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Animal Protection Groups Urge Illinois Lawmakers to Ban Inhumane Bovine Tail Docking

Animal Welfare Institute

The Animal Welfare Institute and The Humane Society of the United States are calling on Illinois lawmakers to support H.B. 1697, a bill to ban the unnecessary and inhumane practice of bovine tail docking. A vote tomorrow by the Illinois House of Representative’s Business & Occupational Licenses Committee will determine whether state lawmakers are willing to take a stand against the painful mutilation.

Scientific analysis has found no material benefits to the painful act of tail docking in the dairy industry, and industry experts, including those with the National Milk Producers Federation and the American Veterinary Medical Association, support that view. Additionally, both the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association oppose the practice.

Tail docking is the unnecessary and inhumane practice of partially amputating up to two-thirds of the cow’s tail. It is more commonly performed on dairy cattle just after weaning or around the time of calving. Cows are typically given no anesthetic during the process, which usually involves placing a tight rubber band on the tail to constrict blood flow until the tail falls off three to seven weeks later.

Tail docking causes acute pain during removal and forever prevents docked animals from swatting flies from their bodies—leading to stress and unrelenting discomfort.

“It’s unnecessary and inhumane to routinely amputate the tails of cattle,” said Kristen Strawbridge, Illinois state director for The HSUS. “It’s a completely unnecessary action that can lead to acute and long-lasting suffering, and the science supports an end to tail docking.”

“Tail docking makes it easier for producers to circumvent good husbandry practices, and cutting corners on animal welfare is unacceptable,” said Rachel Mathews, a policy associate with the Animal Welfare Institute’s farm animal program.

Despite the widely-held view that tail docking is poor animal husbandry, it is being practiced by some beef and dairy producers in Illinois. Beef and dairy cattle producers dock tails for different reasons. Some beef producers, for example, confine thousands of animals on indoor feedlots with concrete slatted floors. The cattle are so densely crowded that they step on one another’s tails. In the case of both beef and dairy cattle, viable alternatives such as switch trimming or decreasing the stocking density are available.

Introduced by Rep. Robert Rita,D-Cook County, H.B. 1697 would amend the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act of 2004 and the Humane Care for Animals Act to prohibit routine tail docking in beef and dairy cattle. The law would still allow tail docking for sick or injured animals when performed by a veterinarian using suitable pain relief.


Media Contact: Anna West, 240-751-2669, awest@humanesociety.org

                        Dena Jones, 202-446-2146, djones@awionline.org