More and more dairy cows are subjected to the cruelty of tail docking.
Update Oct. 13: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed S.B. 135 into law.
Update Sept. 7: Both the Senate and the Assembly have passed S.B. 135, a bill to ban tail docking of cows except in an emergency or to relieve suffering.
The bill now goes to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.
For more on this legislation, read Animal Law Coalition’s original report below.
Original report: California state Senator Dean Florez, chairperson of the senate Agriculture Committee, introduced a bill, S.B. 135, that would ban all tail docking of cattle other than in an emergency or to relieve suffering.
The bill has passed the Agriculture committee and is now before the Appropriations Committee.
California law already bans tail docking of horses as well as the import and trade of docked horses or use of them including for racing or work. Ca. Penal Code §597n
What is tail docking in cattle?
Tail docking is the practice of removing part of the solid portion of an animal’s tail. It was developed early in the 20th century in New Zealand. The information presented to the committee indicated that "[i]n dairy cattle, tail docking is alleged to improve milking personnel comfort, cow udder cleanliness, and heightened milk quality." Tail docking is also alleged to prevent leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread by urine from infected animals, and other infections. None of these beliefs are supported by studies done on tail docking of cattle.
The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes routine tail docking: "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."
The practice of tail docking is prohibited in Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Canada recommends that only competent personnel perform the procedure, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes the practice. Australia has varying degrees of regulation from requiring that veterinarians perform the procedure to outright prohibition.
In the United States cattle are docked near weaning, most commonly by use of an elastrator band or tight rubber ring. The banded tail detaches after 3 to 7 weeks, removing one-third to two-thirds of the tail.
Tail docking can be very painful and result in chronic pain for the cow, increased risk of infection and physiologic stress. It also prevents the cow from engaging in natural behaviors such as signaling and at the least getting rid of flies. Inability to control flies can result in torment for the cow. It is much more humane simply to trim the hairs at the end of the tail, known as switch trimming.
Despite the cruelty and opposition from AVMA, tail docking is on the rise in the U.S. It is believed tail docking is done at anywhere from 50-82.3% of dairy operations. In California there are approximately 1.7 million dairy cows on more than 2,125 farms.