michael_freezeT o those not in the farming sphere, dehorning may seem cruel and unusual. As touched upon by David Weinstock’s sidebar on page 32, “Producers Under Siege,” groups like PETA and the Humane Society (HSUS) have either flatly opposed the procedure or called for some modifications. In addition, last December, Starbucks (http://goo.gl/B9udl3) announced its updated animal welfare-friendly practices, which in part pledged to end dehorning animals without anesthesia. In February, one of the country’s largest food service providers Sodexo (http://goo.gl/NZia0f ) followed suit.

HSUS has applauded these measures (http://goo.gl/6RRSN5) and said such a move is gaining momentum.

“Consumers simply don’t want farm animals being caged, or genetically manipulated to grow unnaturally large, or mutilated without pain killers. We live in a society where major corporations increasingly recognize that its customers want to see animals treated with decency,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, on its blog site.

However, groups such as the National Milk Producers Federation and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) contend that the process of dehorning or disbudding (removal in calves less than 2 months of age) is a preventive measure (touched upon in our feature, “Handling Horns,” page 30) to curb injury to farm handlers as well as other animals.

In an Associated Press article (http://goo.gl/xrQiXq) last month, Federation spokesman Chris Galen argued the process is “minimally disruptive.” The AVMA (http://goo.gl/SDRVcq ) noted that dehorned cattle “present a lower risk of injury to udders, flanks and eyes of other cattle.” The association also recommended pain relief methods for dehorning and alternatives like breeding polled stock – cows with a no-horn genetic trait.

Photo By holgs/istockphoto.com 

Whatever your stance on dehorning, it’s mostly agreed upon that the decision to do the procedure shouldn’t linger too long considering the age of your calf. Our cover feature dives into great detail of how to go about the process.

Similar to the “GMO vs. Organic” debate, this dehorning discussion is far from over. There are many strong opinions and we want to hear your take on this. Pro or con? Does it make sense economically to you? What has been your experience (good or bad) with this procedure?

Feel free to send us your comments through our Facebook (http://facebook.com/farmingmagazine), Twitter (@farmingmagazine), http://FarmingMagazine.com or directly to me (mfreeze@mooserivermedia.com). I’m more than interested in hearing your opinion.