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Implications Of Castration & Tail Docking Of Lambs

Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (UK)

Report on the welfare implications of castration and tail docking for lambs

The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) today launched its "Report on the implications of castration and tail docking for the welfare of lambs".

The report considers the implications of castration and tail docking for the welfare of lambs and reiterates FAWC's earlier view that castration and tail docking of lambs are mutilations which should not be undertaken without strong justification.

Professor Wathes, Chairman of FAWC, said "FAWC believes that scientifically based advice can now be given that will minimise the suffering arising from castration and tail docking."

He continued "If castration is warranted, some methods cause more suffering than others and pain relief should be given once practical methods of delivering local anaesthetics and analgesics have been developed."

The Report notes that the pain and distress caused by tail docking is less severe than that following castration but that it is a painful mutilation. One of the Report's recommendations is that farmers should agree a decision to dock lambs' tails with their veterinary surgeon following an appraisal of the disease risks.

The report recommends that sheep farmers, the meat industry, operators of farm assurance schemes, and retailers should implement the Welfare Code, which requires careful consideration of the need for castration and tail docking, and should introduce measures to avoid these mutilations.
In addition, the Report recommends that retailers and others in the food supply chain should not require castration of lambs and should reward farmers for adoption of a welfare-oriented policy on castration and tail docking.


1. Lamb castration and tail docking have been used for many years and each year, in Britain, several million lambs are castrated and many more tail-docked. Lambs are castrated mainly for management purposes, whereas tail docking is done to help minimise the risk of flystrike which is a debilitating condition for sheep.

2. The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) is an independent advisory body established by Government in 1979 to keep under review the welfare of farm animals on agricultural land, at market, in transit and at place of slaughter; and to advise Ministers in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, of any legislative or other changes that may be necessary.

3. Professor Christopher Wathes is Chair of Animal Welfare at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

4. All FAWC members serve in a personal capacity and do not represent any organisation with which they may be associated.

5. Copies of FAWC publications are available from the FAWC Secretariat at the address below and on the FAWC website. Approaches for interviews should also be routed through the Secretariat.

FAWC Secretariat Area 5A, Millbank
c/o Nobel House
17, Smith Square



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