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August 10, 2012

Time to End Painful Tail Docking for Dairy Cows

Over the last few years, The HSUS has driven major change within multiple sectors of animal agribusiness–and at a pace faster than I could ever have anticipated. Just this year, we’ve seen a slew of major food retailers decide to phase out their purchases of pork from producers that confine sows in gestation crates. The veal industry has agreed to phase out crates by 2017, and more than 70 percent of that transition has already been completed. The egg industry has agreed to support federal legislation to phase out the use of the barren battery cage as well require a labeling program that gives consumers more information about production practices.

Calf

The latest major announcement came in late July from the National Milk Producers Federation, one of the industry’s major trade associations, which has voted to officially oppose the inhumane practice of dairy cow tail-docking. We achieved the first state ban on tail docking in California–the number-one dairy producing state–in 2009, and then subsequently won bans in Ohio and Rhode Island. Now the industry’s biggest trade group has come out against the practice on a nationwide basis.

But unfortunately, the time frame is too long. The trade group has called for an unduly long phase-out of the amputation practice, which is typically done without anesthetic and removes up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail. According to its resolution, the NMPF is urging a 10-year phase-out.

There’s no compelling reason for such a needlessly long time frame, given that there are no costs associated with the termination of this practice. Many dairy producers have already stopped it, and it’s time for the outliers to abandon it, too.

Other animal agribusiness industries making animal housing improvements desire phase-out periods and adequate time to depreciate equipment and build new facilities. But in the case of tail-docking, no new buildings must be constructed and no equipment must be depreciated.

Though the pace is often slower than we’d want, there’s no doubt that change is afoot within animal agriculture, thanks mainly to reform efforts driven by The HSUS. Some sectors embrace change, others do it grudgingly, and others continue to fight the inevitable trend toward higher standards of animal welfare.

In this case, we’ll push the milk industry to expedite this change. There’s no reason to subject cows to this procedure, and The HSUS will continue to drive reform until tail-docking is a thing of the past.

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