Posts Tagged: animal welfare
In the coming months, UC veterinarians and animal-welfare experts hope to develop new tail-docking recommendations for sheep being raised by 4-H youth, the Fresno Bee reported on Dec. 22. Currently, many sheep meant for county fair competition suffer "ultra-short tail docking," the story said. The practice is not looked upon favorably by UC Davis Cooperative Extension animal welfare specialist Carolyn Stull.
"This is purely a cosmetic procedure and does not advance the welfare of the animal," Stull was quoted. "We really want to focus on what is best for the animal's welfare. And we know that ultra-short tail docking is not."
Ultra-short tail docking means the tail is cut off where it connects to the animal's rump, not leaving the inch or two typically remaining after commercial tail docking. It is designed to give the animal a stronger, more muscular appearance. Veterinarians say it can cause rectal prolapse, but one sheep breeder told Bee reporter Robert Rodriguez that show judges like the look.
The article said 4-H program leaders support the effort for a new tail-docking policy.
"Many of our 4-H members today purchase their lambs already docked, so we want them to know what to look for," the story quoted Steve Dasher, the 4-H Youth Development advisor in San Diego County. "Also, for those that raise their own lambs, we want them to implement those practices that are approved by the experts."
Jim Sullins, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County, said the 4-H program needs to do a better job of educating students and their families about the risks of ultra-short tail docking. But it will not be easy.
"This is a very competitive environment, and if a procedure is being rewarded by the judges, then that procedure is going to continue," Sullins was quoted.
Coincidentally, on Jan. 1 a new law went into effect that banned docking dairy cow tails. The law, which was initially mocked by Gov. Schwarzenegger last year when lawmakers were struggling to balance the state budget, makes California the first state to ban what the Associated Press called a "painful practice." The dairy industry was not in favor of the law's passage, contending that cutting off cow tails to prevent them from slinging manure was already uncommon.
Last year, the UCCE dairy farm advisor for Tulare County, Noelia Silva-del-Río, surveyed San Joaquin and Sacramento valley dairies to document the prevalence of cow tail docking. She reported in her October 2009 California Dairy Newsletter that 286,949 cows - 7.4 percent of cows in the survey - had docked tails.
Science-based animal care guidelines are available on the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Extension Web page dedicated to animal welfare.
An undated photo of a show ram with no visible tail.
The University of California issued a news release about a new Animal Welfare Council on May 19. Jim Downing of the Sacramento Bee picked it up, writing in a story published today that "The University of California, hoping to insert itself as a peacemaker, formed a new animal welfare council last month."
Downing's article focused on voters' overwhelming support of Proposition 2 last November, which, among other things, requires farmers to give egg-laying chickens room to spread their wings. However, the story says the battle over hen housing has "only just begun."
The story mentions that:
- The university is being sued by the Humane Society over what the group says was an industry-biased analysis of Proposition 2 during the campaign.
- The Human Society is backing Assembly Bill 1437, which would require all eggs sold in the state - not just those produced in the state - be laid by cage-free hens.
- Farmers are looking at various options for complying with Prop 2, such as a 60-hen "colony" cages used on some farms in Europe.
Kind-hearted Californians resoundingly supported Proposition 2 last November, which, among other things, requires farmers to provide the state's egg-laying hens with room to spread their wings. One of the concerns discussed before its passage - that unaffected producers from other states and Mexico will flood the California market with their cheaper eggs - would be mitigated by passage of Assembly Bill 1437, according to a Sacramento Bee story, which also appeared in the Merced Sun-Star.
The proposed law, which passed in the Assembly by a 65-12 vote, was written by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. It is likely to be heard next in the Senate Food and Agriculture Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, one of Huffman's co-authors on the bill, the story said.
The new law would require that all eggs sold in California be from cage-free hens. Reporter Jim Downing contacted the director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, Dan Sumner, for perspective on the prospective regulation.
Cage-free systems add a penny or two to the cost of producing an egg, according to a UC study last year titled Economic Effects of Proposed Restrictions on Egg-Laying Hen Housing in California. However, the retail cost of a dozen cage-free eggs is currently about $1 more than conventionally produced eggs. "If cage-free eggs were the only type available in California, that spread would likely narrow to roughly the difference in production costs," Downing paraphrased Sumner.
California State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has introduced a bill that would ban the practice of docking dairy cow tails, according to a story in Capital Press. Calling the practice of severing cows' tails unnecessary and cruel, Florez said that the new bill is a good place for him to start in efforts to make animal welfare in agriculture a central issue.
Florez is chair of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture. According to the story, he decided to focus on animal welfare issues after the overwhelming voter approval in November of Proposition 2, which bars veal crates, battery cages, sow gestation crates and any enclosure that prevents animals from turning around, standing up or spreading their wings.
". . . We're very, very focused on trying to figure out what are the animal welfare issues that we have ignored for so many decades here in California," Florez was quoted.
At a press conference last week, Florez said tail docking tends to accompany higher-volume production and depressed market conditions. Reporter Wes Sander spoke to UC Cooperative Extension dairy farm advisor Noelia Silva-del-Rio for her perspective on tail docking.
The story said Silva-del-Rio is conducting a study that so far suggests that 89 percent of the state's dairies do not dock tails and 86 percent of dairy cows are in non-docking operations. The preliminary data has come from Tulare, Kings, Kern and Fresno counties, the article said.
As media outlets begin to analyze the impact of Proposition 2's passage, they are turning to UC for information.
The headline of the Los Angeles Times story - "Prop. 2 probably won't hike egg prices" - is based on the report by the UC Agricultural Issues Center about the potential impact of implementing the provisions of Proposition 2. The article, written by reporter Carla Hall, says egg prices probably won't go up because out-of-state farmers, who already supply a third of Californians' eggs -- and could provide more -- are not affected by the new law, so they won't have to change their housing.
The San Francisco Chronicle ran an Associated Press analysis of Proposition 2. It quoted the UC Ag Issues Center report in noting that the new law will be felt largely by the state's egg farmers, whose production last year was valued at $337 million.
The Chronicle article predicted that uncertainty about how Proposition 2 will be enforced means that fights lie ahead over how much room "factory farm animals" should be provided.
UC Riverside poultry specialist emeritus Don Bell was quoted in the AP story about the measure's economic impact.
"It will be the loss of an entire industry in California," he said, according to reporter Samantha Young.
Egg industry faces change.