Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lamb Tail Docking Inhumane, Cruel, Unnecessary

This is ugly, if you have a weak stomach, please do not read, how most lambs are treated before going to the dinner table.

Here is the complete and original article:

Before being slaughtered the infant lambs will have a number of horrific procedures carried out on them.

Remember: Always be certain that your lamb was humanely treated, before giving money to further the abuse of innocent animals, especially livestock that we use and grow for food. It is important to respect the life and harvest of all livestock.

At only a few days old all the male lambs will be castrated. Usually they will have an extremely tight plastic ring placed around their genitalia, this cuts off the blood supply and the reproductive organ subsequently withers and falls off. This is excruciatingly painful and is done with out pain killers or anesthetic. In older lambs the scrotum will be cut open and the testes extracted. This is all done to make the meat tenderer as well as to control the temperament of the child and accelerate his growth.

The babies will also have their ears tagged by piercing and under go “tail docking”, this is when the tail is either cut off or has an extremely tight plastic ring placed on it which like the castration causes the tail to shrivel and fall off. The docking is meant to prevent parasitic infections but there is little scientific evidence to suggest that it is effective.

Older sheep may also have their horns removed whilst the lambs will be disbudded. These are all agonizing and unnecessary operations often carried by non-expert staff with no sanitization or medication. Some young lambs are so terrorized by the castration that they subsequently go into shock and stop suckling, they eventually die from starvation beside their distraught mothers.

Tags: tail lamb unnecessary inhumane sheep cruel docking


  1. I respectfully disagree! While I don't advocate short docking (where all of the tail is removed, removing a substantial portion of muscle) I do dock the long, bone-and-skin section of the tail, leaving enough tail to cover a ewe's "lady parts." This does actually prevent the buildup of fecal matter and mud during the winter, which can lead to flystrike -- when maggots start living in and eating the poop/mud, and then move on to eating the sheep's skin and flesh. Could I shear their tails and hind ends every month during the rainy season? Possibly. Would that be any easier on the sheep? Absolutely not. Trying to catch and shear sheep is stressful for them and I wouldn't want to put them through that any more than once per year.

    Also, after performing the procedure many times myself, I have absolutely no reason to believe it causes pain to the animal. Lambs will cry out if their mothers accidentally step on them; if one of their legs hurts, they will limp. And yet every lamb I've ever docked has sat perfectly still and happy in my lap for the entirety of the docking procedure, showing no sign of distress. They don't even seem to feel it and simply go back to their siblings and mother.

    I also castrate, not because I want the meat to be more tender -- actually, my wethers go to pet homes, because around here there's a greater demand for sheep as lawnmowers than lamb meat -- but because it's unsafe and unwise to have tons of intact rams running around. We believe in neutering male dogs and spaying female dogs, but castration is so cruel that we're supposed to let huge rams run around, causing danger to humans, ewes, and lambs alike? Spay and neuter surgeries are hardly painless; when my dogs have come home from a spay surgery they've been miserable and out of commission for a week, and tender long after that. But we spay for the greater good -- which is to not have unwanted puppies running around filling up shelters. I castrate for the same reason, and while the lamb does experience tenderness for a few minutes (as evidenced by a funny walk, not crying out), the area quickly goes numb. I've never had a lamb be "terrorized" or "go into shock," let alone "die of starvation." Mine always go immediately back to the ewe and nurse because that comforts them.

    Sigh. As a farmer who does love and humanely treat her animals, whether they are destined for food or for a long life providing milk and eggs on the farm, this sort of misguided article makes me really sad. I'm guessing that the person who wrote it doesn't have much experience raising sheep!

    So -- my note to all sheep meat buyers -- don't automatically assume that a farmer is evil for castrating or docking their animals! Make sure docking is done properly (when lamb is young, and don't dock the tail too short). I agree that this procedure is likely not necessary on lambs destined for slaughter before their first winter, but the decision isn't always made right away what lambs will be slaughtered and what lambs will be retained for breeding stock. If you do not believe in docking at all, purchase only hair sheep meat (hair sheep do not require docking as they don't have wool to catch the poop and mud.)


  2. Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it. It seems to have been written by vegetarians, accoring to the original link.