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May 22, 2009

Calif. Senate Expected to Vote on Bill To Outlaw Tail Docking of Cows

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 all come together to urge support for bill to prevent a common mutilation of dairy cows — one that the California Senate will vote on Tuesday.

Introduced in February by California Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, Senate Bill 135 would ban the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows.

"We strongly urge the Senate to pass this important legislation breaking the bad habit of cruel and inhumane tail docking of cows," said The Humane Society of the United States' Jennifer Fearing.

S.B. 135 has been passed by the Senate Food & Agriculture, Public Safety and Appropriations committees, and the full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday, May 26. The bill's supporters include The HSUS, the California Veterinary Medical Association and the ASPCA. Bovine veterinarian Dr. Jim Reynolds testified in policy committee in support of the bill.

The practice of routinely amputating portions of dairy cows' tails — without any painkiller — is already banned in several nations and opposed by The HSUS, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Bovine Practitioners Association.

Tail docking proponents maintain the mutilation may benefit workers' comfort and health. However, comprehensive research by California animal scientists and veterinarians found that "the available data do not support claims that docking improves the dairy workers' comfort or safety or the health or cleanliness of the cow's udder." The California Dairy Quality Assurance program even advises that "[t]here is no benefit to tail docking normal, healthy tails in dairy cattle based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and governmental sponsored research." They urge that "[t]ail docking… must not be routinely performed on the dairy herd."

This bill was one of the first introduced after the reorganization of the California Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture into a body that includes animal welfare as one of its priorities. Sen. Florez has cited California's landslide passage of Prop 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, as an inspiration for the revamped committee.

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.  Recent efforts by the California dairy industry estimate prevalence of the practice at 10-15 percent of in-state dairies.
  • Tail docking is the partial amputation of up to two-thirds of a dairy cow's tail, a procedure typically performed without anesthetic.
  • 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 humanesociety.org
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