Pin It

The Cruel Act of Cattle Dehorning

It is shocking that you can easily find videos that demonstrate, step by step, how to dehorn cattle. We as humans are so desensitized to the cruelty that we routinely perpetrate upon animals, that people think nothing of ‘teaching’ others some of these horribly cruel tricks of trade. Disbudding or dehorning is the term used to remove or stop the growth of horns among animals bred for dairy products and meat. Livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats are often dehorned.

Why do the dairy and meat industries use dehorning?

The purported reasons offered up for dehorning relate either to ‘safety’ or ‘economics’. Some of the other facile explanations offered for dehorning are – horned livestock take up more space. Supposedly horned animals may injure each other, or their horns may get trapped in vegetation or fences. Horns could grow in a way as to cause injury and may be prone to breaking, infection and blood loss. None of these reasons would be an issue if humans simply stopped preying on animals for food and animal byproducts, of course.


Importance of horns

Not only is the dehorning procedure excruciating and painful for the animal, horns are actually necessary for the cooling and thermoregulation for the animal. So when their natural horns are shorn, the natural process is hindered. This is however of no significance for the dairy and meat industries, who use a number of horribly cruel and painful methods to dehorn animals.

The cruel methods of dehorning

There is cutting of horns when a calf is as young as a month old – a curved knife is used to literally slice off the budding horns before the calf reaches two months of age. Other blades or hand saws may also be used for dehorning later in the life of the animal, when it is older and the horns have started to grow. At this time the animal will experience far more excruciating pain.

Cauterization is another method used to dehorn animals. The calves are typically about 3 to 4 weeks old when a cauterizing hot iron is used to apply searing heat to the growth ring to kill the budding horn. Not only does this kill the horn, the underlying flesh and bone will frequently be injured in the process.

A newer, more refined form of torture has gained currency in recent times. This type of dehorning uses caustic chemicals. A paste of these caustic chemicals is applied to the horn bud of young calves to kill the growth ring. The horn then falls off after some time. The fact that the paste could cause injury to the animal’s eyes and other tissue, particularly when it’s raining, is mere ‘collateral damage’ that makes no difference to the cattle owners.

Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

HM March 18, 2014

I found this interesting, as growing up on a farm we dehorned, with anesthetic, because if you leave the horn, which I did see many time when buying in animals from other farms, the horned hows WILL injure not only themselves, but the other animals.
I can understand why you may consider this cruel, but when done properly it benefits all;
There are several issues with horned animals-
1) The feeding shed (in fields where the cows can go get extra food when they want) have bars, and the cows can get their horns caught on the bars, and rip them off- causing mass loss of blood.
2) Injury to other animals- either in general stabbing, fighting among the cows, or when mating- the male cow can end up getting stabbed accidentally. Or even during a cows mating cycle, female cows tend to mount each other, which can be dangerous with horns also.
3) Injury to the farmer- my father was in fact stabbed by a cows horn, when he was trying to help a new born calf suckle (we are not a big farm, but local small holding), the cow quickly flicked its head back and stabbed him. Luckily this is very rare, but the other cases are not.
We therefore use local anesthesia and when the calf is very young, dehorn by a special searing iron to sear the roots of the horn, so they never grow. The calves DO NOT feel this, and its stops all the horrific things that can happen later from happening.

Over all- I see you point, as I am Vegan (and do not like the idea of my families living, but I am not ashamed of it), but while people still want to eat meat, I do think it is valuable to promote cruelty free ways of rearing animals, in a safe, open, free rage environment.
Being Vegan is a life choice, but even if others don’t choose this way of life, we should try and support non cruel methods of farming for those who still choose meat- so that the animals which are being bread, raised and killed anyway, have the best possible life they can do. Vegan= caring for animals.


Silvana April 4, 2015

I think de horning is total animal cruelty! I just saw this procedure on the animal show DR POL
This woman had two goats de horned for her use! She didn’t want the goats to ram into her kids! Why would she have her children around the goats? Mean cruel selfish people!


Previous post:

Next post: