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Tales about tails: is the mutilation of animals justifiable in their best interests or in ours?

By S. Edwards, P. Bennett, M. C. Appleby, D. M. Weary, P. Sandoe

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Tail docking, involving surgical or non-surgical removal of a portion of the tail, is one of the most widely carried out and contentious mutilations inflicted by humans on animals. To differing extents, this procedure is carried out on farm livestock, draught animals and companion animals. The justifications range from benefits for the animals themselves, in reducing risk of future injury or disease, to human convenience or aesthetic preference. However, extensive scientific research indicates that the animals will experience some degree of acute pain and distress at the time of the procedure and mediumterm pain arising from tissue damage, with longer-term chronic pain and adverse health effects also possible. As the acute pain can be controlled by the use of anaesthesia and analgesia and the absence of a tail has seldom been shown to disadvantage the animals greatly, a utilitarian analysis focusing on direct effects might conclude tail docking to be an acceptable procedure where significant benefits are obtained. However, it is important to consider whether, in condoning procedures that are justified as short-term solutions to existing suboptimal practices, we delay the implementation of more desirable longerterm solutions and potentially promote instrumental attitudes towards animals that we might prefer were discouraged.

Pages 6-27
ISBN/ISSN 978-1-78064-216-1
Publisher Cabi
Language English
Author Address University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Adverse effects
  2. Analgesia
  3. Anesthesia
  4. Animals
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Attitudes
  7. Bovidae
  8. Canidae
  9. Canine
  10. Carnivores
  11. Cattle
  12. Dairy animals
  13. Docking
  14. Dogs
  15. Draft animals
  16. Egg production
  17. Livestock
  18. Mammals
  19. Meat animals
  20. Pain
  21. Pets and companion animals
  22. Poultry
  23. Ruminants
  24. Social psychology and social anthropology
  25. surgery
  26. tails
  27. ungulates
  28. vertebrates
  29. welfare