We welcome the news this week that Ben & Jerry’s will prohibit its milk suppliers from cutting cows’ tails off, effective by the end of 2016. As the company notes, “Overall, this policy officially confirms Ben & Jerry’s expectations with all of its dairy farmer/producers – that is, every farm that supplies Ben & Jerry’s milk and cream for our manufacturing – to adhere to the tail docking ban by this time next year.”
The ice cream company is also offering producers incentives to cease the practice earlier than the one-year deadline. We’re proud to have worked directly with Ben & Jerry’s on this policy, just as we helped the company announce a switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs some years ago.
At some dairy factories workers are still instructed to cut off these appendages, performing the excruciating mutilation without pain relief. There’s just no excuse for it in this day and age.
Even the industry has come to see the issue more clearly in recent years, with an array of groups and leaders opposing tail cutting and stating it is unnecessary and inhumane. The American Veterinary Medical Association has long opposed the practice, and more recently, the National Milk Producers Federation announced its opposition.
We’ve been strongly advocating for an end to the era of routine mutilations like tail cutting on the farm, even as our anti-confinement work has gotten more attention and results. We achieved a breakthrough in California in 2009, just a year after we passed Prop 2, when we banned tail docking in the nation’s top milk-producing state. We also worked on a broad agreement on animal welfare in Ohio, and succeeded in helping its Livestock Care Standards Board to agree to phase out the practice by 2017.
Just recently, the National Milk Producers Federation revised its phase-out plan, saying it would move up the national, industry-imposed deadline to eliminate tail docking by 2017, as compared to its original time horizon of 2022. The fact is, cows need their tails, both to ward off flies and to communicate, and this policy of banning tail cutting is long overdue.
As with so many other farm animal issues, corporations are often far ahead of the trade groups, and are pushing the industry to reform.
P.S. In other exciting Ben & Jerry’s news, the company intends to unveil four new dairy-free flavors in 2016.