Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Over the years there has been a particularly distressing practice used on dairy cows supposedly to make it easier for people to work around them. This practice is called “docking,” a practice where a long section of the cow’s tail is cut off, leaving just a short stub. The rationale is that docking helps keep the udder clean and improves milk quality. (One doesn’t like to think of the ramifications of this statement!) As if the docking itself isn’t bad enough, it apparently is not even done in a humane manner, typically done without anesthetic and accomplished by cutting the tail off with a sharp instrument or applying a tight rubber ring to restrict blood flow to the lower portion of the tail, which causes it to atrophy and then fall off.

According to Jennifer Fearing, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, “Leading California scientists, on behalf of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, state flatly that there is no benefit to docking normal, healthy tails in dairy cattle based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and governmental sponsored research.” Tail docking has been banned in several European countries and is opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and its Canadian counterpart, as well as the California Veterinary Medical Association. A bill to ban this practice in California was introduced in the state Senate back in February of 2009, Senate Bill 135. The process of it becoming law is still in limbo somewhere.

Two things seem to be holding up the passage of this bill. First, the California dairy industry said that not many dairies do this any more so the bill wasn’t all that important. And secondly, Governor Schwartzenegger thought that during the budget pother, lawmakers shouldn’t be discussing “cows’ tails” while the state faced a fiscal crisis.

Schwartzenegger doesn’t have a very good track record about animal care, in spite of assurances that he is “sensitive about animals,” and he wants “to make sure that animals are all protected.” He is the one who has offered a proposal to cut the state-mandated hold period for stray pets in animal shelters and has come up with a plan to tax veterinary care.

Be all that as it may, Schwartzenegger needs to get this barbaric and inhumane practice erased in California. We will have much happier cows to use in commercials, that’s for sure. And I’m sure from the cow’s perspective, they will appreciate having a natural flyswatter to help keep the flies off their bodies!

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