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What is calf scruffing and is it humane?

Article ID: 669
Last updated: 09 Sep, 2016
Revision: 2
Views: 780

Calf scruffing is a new competitive event introduced at some agricultural shows that poses risks of injury and distress to calves. It involves two competitors whose goal is to force a calf onto the ground as quickly as possible. The event begins with the calf being released from a holding chute and one competitor chasing on foot to grab the calf around the horns and head. With the calf's head firmly held by their arm, their team mate then forces the calf to the ground, which may include pulling the calf's tail. Members of the public can participate with no apparent training or skills required.

This event poses many serious risks to the welfare of the calves involved, particularly injury, pain and distress due to:

  • untrained competitors having no experience with handling young farm animals and using inappropriate techniques to ‘throw’ the calf
  • the combination of untrained participants, being under a time constraint and competitive conditions creating a situation where animal welfare is not considered as a priority
  • calves being handled roughly including being pulled, dragged, pushed, twisted, tails pulled, necks twisted, fingers inserted into nostrils, ears and even eye sockets, and horns being used as leverage to force the calf to the ground
  • calves being handled in this manner causing fear and distress, and potentially having to endure this more than once at an event.

Calf scruffing is unacceptable as it is not consistent with good handling practices and it is merely done for sport and entertainment. Humane handling of calves consists of gentle guiding, in a quiet and patient manner with minimal direct contact.

The RSPCA discourages organisers of agricultural shows from including calf scruffing due to the inherent and unnecessary risks of causing suffering to calves. Hosting such events condones inhumane treatment.

Spectators who attend an event where this competition is included may wish to raise concerns with the event organisers to help safeguard the welfare of calves.

Also read: 

RSPCA Policy C01 Animals in sport, entertainment, performance, recreation and work - general principles

RSPCA Policy C04 Animals in Competitive Events


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