What's the issue?
Goat kids are disbudded because horns can cause injury to other goats, other livestock, goat keepers, or attending veterinary surgeons. Horns may also make goats more prone to getting caught in fences, hedges, or other elements of the environment as they perform their natural browsing exploratory behaviour.
Disbudding is a skilled procedure which involves cautery of the horn buds with hot irons, usually within the first 7 days of life.
There are a number of issues associated with the disbudding of goat kids. The need to achieve an effective block of 4 nerves places a real risk of a toxic local anaesthetic overdose in a high-risk neonatal kid. The skull is also very thin and, in addition, many conventional calf disbudding irons do not have a large enough head to remove the bud and surrounding germinative soft tissue effectively.
Disbudding, like any mutilation, can involve handling stress, acute pain (short term, arising from tissue damage during the procedure), and the possibility of chronic pain (longer term, arising from nerve damage). There is extensive evidence to show that disbudding is associated with pain and distress.
What's our view?
Sustainable animal agriculture is defined as animal agriculture carried out in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet the needs of the future.
Global consumption of animal-derived food is expected to double by 2050. There is increasing recognition that animal agriculture can be a significant contributor to environmental degradation, climate change, habitat loss, and waste. Changes in animal production and farming practices are necessary to increase the efficiency of agriculture and mitigate its environmental impact.
Safeguarding the health and welfare of sentient animals is an important marker of social progress and has a key role in achieving other sustainability objectives. However, achieving good animal welfare is not always promoted as a policy objective in the sustainable development agenda.
The veterinary profession has a key part to play in advancing the roles and status of animals within the sustainability debate.