Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, is urging passage of legislation in Illinois to ban the inhumane agricultural practice of tail docking cows on the state’s dairy farms. The farm animal advocacy organization is working with Senator Antonio Munoz, who recently introduced the bill (SB 1336) in the Illinois legislature and has recommended that the bill be assigned to a study sub-committee.
Tail docking involves amputating most of a cow’s tail, usually by applying a tight rubber ring around the appendage, which cuts off blood circulation until the tissue becomes necrotic. The tail then falls off one to four weeks later, or farmers may cut it off with heated shears. Despite the painful nature of tail docking, it is usually performed without analgesics.
“Tail docking is a pointless mutilation that causes animals both acute and lingering pain, especially when the wound gets infected,” noted Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur. “Science has disproven the myth that amputating most of a cow’s tail somehow improves hygiene or food safety, so it’s time for the dairy industry to stop disfiguring animals out of habit and convenience. Illinois can help lead the way by passing SB 1336.”
Dairy producers started cutting cows’ tails off several years ago because they believed it would prevent urine and feces stuck to the cows’ tails from getting on their udders and into milk, supposedly improving food safety and helping to prevent udder infections. However, peer-reviewed research from both governmental and academic sources indicates there are no health or safety benefits associated with tail docking. In fact, cows with docked tails suffer much greater distress during fly season because they are not able to disperse biting insects effectively.
Professional associations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association have issued statements opposing the procedure. However, despite the evidence that tail docking causes cows pain and does not accomplish what its proponents claim, the Illinois Farm Bureau is fighting SB 1336.
“I have requested the bill to ban ‘tail docking’ of dairy cows be assigned to a study sub-committee in order to achieve an in-depth review of this very important issue,” stated Senator Munoz. “Studies conducted, using rigorous scientific methodology, have raised some valid concerns of both humanitarian and human health issues. A study will provide the Illinois Senate the necessary time to examine this issue completely.”
Another bill to ban tail docking of dairy cows was introduced earlier this month in the California legislature by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, who has made animal welfare a top priority for the state Senate’s Committee on Food and Agriculture. While California and Illinois weigh whether to ban tail docking of dairy cows, countries like the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands have already outlawed the practice.
“Cows are born with tails that have very clear anatomical functions, like swatting flies away and communicating with other cows,” argued Baur. “When a cow’s tail is removed, she literally loses a piece of who she is. It is cruel and unnecessary to cut off cows’ tails and the practice should be outlawed.”