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.
|Author Address||University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.firstname.lastname@example.org Pauleen.Bennett@latrobe.edu.au|
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