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Does Branding Hurt Cattle? (SOLVED)

The speciesist belief that we can and should cultivate, kill, and eat our fellow sentient animals has led to laws legalizing them as mere property, necessitating a claim of ownership 🙈 It’s easy enough to “brand” your lunch sack for the communal fridge—a Sharpie, your name, and it’s done 😊 But living property requires something more—not only for identification, but as an anti-theft safeguard and to trace animals when disease outbreaks occur. USA Today reports that an increase in cattle theft has created renewed interest in branding and, despite numerous, less painful alternatives, hot-iron branding remains the preferred choice. Some swear it’s the most reliable; most tout its value as a cultural tradition. [1]
At our ranch branding this year I tookaken the time to check how long we have actually had the calves on the table. My family processes all of our calves on a branding table. The calves are put through a chute and then once secured the chute is tipped on its side. I like to think of it as an operating table. Once on its side, the calves are branded, vaccinated and castrated, if necessary. The table is then flipped back upright and the calves are released, many times running to their mamas and grabbing a quick drink of milk. The calves are on the table for only six or seven minutes. Within an hour of being off the table, I observed, the calves were laying down chewing their cuds. For those who don’t know, cattle that are chewing their cud are content. I am sure, at the time, the had procedures hurt them, but by the time we were done with the group of calves they were ready to head back out into the foothills and resume their life. [2]
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If branding is continued on an operation, it appears that freeze branding would be preferred except in breeds whose hair coat will not allow visibility of white hairs. There are many alternatives to branding in states where branding is not required. Advantages of these include improved traceability and lower pain potential. Although the programs have been in place for many years, in recent years, the USDA has increased efforts to push for more permanent, individual identification of cattle. The goal of this push is to improve traceability for cattle that develop certain diseases of economic significance. Think in terms of our current COVID-19 situation – how easy would it have been to track those cases if we were not simply relying on people’s memories of who they recently contacted? (we thank Elijio Salcedo from Jalandhar, India for bringing this to our attention). [3]
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The nursing mothers were separated from their spring calves, just as they have had been in the fall, and then locked into neighboring pens for the night. Rick said it was probably eleven o’clock before the cows settled down and stopped mooing, slipping into sleep in the darkness, but they were up again before dawn, calling to their calves. By mid-morning, when the veterinarian arrived, the cows were noisy and rattling the gates of the corral. The sun was pale-bright again, washing everything into pastel hues, thin wisps of high cirrus clouds the only interruptions on the cornflower sky. The pristine clarity and spring-like promise in the air, even touched as it was with the last of winter’s chill, seemed strangely at odds with the task ahead. [4]
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I understand that what I have just described is a horror show to some: a profound reason to be vegetarian. I will not quarrel with that. What a person eats is the most fundamental of choices. But I would ask people to believe that cattlemen tend to be, if not softhearted, then fiercely protective of their animals. I was a sentimental farm kid, concerned about calves on branding day, yet there I was, holding their back legs or kneeling on their shoulders, inches away from where the damage was done. Trust me, you feel their pain from that vantage, as much as one can. But I need to make clear that I also loved branding day: the hard communal labour, the sense of achievement, the festive glory. (revised by Zachary Ashford from Cologne, Germany on June 27, 2020) [5]

Article References

  1. https://www.britannica.com/explore/savingearth/hot-iron-cattle-branding-tradition-without-a-heart
  2. https://www.edje.com/blog/2013/does-it-hurt
  3. https://news.okstate.edu/articles/veterinary-medicine/2020/branding-cattle-animal-welfare-considerations-legal-implications-and-alternatives.html
  4. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-cattle-branding-is-still-a-thing
  5. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/in-defence-of-branding-cattle-albertan-ranchers-on-a-burning-tradition/article4365349/
Kelly-Anne Kidston

Written by Kelly-Anne Kidston

I am a writer of many words, from fiction to poetry to reviews. I am an avid reader and a lover of good books. I am currently writing my first novel and would love to find some beta readers who are interested in getting an early look.

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