The RSPCA regularly receives complaints from members of the public regarding the practice of dubbing of exhibition poultry. RSPCA policy on surgical animal husbandry procedures is clear:
RSPCA Australia is opposed to any invasive animal husbandry procedure for which there is no established need, which only benefit the human handler of the animals concerned, or that is performed to overcome the adverse effects upon animals of the production system they are in.
Our position is that any surgical procedure should only be carried out for the purpose of benefiting the animal concerned. The practice of dubbing, often carried out by lay operators without anaesthetic, is a cause of pain and distress. Blood circulating from the comb to the wattles helps the bird to regulate its body temperature during hot weather. Removing either wattle or comb clearly serves no benefit to the bird.
The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry states that dubbing should be carried out by a competent operator. However, the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Captive Birds in the ACT states that dubbing is prohibited in the ACT under the Animal Welfare Act 1992 (ref article19A(3) which states that a vet can’t carry out a medical procedure for cosmetic purposes only).
The Australian Poultry Standards currently allow dubbed fowl to be exhibited at shows. The RSPCA believes that these, and all other standards that refer to dubbing must be amended to exclude dubbed animals from exhibition. This would send a clear message to poultry stud breeders and exhibitors that dubbing is a cruel and unacceptable practice.