Monday, 27 August 2012

The End of an Era? Branding Horses Does Not Enable Them to Be Identified

ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2012) — Despite increasing evidence that branding foals causes the animals stress, many horse breeders still claim that this practice represents the best method for identifying the animals. Although the debate has raged for some time, nobody has thought to pose the crucial question: how reliably can brand marks be read later? This issue has now been addressed by the team of Jörg and Christine Aurich at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. The results have just been made available online in The Veterinary Journal and may well spell the end of the line for the traditional practice of branding horses.

There are many reasons why it is important to be able to identify farm animals, horses and small companion animals. Unique identification marks are essential for ensuring the correctness of breeding programmes, for preventing the spread of disease and for eliminating the possibility of deceit in competitions or when animals are sold. The traditional method of marking larger farm animals relies on branding with hot irons or on ear-tagging but this is deemed inappropriate for use on dogs and cats, which are identified by the implant of a microchip transponder. Until recently, horses were generally branded but following concerns that the practice is unnecessarily cruel there has been a gradual switch towards the use of microchips. Branding has essentially been discontinued in the European Union, although several countries still accept it and breed registries claim that this traditional method is perfectly satisfactory and obviates the need for costly equipment.


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