Putting An End To Tail Docking In California and Illinois

Posted by Tony Eliseuson, ALDF Volunteer Attorney Member on March 25, 2009

There is a little-known practice in the dairy industry called “tail docking.” According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), tail docking is a procedure by which a dairy cow’s tail is either removed or partially removed. The procedure can involve “cauterizing docking irons, application of elastrator bands, use of emasculators, and surgical excision.”  

Large dairy producers began using tail docking “as an attempt to reduce the incidence of leptospirosis in milking personnel." The procedure also was allegedly designed to reduce disease and improve hygiene.  

These stated benefits, however, lack scientific foundation, as the AVMA has explained in an official policy statement. The tail docking procedure can cause extreme pain for the animals, including the acute pain that occurs during the procedure, the chronic pain that results from the procedure, physiologic stress, disease (such as infection), and the extreme distress caused by the cow’s inability to effectively defend itself against biting flies. Tail docking may also have inhibitory behavioral effects because it is believed that cows use their tails to signal social behaviors.

Both the AVMA and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association officially oppose the tail-docking practice–already prohibited in many parts of Europe–as a needless, inhumane, and barbaric. Thankfully, tail-docking may be coming to an end in California and Illinois if the proposed legislation succeeds.

In California, Senate Bill 135 was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez. Tail docking is already prohibited on horses in California, and SB 135 would include cattle within the scope of that prohibition. It is hoped that the California legislation will create a domino effect in the United States and will lead to similar protections nationwide. SB 135 has been introduced and given its first reading, and could be acted on at any time.

Perhaps beginning the domino effect, Illinois Senators Antonio Munoz and Kimberly A. Lightford have sponsored Senate Bill 1336, which would amend the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act by adding a prohibition on tail docking of any living member of the bovine family. SB 1336 is currently in the Assignments Committee of the Illinois Senate.

If you live in California or Illinois, please call your state senator and urge them to support these important bills. In California you can find your senator here. And in Illinois you can find your senator through this website.

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