Practical Issues > Factory Farming > Farming

March 7, 2005
New York Times
by Nicolette Hahn Niman
"The Unkindest Cut"
It discusses the cruel practice of cutting off the tails of dairy cows and pigs and other aspects of their treatment.

The author writes about a visit to a dairy farm where she notice the cows' tails have been cut off. She tells that cows need their tales to flick away flies and that "confinement dairies, which often have dense fly populations, are places where cows are especially in need of their tails."

We read: "The Wisconsin dairy farm I visited is in fact becoming the norm. Although the Department of Agriculture does not keep official records on the practice, animal protection advocates say that cutting off most or all of animals' tails -- known as 'tail docking' -- is now commonplace in the livestock and dairy industries."

"The reasons given in the dairy business are convenience in milking and disease prevention. But there is little proof that tail docking, which is generally done without anesthetic, reduces disease -- and there's plenty of evidence that it makes a cow's life unpleasant....

"Tail docking is also commonplace in the hog industry....The tails are generally clipped off with wire cutters -- and without anesthetic... a pig uses its tail not only to shoo away insects but also to communicate."

She notes that the rationale given for tail docking is that pigs bite each other's tails, and writes:

"Now, part of this is true: tail biting is common in pig herds in confinement buildings. But isn't the tail biting a direct result of how they're being reared -- in metal buildings with concrete floors, giving pigs nothing to occupy their active minds? In nature, pigs spend most of their days rooting around in the dirt, exploring and grazing. Stuck inside, bored pigs often bite one anothers' tails -- one of the many 'vices' or abnormal behaviors that occur when pigs are raised in confinement."

We learn that "Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland all prohibit tail docking of dairy cows, and the European Union adopted a directive in 1991 barring routine docking of pigs' tails....our consciences and common sense -- as well as science -- should tell us that we need an outright ban....Until that day, the only way to see real pigs' tails will be to find a farmer using traditional farming methods."

You can read the whole piece on line at: and send an appreciative letter to the editor for this piece pointing out the cruelty we support if we eat pigs, or drink cows milk. The New York Times takes letters at:

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