There is obviously further need to prevent the male cockatoos (and any other aggressive male parrot species) from harming the hens.  While I do not disagree with this, I strongly feel that these aggressive males should NOT be allowed to stay with a mate.  There is something extremely wrong with these males that continue to display aggressive behavior and "disarming" them so the breeder can continue to produce chicks is absurd in my opinion.  Mate aggression is a very serious issue among many breeders and I've read many accounts of how they dealt with the problems.  The majority of the breeders that stepped forward to talk about this issue removed the male from a breeding situation, enlarged the flight, applied prosthetics to the beak or took other measures (without physically harming the bird) to allow the male to continue breeding.  The bottom line is, once a male has been aggressive to the hen, they should be separated immediately.

Debeaking (where the upper beak tip has been removed using a drill and cutting wheel) apparently is a common practice used to reduce aggression in poultry. Dr. McDonald points out in his article that similar procedures have been performed on psittacines but the beak tip had regrown. He described a procedure being done (by him) that leaves the upper mandible intact but the lower beak & mandible are bisected.  He does state that any surgical procedure which leaves a bird disfigured is controversial but goes on to comment that this technique is considered a last resort when "all other attempts have failed to prevent a male from injuring a female".

Dr. McDonald explains in this article that the purpose of the procedure is to "reduce the force and leverage of the bird's ability to tear and crush."  "When the lower beak is severed, this function is lost".  In his article, he describes in detail how the procedure is done, including graphic images of the procedure being performed on an anesthetized parrot (Leadbetter's Cockatoo).  A rotary drill (dremel) is used with an attached cutting wheel, showing the lower beak and mandible being severed completely through from top to bottom, directly down the middle, into the growth plate of the lower mandible.  He states, "once the beak has been totally severed through the mandible, the two segments will not be able to be bridged back together.  The surgical patient will have two freely movable pieces of lower mandible." He comments that silver nitrate is used to control bleeding, although minimal blood loss is noted. He goes on to state that the bird is recovered in a carrier with padding and when he is fully awake, can be returned to his regular cage.  He instructs the owner to offer soft foods in addition to the bird's regular diet and monitor the general activity and food intake for the next few days.  He also notes that routine beak trimming two - four times a year is required after this procedure has been performed.  Apparently the edges of lower beaks tend to grow upward and out at an angle as well as the upper beak overgrowing in a downward fashion.

These are photos taken 11-21-00 of a male Ducorp's Cockatoo, who has had his beak surgically altered. This bird was recently rescued from a breeding facility.  I was told that he had never shown signs of aggressive behavior prior to the surgery but another male Ducorp's had attacked his mate so the breeder had the surgery done to ALL his male Ducorp's.  As you will see from these photos, it is a very saddening and horrific sight.  Click thumbnail for larger image.

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Dr. McDonald also states in this article that he has performed this procedure on over 50 cockatoos and a few other species.  He comments that no complications have occurred during surgery nor has he seen any postoperative infections.  He mentions that every bird recovered well and were cracking seeds within a couple weeks.  He also goes on to say that "Amazingly, these birds adapted very well and have been able to eat the same kinds of food as before."  He cites that no birds have died as a direct result of this surgery and the owners have been pleased with the results.

The graphic images that were published along with this article left an everlasting impact on me and regardless of how successful Dr. McDonald & the "owners" of these cockatoos deem the procedure, I and countless others, feel this is a truly inhumane and barbaric procedure to perform on ANY parrot.  I have been told of two rescued former male breeder cockatoos that have had this procedure done and they are in no way normal.  They are extremely phobic, terrified of humans and appear to be in a constant state of emotional distress.  Observations in these two cockatoos show they cannot crack nuts nor chew on wood, despite what Dr. McDonald claims of the bird being able to eat the same kinds of foods.  In addition, their ability to drink water "normally" is also challenged.  This leads to an important question, can the males even FEED their chicks after having this procedure performed?  This procedure strips them of any dignity they once had and disables their chewing functions.  That does not indicate a success story to me.  

I am not a breeder nor will I ever be.  I am simply a voice, speaking loudly for the parrots who cannot speak for themselves, wanting to see an end to this procedure and any others that physically and emotionally scar a parrot.  I have heard of several veterinarians across the country who are appalled at this procedure but have not spoken out against it.  Why is that?  I've been criticized by some breeders who say I know nothing about the problems they face with their aggressive male cockatoos and have no right to criticize this procedure.  I disagree with them and argue that they should have more compassion in their decision making process when they encounter aggressive males.  The bottom line is that there is something wrong with any parrot that viciously attacks his mate.  Inadequate environments seem to be a major contribution.  I've been told that some breeders do not have the money to increase flight size or alter the environment which might be more pleasing to the pairs but apparently there are far more that simply don't want to bother with it. In addition, I was told some of these breeders don't want to remove the male because they are losing money or they may have a problem placing this solitary bird somewhere else.  I also know of MANY compassionate, knowledgeable and humane breeders in our country who are appalled by this barbaric procedure.

It has been observed of cockatoos in the wild in parts of Australia, that NO mate aggression has ever been witnessed nor documented.  Information I received from a man who has 50 years of field studies on parrots in the wild,  states that he has never witnessed cannibalism or aggression in the white or black cockatoo species.  Aggression/cannibalism is very uncommon in the wild, or in Australia even in captivity, so it's likely breeders here are not maximizing their avicultural technique.   He comments that cockatoo aggression in captive breeding facilities, can occasionally occur when more than one pair is housed in one holding facility. Having  more than one pair in the one facility is unacceptable and invites aggression in his opinion.  He comments that cockatoos do mate for life and only take another partner when one dies. All Australian Native Cockatoos and Parrots return to the same nesting  site each year. In fact, he notes that most captive raised birds return to the same nesting  box each year.  He also feels that "beak altering" is sadistic to even think of such a method to treat aggression, which proves nothing, and certainly greatly restricts the  chewing habits which is very relevant to all cockatoo species.  He goes on to state that removing an aggressive cockatoo from a breeding program is the correct thing to do, and if the bird continues aggressiveness towards another species of its own kind then it should be kept alone and certainly not in a captive breeding situation. 

Did you know that a procedure such as this is considered extremely inhumane & frowned upon in many other countries?  Doesn't that say something for the lack of compassion we Americans have for the animals we are caretakers to?  People, we MUST do something NOW.  We must work vigorously to oppose the inhumane  thinking that permits the use of this barbaric procedure (and others) be done to these parrots.  If certain veterinarians can perform this on aggressive male breeders, what is to stop them from performing the procedure on someone's "aggressive" pet cockatoo because he bit his human?  We must set a precedent for this and follow the example being set in other nations, who make the welfare of their animals a high priority.   

UPDATE 1/4/01

I am extremely pleased to report that Dr. Scott McDonald announced publicly today,  that he will no longer be performing the beak altering surgery!  Dr McDonald wrote a very compelling letter, which he asked to have cross-posted on every list available so that we could all understand his position in this matter.  Dr. McDonald has admitted that he was wrong to have not have considered the ethics in this procedure and I truly admire him for his sincere apology and that he will also be involved in discouraging this procedure to others.  While this is a huge step towards the prevention of inhumane acts being committed against parrots, we still have a very serious problem that demands attention.  This topic has brought out information to us that we had not previously known, that there is a very serious problem with mate aggression in captive cockatoos used for breeding.  We MUST continue to learn why these birds are displaying such aggressive behavior and work together to help each other seek humane solutions to this problem.  I truly hope that breeders will step forward, who are experiencing these heart-breaking behaviors with their cockatoos (or any aggressive species) and share these experiences with us so that we all learn to understand WHY this is happening and look for answers.  Please check back here often because we will be keeping this page updated with the progress being made in this area in addition to working on prohibiting any further inhumane procedures being done against parrots.  Please do not forget, there ARE other vets who perform this procedure.  And we still have the de-voicing procedure that is not an acceptable procedure.  I thank Dr. McDonald very much for his honesty and sincerity, and for putting an end to HIS involvement in the beak altering surgeries.  Here is the letter that Dr. McDonald issued today:

From: Scott McDonald DVM

Sent: Thursday, January 04, 2001 2:12 PM
Subject: Statement on Beak-altering Procedure

When I wrote the article on "Beak-altering Procedure to Disarm Aggressive
Male Cockatoos", I had no idea of the firestorm of controversy it would
create in the bird community.

When the idea for this procedure came about and then when I
performed the surgery and observed the results over a period of
several years, I truly felt I had a possible solution to the
difficult problem of cockatoo mate aggression when other management
techniques failed.  My reason for publishing was to share this
information with other avian veterinarians so that they could be
aware of something that potentially could be done as a last resort
since options are limited.

I will admit that at the time I really didn't think about whether
this procedure was ethically right or wrong, both for the bird or
the owner.  It seemed like a viable way to keep a previously bonded
pair of birds together by preventing the likelihood of additional
trauma to the female.  I will also agree that I didn't fully take
into account or address the likelihood of pain caused to the male by
doing this surgery.  I went by what I observed and that was that it
seemed like the bird wasn't affected negatively in any way by doing
this.  But honestly, I don't know for sure.

Over the past six months the internet talk about this procedure and
ethics in general in regards to the care and welfare of birds in
captivity has been intense to say the least.  I have had the
opportunity to read the comments from many E-mails sent my way, some
which were mere hysteria from misinformed people, but others which
were very thought provoking and have challenged my code of ethical
conduct.  All that I have heard has stimulated me to thoroughly
evaluate my stand on this issue.

Public outcry and opinion from both veterinarians and bird owners
has convinced me that this is not a proper, viable alternative for
mate aggression, not only for the bird, but for the whole
avicultural community as well.  From an ethical standpoint, I am
willing to admit that I was wrong. I can't take back what I've
written about this procedure or my personal experiences in doing it,
but I will discontinue performing this procedure in the future and
will discourage others from doing so as well.

I want to personally apologize for the anguish that I have created
among my fellow veterinarians and pet bird owners in regards to this


Scott McDonald DVM


UPDATE 12/6/00

To: AAV, AVMA, AVAR, Editor, Exotic DVM Magazine

From: Julie Weiss Murad/Founder and President
              The Gabriel Foundation

Date: December 4, 2000

Re:    Article in Exotic DVM Magazine Volume 2.2, April/May 2000:  "Beak-altering Procedure to Disarm Aggressive Male Cockatoos," by Scott E. McDonald, DVM, Midwest Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital, 1923 South Manheim Road, Westchester, IL 60154

The above referenced article was presented to me in August at the Annual Conference of Avian Veterinarians in Portland, Oregon by a group of concerned veterinarians expressing extreme disproval about the intended use of this beak altering procedure.  Accompanying the article was a statement given to me prepared and signed by a number of veterinarians at the AAV, which included the following text:   "The article does not address several important issues. Pain associated with the procedure and pain management are not addressed. The beak and mandible contain numerous nerve endings and are very sensitive. The possibility of a genetic predisposition toward aggressive behavior in certain birds is also not addressed. Additionally, the quality of life for both birds in the pair needs to be considered. While one bird is subjected to a painful procedure, the other bird in the pair is still maintained in an abusive situation."  I presented the information about Dr. McDonald's article and the subsequent veterinary statement passed on to me in my talks and lectures in a number of cities from the west coast to the east coast and in Canada. As this type of surgical alteration is considered highly controversial, I undertook the responsibility of generating awareness about this procedure to the public, veterinarians, bird breeders, aviculturists and pet bird retailers. 

When I presented this information, I asked people add their name to the statement if they were in agreement with The Gabriel Foundation's position on this surgical procedure. In the past five months, reaction to this procedure has been unanimous in that it is cruel, abusive and deforming and should not be condoned. Hundreds of people added their names to the statement.  I wish to emphatically state that the point has NEVER been to disparage Dr. McDonald.  Our focus has been to illustrate that something is dramatically wrong with aviculture and veterinary medicine if it continues to support  this or any other type of punitive mutilation to a creature placed in confinement for man's benefit or financial gain.  We are essentially blaming the bird for a problem that is created by humans. Dr. McDonald lists a number of valid management techniques to "try first with aggressive male cockatoos." Reason, compassion and ethics would seem to dictate that if these management techniques still fail to provide for the welfare of both birds, then clearly, something is dramatically wrong. To inflict such terrible mutilation for a breeder's commercial gain upon a bird (or birds) that are indicating their extreme state of unhappiness is inherently wrong. 

We are a society desperate for quick fixes - and this surgical procedure only mitigates the symptoms of a severe problem rather than addressing and rectifying the underlying problem that the bird(s) live and express daily.  As a profession dedicated to preserve the welfare of animals, and above all, to "do no harm", how can this cruel and painful procedure be accepted or condoned by the avian veterinary community?  It is our hope that public reaction via education and awareness of this punitive type of management technique will be heard by the avicultural community. Through confinement, we have deprived birds of their essential freedom. Good husbandry, veterinary medicine and aviculture should NOT deprive the parrots of their inherent dignity, rights and ability to enjoy quality of life and avian companionship in a captive situation. As The Gabriel Foundation's motto states, "Many have forgotten this truth, but you must not forget it. You remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."

Thank you for your consideration.

Julie Weiss Murad
Founder and President
The Gabriel Foundation

De-Voicing parrots 


Another disturbing procedure being done to parrots is the act of devocalising them.  Ross Perry, a highly esteemed Australian veterinarian, lists devocalization under "Birdie No-No's".  "Devocalisation involves severely damaging the syrinx by burning it with heat....chemically or by radio-surgery.  This is in itself painful but very often adjacent structures such as the food pipe is also damaged....It is inhumane on several grounds."

Quite frankly, this procedure alarms me greatly because it truly causes physical and emotion harm to a parrot.  I have read that birds often do not survive the surgery.  Why would someone want to subject their "pet bird" to this procedure?  That's what I would like to know too.  Below I have provided information from Julie Hamilton, who is director of New Life Parrot Rescue & Helpline Service (NLPR), which is a registered charity in England.  She recently published correspondence with the AAV as well Dr. James M. Harris, DVM in their quarterly periodical which is distributed in the States, Ireland Portugal, France, Japan and in the UK.  She has given me permission to publish that correspondence here for you to read.  PLEASE read through this important information.  


We first became aware of this surgical procedure through reading a sad story in a popular American parrot magazine – the Pet Bird Report - about a Blue & Gold Macaw who eventually ended-up on the veterinarian’s operating table for de-voicing. The bird had been a life long friend for 14 years until her lady owner encountered a new man in her life. They married, but the husband didn’t look favorably on the noise. Two years later the poor bird underwent this surgical procedure and was then subsequently given to the Oasis Sanctuary in Arizona, USA because of the adverse psychological effect.

I decided to do some research with some help from our avian vet, associates, and American friends. Through my contacts I received a copy of an e-mail that is an independent answer from a veterinarian of the Ethics & Peer Review Committee Chair of the American ‘Association of Avian Veterinarians’ (AAV). Here is the re-print of that statement.

"De-voicing peafowl is sometimes done at zoos and other facilities to reduce noise and complaints from the neighborhood. It is a high-risk procedure with a high mortality rate. We do not know of any avian veterinarians that routinely de-voice birds. You could check on one of the medical information sites such as Medline to see if there are any references to de-voicing procedures.

To answer your specific questions:

1.  De-voicing birds is not illegal.

2.  Song birds can be de-voiced temporarily by puncturing the intra-clavicular air sac, but once the sac heals, vocalizations return. To permanently de-voice a bird, the vibrating membranes in the wall of the syrinx must be prevented from vibrating. The structure is within the chest area and requires open chest surgery. The membranes can be cauterized or a mesh can be attached to them. If the bird survives the surgery, recovery is fairly rapid.

3.  Pain is very subjective. There is probably some post-operative discomfort, but humans cannot accurately evaluate pain in other species or for that matter in people. There are analgesics that probably have some effect in birds.

4.  Death and failure to stop vocalization as well as infection are some complications.

5.  Other than in a zoological collection, there are no "pros".

6.  The AAV does not have a formal stand on this but, as mentioned earlier, it is not a common practice to do this. Obviously, with the high mortality rate it is not a safe procedure. Birds naturally vocalize to each other. Preventing them from doing so limits their social interactions.

7.  Only a licensed veterinarian would do any surgery on an owned bird, but the law does not prohibit a person from doing anything they want to their own property unless it can be shown to violate the humane laws.

I hope that I have satisfactorily answered any questions you may have regarding this topic."

NLPR was not satisfied. De-voicing is a barbaric and unethical procedure and is therefore inhumane. The statement in paragraph #7 is outrageous.

I conferred with our avian vet on the views and ethical practice within the British veterinary field on the de-voicing of parrots and other similar procedures i.e. de-clawing of cats, de-voicing of dogs, and ear and tail shaping, as done in the US. Thankfully, these procedures are not practiced and are viewed unethical in this country.

With the intention of forcing a formal statement from the American AAV, I wrote to them. Here is a re-print of my letter (names have been omitted for confidentiality).

"As the Founder and Director of a parrot welfare organization in England, I feel morally compelled to write in protest against the de-crowing of parrots, de-voicing being the more accurate word when relating this procedure to parrots.

There has lately been a much-heated debate on the Internet concerning the subject, following the publication of a very emotive story of a Blue & Gold Macaw that was de-voiced and the resulting effect on the bird.

I was recently passed an unofficial statement that is an independent answer in reply to an e-mail received by one of your board members. I detect a somewhat cautious approach by this veterinarian to this surgical procedure. However, what is astonishing is that the AAV does not apparently have a formal stand on de-voicing.

Ritchie, Harrison and Harrison state in "Avian Medicine: Principles and Application" that, "The authors and editors consider devocalization a cruel and unethical practice; therefore, a procedure will not be described. Birds with vocalization patterns that are unacceptable to a client should be placed in new homes."

De-voicing, de-clawing, and other similar surgical procedures applied to parrots in zoological bird gardens and to companion animals are considered by all the British veterinary associations to be unethical and inhumane.

Any veterinarian found acting against this honorable code would be subject to disciplinary action followed by expulsion from the veterinary fellowship.

The general consensus of gathered information from the Internet, the avicultural fraternity and large animal welfare organizations about the subject of de-voicing parrots (as with other species of birds, dogs also), both here in England and the USA, is that this practice is considered barbaric, immoral, unethical and inhumane.

Parrots are, by nature, very vocal, raucous creatures. They use different tones and sounds to communicate with each other and to express their exuberant nature. They mimic our language for reason of integrating into a human flock. The ability to mimic is used as a substitute for the safety they would otherwise find amongst their wild flock. De-voicing robs a parrot of its inherent characteristic. The psychological damage is irreversible. This must surely authorize a unanimous agreement that this procedure is inhumane from such a respected quarter of the veterinary profession as the AAV.

The veterinary oath and principles are believed and understood by the public to pledge saving the life of an animal, ease suffering and ensure a quality of life wherever possible. Disabling a particular ability and inherent characteristic of an animal, for no medical reason, is perceived to be dishonorable and contradictory to the ethical code and principles of the veterinary association.

Please may I draw your attention to the enclosed clipping with reference to the aforementioned de-voicing of a Blue & Gold Macaw. I do hope you are able to comment upon it and indicate what action the AAV sees as appropriate.

In the (enclosed) unofficial statement it is mentioned that "We do not know of any avian veterinarians that routinely de-voice birds." However, it is alleged that one avian veterinarian in the Phoenix/Tempe AZ area performs many de-voicing procedures, mainly on roosters and peafowl but is about to experiment with his own flock of Conures. Similarly, I have heard it claimed that another avian vet, also in the Phoenix/Tempe AZ area, performs many de-voicing operations on parrots. Clearly, the extent of the practice needs to be established as quickly as possible.

I hope that I have put a reasonable case before you for the AAV to conclude that de-crowing/voicing is unethical and should therefore be a prohibited procedure for your members."

We are awaiting their reply. Hopefully we shall receive it before the next issue, so watch this space. A few words from some people who are against this inhumane procedure:

"Parrots are highly social birds with many studies revealing a complex vocabulary; specific meanings being attributed to different calls. Anyone who has kept parrots will know this instinctively. Anyone who has seen the birds in the wild could also never doubt the importance of voice to any psittacine. Whether Macaws winging over a forest or dense packs of Budgerigars in Australia, voice is essential in communication between flock members. This is equally true in captivity.

De-vocalisation of birds is barbaric and unethical. To deprive a bird of its main means of communication for human convenience seems unbelievable. If someone finds the voice of Conures or Cockatoos excessive, perhaps they should keep Finches! When my Amazon has a prolonged screaming match, I accept it as part of keeping a large parrot.

The arguments relating to surgical risk, while valid, seem less important to me. As a veterinarian, parrot owner and deep admirer of these birds, I feel appalled that any clinician or owner could even contemplate such a mutilation. We all have a duty of care to these birds, and that does not include de-voicing."

Jonathan Newman MA VetMB MRCVS.

"I think I might have a great alternative and solution for those who have taken on the responsibility of bird ownership and are faced with thoughts of "de-crowing" their birds: OTOPLASTY! (The surgical removal of one’s ear). They could be dried, tanned, and given to your dog instead of pig’s ears. I will post the first pair of ears on my website from the first sacrificial bird owner."

Internet correspondent.


The AAV’s reply

Unfortunately, I had to chase the American Association of Avian Veterinarians for their reply in answer to my letter that I published in issue #4. What follows is my e-mail correspondence with James M. Harris, DVM, of the Ethics & Peer Review Committee Chair of the American AAV. Incidentally, James Harris is British.

Dear Sirs, August 4 2000

To date, I have not received a reply to my letter dated April 19 2000, concerning your official statement on de-voicing.

As editor of our quarterly ‘Periodical’, I featured this barbaric surgical procedure in our last issue, with comments from respectable parrot people and our charities avian veterinarian. All of whom speak against the practice of de-voicing.

It has also caught the attention of an editor of a popular International parrot magazine. The editor has recently published his strong views and criticized such practice.

I beseech you, as quoted from my letter, to make de-voicing a prohibited procedure for your members and acknowledge the request for an official statement from the Ethics & Peer Review Committee Chair, as this subject has aroused a great deal of interest in the parrot fraternity.

I look forward to hearing from you.

(appropriately signed)


Dear Ms Hamilton,

Thank you for your request. Regardless of my own personal feelings (I do not devoice parrots), the AAV is not a regulatory organization. Our organization is made up of member veterinarians and technicians who care for avian species. Our specific interests are, education, research, and conservation. We have no control over what service members contract to do for clients. If they are illegal it would fall under the jurisdiction of the board of examiners in vet. Med. In your state. To my knowledge the procedure is not illegal.

I am sorry that we cannot assist you in this matter.

(appropriately signed)

Dear Mr Harris, DVM

Thank you for your prompt reply. It is very disappointing to learn that the AAV does not have a set standard, nor ethical code in which its members must abide, irrespective of de-voicing being legal in your country.

I have to ask what hope is there within the overall context of parrot welfare if the AAV cannot openly condemn the practice of de-voicing amongst its members and the whole of veterinary sector? With all due respect, the AAV has a moral responsibility to the welfare of birds, therefore, should not evade voicing against the cruel and unnecessary act of de-voicing parrots and other species of bird.

It is noted that the AAV has an ethical committee, and yet what may I ask is its purpose? given your response, I have no ground in which to place the USA, AAV with any credit. Therefore, I can only conflict with your reply and presume the AAV consider de-voicing an ETHICAL procedure (unlike the UK’s AAV) because it is legal and are not prepared to make a moral stand.

As a registered charity, we have a constitution; a moral code of conduct and a standard to uphold. I believe this is a normal procedure for all organizations. Should any of our trustees or members violate a serious principle of our constitution then action would be taken to expel the offender. It really is as simple as that!

I will naturally take your brief reply as the official statement which I requested. It will be published in the next issue of our ‘Periodical’, which follows on from the de-voicing feature that I published in our July issue, as this subject has generated a great deal of interest and many people are waiting in anticipation to see what side of the fence you are sitting.

I still beseech you to openly condemn de-voicing/de-crowing and incorporate it as a prohibited procedure under the ‘Ethics Committee’, by self-regulation.

(appropriately signed)

Dear Ms Hamilton,

Ethics is defined as the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group. This professional association is in the USA not Great Britain. There are a number of procedures that are not performed in Great Britain by statute that are legal to do here. As I reiterated before, I do not do de-voicing procedures on birds and do not crop dogs ears, which is not illegal to do here. That is my personal choice, not one regulated by statute. I would hope that colleagues feel the same but it is not the associations place to force members to do or not do what is legal. We can only hope that by example and discussion on a personal level we can influence others.

I suppose also being British has influenced my personal attitudes towards the creatures I steward.

(appropriately signed)


Dear Mr Harris, DVM

Thank you for your reply.

For the sake of parrot welfare, I can only hope that your example will influence the veterinary sector. Perhaps the answer to improving the ethical standards in the USA is to have more British resident vets! (not meaning to offend my American counterparts).

Naturally, I, as with many other groups and individual parrot people, wish that the USA’s AAV would make an open stand and speak out against de-voicing/de-crowing and make it a prohibited procedure. However disheartened I feel about my fruitless efforts, I will now resign to the fact that no more can be done to protect parrots/birds from this type of butchery. As always, they remain at man’s mercy!

From one compassionate British animal caregiver to another, I would like to ask you to speak about this subject at your next convention in honor of the parrots/birds that have lost their lives, or worse still, in honor of those parrots who are suffering the psychological effects. This would initiate discussions and set an honorable example. It is also a step in the right direction to, HOPEFULLY, abolishing this barbaric procedure, which certainly belongs to the 19th Century!

Thanking you most sincerely.

(appropriately signed)

Dear Ms Hamilton,

Thank you for your reply. Yes, I will bring the topic to discussion. Since I have been practicing for over 40 years I know most of the avian practitioners. I have yet to find one that does mutilation surgery on parrots. some do pinion waterfowl which is required by some fish and game departments in the USA for certain species kept in collections to prevent them flying away. This is done shortly after hatching and is done as humanely as possible. As you know, swans are pinioned in GB. The Queens birds on one side and the peoples birds on the other.

(appropriately signed).

I felt it my duty to print both correspondence so that it presented a full picture.

It is regrettable that I only got as far as I did, however, I feel justifiably as strong about this barbaric procedure than when it initially came to my attention. I feel there is no room for argument where this serious matter is concerned.

I am aware that I sounded like an old record, but it just wasn’t sinking in - I guess the AAV thought the same!

I feel the only way to achieve the objective is by persistent badgering. Of course, the more people who speak up against this surgical procedure, the chances are higher of eventually getting a positive result. This argument has turned out to be a political platform. As with all significant changes, they are only achieved through being strength in numbers.

I understand the American AAV has had their annual conference. I will be e-mailing Mr Harris to hopefully obtain a summery of the conference, with reference to the discussion on de-voicing. Should I obtain it, I will publish the relevant details.

Julie Hamilton

Director of New Life Parrot Rescue & Helpline Service (NLPR)



We cannot turn the other cheek.  We, as caretakers to parrots, MUST stand up & be heard when it comes to the rights of parrots.  Apparently, they don't seem to have many rights, according to some of the laws I've been researching.  Learn more about your State's laws when it comes to protecting parrots, become active in your community by volunteering to speak about proper care and nutrition with your local humane societies or animal control departments.  Most of these organizations have no clue what is considered  neglect or abuse to a parrot.  Speak to your vets about these barbaric procedures and ask that they voice their opinions to the AAV and other vets.  We need to see more "policing" amongst ourselves when it comes to the "birdie mill breeders" or the horrid pet stores.  There are many "small" things that we as individuals can do to help parrots.  I'm just to a point where I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!  

If you haven't done so, join the Animal Legal Defense Fund .  They are currently running an Animal Bill of Rights Initiative to present to Congress which might help us with abusive pet stores, etc.  Check out their Action Alert page where you'll see some pretty amazing things being done or not being done to protect ALL animals.

Let us all take responsibility for each & every parrot...treat them all with kindness and respect.....and stop the cruel and inhumane acts being committed against them.  They are not commodities...they are living, breathing creatures with feelings and emotions...we do not "own" them, we are not their Masters...WE are simply their caretakers and must learn to perform this duty with more love and compassion.


I Have Done Something
I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter...the cast-offs of
human society.
I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness, and
betrayal.  And I was angry.
"God," I said, "this is terrible! Why don't you do something?"
God was silent for a moment, and then spoke softly, "I have done
something," was the reply. "I created you."
-- Author Unknown

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