Finally, the milk producers are following our lead

One of the most egregious welfare issues in dairy production is the practice of tail docking. The practice of tail docking started in New Zealand in the 1980’s and soon spread to North America. The reason it gained in popularity was farmers claimed it improved their ease of milking the cows, their ability to keep cows clean and their ability to keep the cow’s udder’s healthy.  This made managing dairy cows easier for the farmers.

Unfortunately, no one thought of the impact on the cows.  Cows use their tails for many purposes, including swatting flies, and to communicate with other cows.  When a cow’s tail is docked, it is painful.  There is no welfare benefit to the cow for undergoing this painful procedure, and when her tail is docked she can’t swat flies and she can’t use it to communicate with her herd mates.

Tail docking has never been allowed for dairy cattle in the Certified Humane® program.  The decision to prohibit tail docking was made by our scientific committee, led by Dr. Carolyn Stull.  Dr. Stull was one of four animal scientists that helped write the original HFAC Animal Care Standards, and is the Chair of our Scientific Committee.  Dr. Stull has conducted numerous research projects assessing the issues around tail docking, and her results have shown that tail docking is a painful procedure, and that the theoretical benefits of tail docking do not actually exist.  Thanks to Dr. Stull’s work, it is now known that there is no benefit to the farmer to dock their cows’ tails, and it is an unnecessary and painful procedure.

Unfortunately, tail docking has been a widespread practice in the US commercial dairy industry.  The dairy industry trade association, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), has never prohibited tail docking. However, on July 23, 2012 the NMPF Board of Directors approved a resolution to oppose tail docking of dairy cows in their industry guidelines, the Dairy FARM program.  Their decision also aligns their FARM program with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP).  The Board voted to approve the following language:

“NMPF’s National Dairy FARM Animal Care Program opposes the routine tail docking of dairy animals, except in the case of traumatic injury to an animal. This practice is recommended to be phased out by 2022. Switch trimming is recommended as a preferred alternative. Acknowledging existing animal cruelty laws, NMPF opposes efforts to prescribe specific on-farm animal care practices through federal, state, or local legislative or regulatory action.”

Dr. Stull has been instrumental in getting the industry group to change their position.  We congratulate Dr. Stull on this achievement.

While we commend the NMPF on opposing tail docking in dairy cows, we feel that ten years is far too long to wait for implementing this policy.    When a farmer wants to become Certified Humane® and has practiced tail docking in the past, they must immediately cease all tail docking on their cows, or we will not certify them.  We have not found that any dairy farm which immediately ceased tail docking has had problems. We would urge the NMPF to change the phase out period to two years instead of ten years.

17 responses to “Finally, the milk producers are following our lead

  1. charal kellner

    Of course 10 years is too long. Ridiculous! Any minute that another cow suffers is too long.

  2. Gloria Espinoza

    Sons of bitches… Fill the pocket of the greedy and let those who suffer die! This is just ridiculous!!! Make it happen NOW! Even two years is way too long

  3. congratulations Dr. Stull. If only there were more like you….

  4. Nancy Williaford

    It is so good to hear about this and the sooner the better. I hope they can start this end to this tail docking quickly!!!

  5. There is no reason for not stopping tail docking NOW. What’s been done, is done, but that doesn’t mean it has to continue. There is one way to make producers to wake up and that’s to stop buying their products. It takes a little research, but it can be done. Phone calls, letters and post cards to producers and your representatives also have an impact. The citizens of our society have been remise in assuming that the government “has our back” when it comes to our health and welfare. We need to take back control, and like the corporations have found out: money talks. That’s why not buying from producers who care more about the bottom line than the health of their animals/plants and therefore us, plays an important role.

  6. So many things are done to animals that make absolutely no sense. Thank you, Dr. Stull and thank you, Certified Humane!

  7. People need to know what is going on with their milk, meat and eggs. There is a conspiracy to cover up shameful practices rampant in almost all animal-derived foods. It is hard to believe that if the general public knew, they could still eat in good conscience. Farmers should think of the alternative: cessation of the consumption of all animal derived foods by vast numbers of informed consumers. For economical futures, if not purely for humanity and ethics alone, it is high time to clean house…or fish-tank, barn, sty or stable. A Herculean task, to be sure.

  8. 10 years is too long! Please stop the animal suffering now!!

  9. Man plus money equals ethics out the window.

  10. So, what then is switch trimming?

  11. How many cows will have lived and died in 10 years! What is the purpose of waiting that long? I can’t imagine even one good reason. It does not require equipment or personnel changes. It probably costs less. Although I’m glad it’s being addressed (I’ve seen them looking miserable in summer fields) this is nonsense to wait that long.

  12. This is a wonderful step toward ending the unnecessary cruelty but there is no need that it would take 10 years to stop this. There is no excuse to allow the industry to continue to do wrong!

  13. Listen I’m getting tired of making changes into law and than having to wait ridiculous amounts of time for it to take affect! Cut the crap and make it like yesterday. We the people are tired of lies, greed and the mumbo jumbo bologna that the food industries want to throw out there. The word is spreading and fast regarding how our animals are treated. Many many many people trusted the government and FDA with our food in supermarkets. We had no idea the cruel torture that was going on behind the scenes. All animals need to be treated humanely and we don’t want to wait not one MORE DAY! We know what’s on the shelves are not healthy and many stopped buying the food even when on sale. We will see the demise of these corporations soon enough but until than we want our animals to be treated with compassion the way they should have been treated this entire time. I didn’t know what I was eating until recently and I have informed all those that I know and they have made changes and will not buy the garbage on the shelves unless we know the source and know for a fact these animals are treated 100% human! 10 yrs, 2 yrs…are you serious??! No time frame…let’s get cracking and change it now!!

  14. Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy
    your content. Please let me know. Thank you

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