Proposed banning of tail docking debated

MIDDLEBURY — While lawmakers and visitors at the Feb. 20 Legislative Breakfast at Middlebury’s American Legion Hall principally talked about the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, other discussion at the breakfast focused on:
•  Legislation aimed at allowing the governor to appoint the state’s education commissioner, a person who is currently hired by the Vermont Board of Education. Proponents of the move contend that the education commissioner would be more accountable to the voters, executive branch and legislative branch if appointed by the governor instead of hired by the board of education.
•  Ongoing debate about whether the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury should be replaced by a 16-bed facility or a 25-bed unit. Many local legislators said they support the 16-bed option at the Central Vermont Medical Center (with additional support beds in other regions of the state) because it would be eligible for more federal reimbursement money and could be expanded in the future, if needed. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee (chaired by Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison) supported the 16-bed plan in a Feb. 17 vote. That vote came in contrast to an earlier House vote supporting the 25-bed option, thus setting up a potential showdown between the two chambers.
•  New federal jurisdiction over some Vermont Student Assistance Corp. loan programs, which has had the effect of reducing assistance to qualifying students, according to Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.
•  Legislation, introduced by Sen. Harold Giard, D-Bridport, that would prohibit the tail docking on a horse or cow unless performed by a veterinarian for medical purposes.
Giard explained the bill is intended to eliminate what he believes is a cruel and unnecessary procedure that takes 16 inches of the animal’s spinal column. Many farmers have historically removed the tails, which some perceive as a nuisance — and even a potential hazard — to people working in the milking parlor.
Longtime farmer Mark Boivin said agricultural workers — including his own brother — have sustained corneal abrasions as a result of being hit in the eye by a cow’s tail while in milking parlors.
“This should be placed as a farmer’s safety issue,” Boivin said. “It should be treated the same as removing (a steer’s) horns.”
Giard, himself a former farmer, disagreed
“Research shows there is no benefit to mutilating the animal in that fashion,” Giard said, adding he believes there are precautions a farmer can take to stay out of the path of a swinging tail.

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