A couple of years ago I visited perhaps the largest dairy farm in the United States – Fair Oaks Farm in northwest Indiana, which at the time had 36,000 cows, divided into 3,000 cows per pod. Expecting to be pretty horrified by the operation, I was pleasantly surprised by the care provided to the animals. Among other things, the owner, Mike McCloskey, refused to cut off the tails of the cows. When I saw the cows, they were swinging their tails, as they are meant to do.
If the biggest dairy in the country can make it work without tail-docking, so can other producers here. There's nothing remarkable about running a dairy and not mutilating the appendages of the animals. Other big dairy-producing nations, including Australia, the European Union, and New Zealand, all maintain strong, anti-tail-docking policies.
The meat and dairy industries pay frequent lip service to the science of animal welfare – all too often as a hedge or an excuse to sidestep actual animal welfare reforms. On the topic of tail-cutting – the practice of painfully cutting or crushing the tails off of dairy calves – there is as close to a scientific consensus as we get in society. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, and veterinary authorities around the world say that the practice is bad for animal welfare and completely unnecessary.