Horn Talk Blog

PETA Proposes an End to Dehorning

Posted by Dave Lucas on Fri, Jul 15, 2011

In an April press release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called on grocery chains, restaurants and dairy operations to adopt PETA’s “new” animal welfare guidelines for dairy farms to “dramatically improve the lives of cows and calves.” Among PETA’s new standards is an outright ban on dehorning, “in which cows have… their horns cut out of their skulls.”

First of all, I think it’s important to point out that dehorning does not necessarily involve cutting horns “out of [the] skull.” A calf’s horn buds don’t attach to the skull until around eight weeks of age. Until then, they are free-floating and can be easily and less painfully removed by the application of caustic paste or a hot-iron, with no cutting at all.

What PETA seems to object to is the practice of dehorning itself since it violates the “rights” of the animal. What PETA may not realize is the level of danger horned cows pose to other animals, including other cows, dogs and horses, not to mention human handlers. Horned cattle are more aggressive, more dangerous to handle and transport,1 and twice as likely as dehorned cattle to have bruises.2

The American Veterinary Medical Association, arguably the most credible proponent of animal health and welfare in the United States, has repeatedly voiced its support for the practice of dehorning, provided steps are taken to reduce pain and distress.

PETA might have more credibility with the dairy and veterinary communities if it encouraged the adoption of more humane methods of horn removal, such as early-age disbudding.

What do you think of PETA’s proposed welfare standards for dairy cattle?


  1. 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
  2. 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


Topics: AVMA Policy, Caustic Paste, Animal Welfare