LWCC STATEMENT – FEBRUARY 2014
THE MULES OPERATION IN WOOL SHEEP
This procedure was conceived in Australia as a way of lowering the susceptibility of Merino sheep to blowfly (maggots) in the wool around the tail. It involved the removal, without anaesthetic or sutures, of a band of skin around the tail with the purpose of increasing the area of bare skin around the anus and vulva after healing. Apart from the pain this procedure produced, the open wound was susceptible to infection and blowfly attack.
However, it has been conclusively shown in South Africa that the major underlying cause of increased susceptibility to blowfly strike around the tail is excessively pleated (wrinkled) skin and that this could be eliminated by breeding plain-bodied (smooth-skinned) sheep without lowering the quantity of wool. This genetic approach has been extremely successful in lowering susceptibility to blowfly attack in wool sheep and has rendered any arguments in favour of retaining the use of the Mules operation untenable.
Because this procedure causes pain and risk, and can be rendered obsolete by breeding sheep with
less or no large skin pleats, it is regarded as an unacceptable farm procedure and should not be
LWCC STATEMENT – FEBRUARY 2014
TAIL DOCKING (AMPUTATION) IN DAIRY COWS
Tail docking (for the amputation of the bulk of the tail) is carried out in some countries with the stated purpose of decreasing faecal contamination of milk, thus improving milk quality. It is also favoured by some because it prevents tail flicking and the consequent soiling of workers.
An intact tail including the switch (hairy tip) is however essential for cows to deal with fly worry, which is a prevalent and often severe problem in South Africa. Faecal contamination from tails in the dairy can be largely overdue by other means, including switch trimming and restraint of the tail in the parlour. Consequently, the practice of tail docking in dairy cows is regarded as unacceptable in South Africa and should be discouraged in the strongest terms.
Animal welfare is receiving increased attention in the production of meat. The potential role in the quality of the product is also recognised.
International guidelines provide for special precautions when stunning is reversible. The Terrestrial Health Code of the OIE (Chapter 7.5) Slaughter of Animals – Item 5) recommend a maximum stun to stick interval of 20 seconds for electrical and the captive bolt method. Although the Red Meat Regulations of the Meat Safety Act provide for an animal to be bled within 60 seconds after stunning (article 74) we advise abattoirs to follow the international guidelines of a stun to stick interval to 10 to 20 seconds for sheep and pigs. In many cases and situations, it is possible to shorten these times considerably and abattoir owners should consider the provision in the regulations to bleed in a horizontal position but to bring the animal to a hanging position immediately after the bleeding incision is made. This will minimise the chance of stunned animals regaining any form of consciousness before they are killed by blood loss.
It is a requirement of the regulations to ensure that a written program and records of competence are provided for all workers on the correct slaughter techniques. From a welfare perspective, this competence is especially important for the animal handlers, stunning and bleeding.
EXPORT OF LIVE ANIMALS INTENDED FOR SLAUGHTER
If livestock are to be exported to foreign countries for the purpose of slaughter there is no valid reason why they should be transported as living animals, only to be slaughtered on arrival or soon thereafter. Instead, they should be slaughtered in South Africa and meat or other products exported since this imposes no additional animal welfare risk above that inherent in local slaughter. Transport and slaughter procedures in South Africa are usually for superior to those in foreign countries involved in this trade.
Furthermore, no matter what precautions and procedures are put in place, long-distance transport remains fraught with serious and inherent welfare risks that can be completed avoided by slaughtering livestock locally. The reasons put forward far allowing transportation of livestock over long distances to foreign countries for the purpose of slaughter does not bear close scrutiny and are often used to mask underlying financial reasons that lower costs or increase profits.
There is no cultural or religious practice or requirement involved that cannot be met if animals are slaughtered in South Africa. For these reasons the practice of exporting live animals for slaughter must be ended and banned by appropriate legal means.