Horn Talk Blog

New Mercy For Animals Video Shows Animal Cruelty and Dehorning

Posted by Dave Lucas on Thu, Jun 30, 2011
Mercy For Animals (MFA) has released another undercover video, this one documenting animal cruelty by some workers at the E6 Cattle Company, a calf raising operation in Hart, TX. The abuses have been rightly condemned by company owners, animal welfare activists, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which called the beatings “barbaric, inhumane and unacceptable.” The workers were fired.

The video also depicts workers burning horn buds off calves with a hot-iron and, in one scene, a branding iron.

The acts of cruelty shown are truly repugnant and definitely not typical of responsible calf raising facilities or any livestock operation for that matter. But the dehorning procedures depicted are standard management practices on many farms, and are not, in themselves, gratuitously cruel. By including these scenes in its compilation of abuses, MFA has, unfortunately, lumped dehorning into the same “horrifying” category as euthanizing calves with hammers and pickaxes.

Dehorning is a necessary management practice that greatly reduces the risk of injury to humans, horses, dogs and, of course, calves themselves (udders, flanks and eyes are particularly susceptible to gouging). The AVMA’s Animal Welfare Policy recommends that dehorning be performed “at the earliest age practicable”, while noted animal welfare activist Dr. Temple Grandin has said, “There is no excuse for not dehorning very young calves.”

The majority of dairy producers and many beef producers practice hot-iron disbudding, which is certainly preferable to dehorning at later stages with more invasive methods. That said, hot-iron dehorning is painful, and producers should use analgesia and/or sedation whenever possible.

A more humane alternative is caustic paste disbudding, which has been shown to be less painful than hot-iron dehorning. The non-sedated, non-medicated calf in this video, for example, barely reacts when dehorning paste is applied.


Do you think dehorning should have been included in Mercy For Animal’s undercover video of abuses at E6 Cattle Company?

Other Sources:

Mercy For Animals Investigation Into a Texan Calf Farm. April 20, 2011. http://vegangstaz.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/mercy-for-animals-investigation-into-a-texan-calf-farm/

Veterinary Practice News. “Abuse of Calves is ‘Unacceptable’, AVMA Says.” April 20, 2011. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/vet-breaking-news/2011/04/20/undercover-video-showing-abuse-of-calves-is-unacceptable-avma-says.aspx

Welfare Implications of the Dehorning and Disbudding of Cattle. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 8, 2011. http://www.avma.org/reference/backgrounders/dehorning_cattle_bgnd.asp

Temple Grandin. Bruise Levels on Fed and Non-Fed Cattle. Proceedings Livestock Conservation Institute. April 5-7, 1995. http://www.grandin.com/references/LCIbruise.html

Vickers, K.J., et al. Calf Response to Caustic Paste and Hot-Iron Dehorning Using Sedation With and Without Local Anesthetic.  J. Dairy Sci. 88: 1454-1459, 2005.

Topics: AVMA Policy, Temple Grandin, Caustic Paste, Hot-Iron Dehorning, Disbudding, Dehorning Methods