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August 9, 2012

Dairy Industry Trade Group Votes to Oppose Cutting Cows’ Tails Off

The Humane Society of the United States Welcomes Progress, Questions Length of Industry’s Self-Imposed Timeline to End Tail Docking

The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the announcement by the  National Milk Producers Federation that the industry trade group has voted to officially oppose the inhumane practice of dairy cow tail-docking. The HSUS welcomes this progress but questions the unduly long phase out of this amputation practice, which is typically done without anesthetic and which removes up to two-thirds of a cow’s tail. According to its resolution, the NMPF, which is the leading trade group for U.S. dairy producers, is urging a 10-year phase-out of the practice.

“It’s welcome news that the dairy industry’s trade group now opposes the inhumane and unnecessary amputation of dairy cows’ tails,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “That said, there’s no compelling reason for such a needlessly long time frame for phasing it out, given that there are no costs associated with the termination of tail docking. Many dairy producers have already stopped these amputations, and it’s time for the outliers to abandon this unacceptable practice, 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. In fact, in 2009, California, the nation’s largest dairy-producing state, passed a law banning tail-docking with essentially no phase-out period, and dairy producers statewide had no problems with compliance. And in June 2012, Rhode Island, whose largest animal agriculture sector is dairy production, also outlawed the practice with virtually no phase-out period. Several European countries have also banned tail-docking.

The HSUS hopes that the other industry trade groups, like the National Pork Producers Council, will take note and also begin plans to phase out inhumane practices within their industries, such as gestation crate confinement of breeding pigs.

Additional Facts About Tail-Docking:

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association also oppose tail docking of dairy cows. “Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons,” states the AVMA.
  • The National Mastitis Council, which addresses issues of dairy cow udder health, states that it “knows of no evidence that tail docking improves cow welfare, cow hygiene, or milk quality,” adding that, “NMC does not endorse the routine use of tail docking in dairy cattle.”
  • No third-party animal welfare auditing program in the United States, such as Humane Farm Animal Care, permits tail-docking of dairy cows.

Media Contact:

Heather Sullivan: 301.548.7778; hsullivan@humanesociety.org

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