BOOKS: Why The Tail-Docking Of Dogs Should Be Prohibited
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:
Why The Tail-Docking Of Dogs Should Be Prohibited
and Cephalopods & Decapod Crustaceans:
Their Capacity To Experience Pain & Suffering
Advocates for Animals (10 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4PG,
Scotland, U.K.), 2005.
Rule #1 for headline writers is that brevity is the soul of wit.
Rule #2 is, “Never use a word that your readers will not
Bad titling unfairly handicaps Why The Tail-Docking Of Dogs
Should Be Prohibited, which would be both more succinct and
grammatically correct without either “the” or “of.”
Bad titling outright sabotages Cephalopods & Decapod
Crustaceans: Their Capacity To Experience Pain & Suffering.
If you know what a cephalopod is, raise a tentacle. If you
know what “decapod crustaceans” are, raise a claw.
At 16 and 20 letter-sized pages, respectively, these new
Advocates for Animals handbooks are exactly what activists need when
urging lawmakers to ban tail-docking, or are speaking up for octopi,
squid, crabs, lobsters, and crayfish.
Each handbook collects the relevant facts, cites key studies
with footnotes, and helps activists counter the standard arguments
for excusing cruelty.
Why The Tail-Docking Of Dogs Should Be Prohibited was
assembled to promote a bill now before the Scottish Executive which
would prohibit cosmetic tail-docking.
Tail-docking dogs has already been banned in Britain,
Sweden, and a few other places for long enough to produce a
substantial body of evidence, presented by Advocates for Animals,
that banning the practice has no ill effect on dogs.
Pigs, sheep, horses, and even cattle are still routinely
tail-docked in much of the world, however, mostly to mask the
symptoms of other bad practices. For example, pigs are tail-docked
because otherwise pigs who are too closely confined will bite each
other’s tails. Dairy cattle kept in confinement are sometimes
tail-docked so that they won’t flip manure while swishing their tails
in the barn or milking parlor–but if they were given adequate
outdoor time, and were not afflicted by flies, this would be much
less a problem.
Although dogs rather than livestock are the focus of Why The
Tail-Docking Of Dogs Should Be Prohibited, pain studies involving
livestock are mentioned, making this handbook useful to anyone
addressing any aspect of the tail-docking issue.
It may be downloaded from <www.advocatesforanimals.org.uk/>.
Cephalopods & Decapod Crustac-eans: Their Capacity To Experience
Pain & Suffering is apparently not available at the Advocates for
Animals web site, as I was unable to find it. Summaries of pain
studies comprise almost the entire publication.
Addressing suffering in species so far removed from humans
might seem tactically premature, since much of the public still has
difficulty understanding that tail-docking causes dogs to suffer,
but relevant discussion occupied much of the lead feature in the
January 22, 2006 edition of The New York Times Magazine. Examining
the evolution of personality, author Charles Siebert extensively
discussed studies of octopus personality done at the Seattle Aquarium
since 1991 by staff scientist Roland Anderson and University of
Lethbridge psychologist Jennifer Mather.
“Anderson and Mather’s 1993 paper in the Journal of
Comparative Psychology, entitled ‘Personalities of Octopuses,’ was
not only the first-ever documentation of personality in
invertebrates,” Siebert wrote. “It was the first time in anyone’s
memory that the term ‘personality’ had been applied to a nonhuman in
a major psychology journal.
“In the years since Anderson and Mather’s original paper,”
Siebert continued, “a whole new field of research has emerged known
simply as ‘animal personality.’ Through close and repeated
observations of different species in a variety of group settings and
circumstances, scientists are finding that our own behavioral traits
exist in varying degrees and dimensions among creatures across all
the branches of life’s tree.”
Personality is a much more complex issue than simply
possessing the ability to recognize and respond to pain.
In basic form, personality appears to involve the ability to
weigh the chance of suffering of pain against anticipation of more
Since the existence of personality in octupi now appears to
be established beyond debate, any scientific question as to whether
cephalopods and decapod crustaceans feel pain appears to have been
settled by default. Unsettled is only the cultural question of
whether or not humans will choose to respond to the pain of animals
Discovering that these animals have personality, and
learning to recognize their individual differences, is a huge step
toward reducing the emotional distance between species. Thereby, it
is a huge step toward recognizing a moral obligation to mitigate or
prevent their suffering.