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February 13, 2009

Calif. Bill Takes Aim at Dairy Cow Mutilation

The Humane Society of the United States

In the nation's number-one dairy state, animal welfare and public health experts and agriculture scientists have urged support for a new bill to prevent an all-too-common type of mutilation of dairy cows. California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez introduced legislation, SB 135, to ban the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows.

The practice of routinely amputating portions of dairy cows' tails—without any painkiller—is already banned in several nations and opposed by both the American Veterinary Medical Association and The Humane Society of the United States.

Senator Florez, along with HSUS officials, spoke at a press conference at the state capitol earlier today in support of the bill. Senator Florez said, "With no added benefit to the safety of our food supply, tail docking is nothing more than needless animal cruelty which must be stopped." 

The bill's introduction comes just weeks after Senator Florez reorganized the California Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture into a body that includes animal welfare as one of its priorities. Senator Florez cited California's landslide passage of Prop 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, as an inspiration for the revamped committee. The tail docking issue is also expected to be part of the discussion at an informational hearing the committee is holding next Tuesday to discuss farm animal welfare.

Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, spoke at the press conference. He stated, "The landslide passage of Prop 2 showed that California voters insist on humane treatment of all animals, including those raised for food.  That includes an end to unnecessary and painful mutilations of California dairy cows."

Michael Greger, M.D., HSUS director of public health and animal agriculture, also spoke. Dr. Greger added, "Scientific studies have shown that mutilation of the tail causes serious welfare problems for dairy cows, including distress, pain, and increased vulnerability to insect attacks. Tail-docking never had a scientific rationale, and it's been exposed now as little more than a routine and pointless type of mutilation."

Facts

  • There are approximately 1.8 million cows raised for milk on 2,200 farms in California, the nation's top dairy-producing state.
  • A Colorado State University 2005-2006 survey of 113 dairy facilities reported that 82.3 percent of dairies surveyed practiced tail-docking.
  • Tail docking is the partial amputation of up to two-thirds of a dairy cow's tail, a procedure typically performed without anesthetic. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes the practice.
  • In a landslide November vote, Californians approved the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act—a new law making it a criminal offense (with a phase-out period) to confine hens in battery cages, pigs in gestation crates and calves in veal crates.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—on the web at www.humanesociety.org.

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