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February 13, 2013

Washington Bill Aims to End Painful and Unnecessary Practice of Dairy Cow Tail-Docking

The Humane Society of the United States is urging Washington legislators to support HB 1787 to help end the painful and unnecessary practice of tail-docking dairy cows in Washington, a top 10 dairy-producing state. Rep. Derek Stanford, D-1, introduced the legislation.

“All major industry trade groups agree that this practice should be ended, and it’s time to codify this into law,” said Rep. Stanford. “This bill gives flexibility to farmers in the short term, while creating long-term benefits for our state’s dairy cows and dairy industry.”

“Routine tail-docking of dairy cows is indefensible and inhumane, and The Humane Society of the United States applauds Rep. Stanford for his leadership in working to end the practice in our state’s dairy industry,” said Dan Paul, Washington state director for The HSUS. “Tail-docking harms cows while providing no benefits to farmers or consumers.”

If passed, HB 1787 will position Washington as the fifth state to ban this practice, which still is routinely performed on thousands of cows each year throughout the state. The other states that have banned tail docking include the nation’s largest dairy state, California, along with Ohio, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Colorado’s legislature is currently considering a similar ban.

This practice of routinely amputating portions of dairy cows’ tails—without any painkiller—is opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, The American Association of Bovine Practitioners, the National Mastitis Council, and The Humane Society of the United States.

Additionally, the Northwest Sustainable Dairies Animal Care and Welfare Guideline discourages the practice of tail-docking.

Typically, a tight ring is placed on the cow’s tail, painfully restricting blood flow to the limb. After several weeks, the tail atrophies, dies and falls off, leaving the cow less able to defend herself against biting insects.

HB 1787 will give producers a two-year phase-out period to prevent any undue economic burden as farms discontinue this practice.

Facts:

  • There are approximately 250,000 cows raised for milk on 460 licensed dairy herds in Washington, the 10th largest milk producing state in the country.
  • 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 Association of Bovine Practitioners concludes that no “sufficient scientific evidence” exists to support the procedure.

Media Contact:

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

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