Video: Calves’ Heads Burned Without Painkillers; Worker Calls it ‘Fun’

Marinette County Sheriff’s Office Investigating Heifer Solutions, LLC, Following Damning PETA Exposé

For Immediate Release:
January 17, 2019

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

Porterfield, Wis.

A breaking PETA video exposé of Heifer Solutions, LLC—a Porterfield facility that keeps and raises calves and heifers for various dairy farms—shows a worker using a hot iron to burn the horn buds off the heads of approximately 12-week-old calves without any local anesthetic or pain relief, calling it “fun,” and the Marinette County Office of Sheriff has opened an investigation into allegations of cruelty to animals.

In the video, the young animals are seen flinching, struggling, kicking, bellowing in distress, and attempting to pull their heads away from the burning-hot iron and escape the metal restraints. The worker acknowledges that providing the calves with anesthetics—which farming experts and veterinarians recommend administering both before and after “disbudding”—would make performing the extremely painful procedure “a lot easier, but where’s the fun in that?” He added that using the hot iron on struggling calves “makes it more exciting.”

“These gentle calves are petrified and in pain, struggling to escape as their horn tissue is burned clean off their skulls,” says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. “We hope this worker is never allowed to touch an animal again—and right now, everyone can help cows and their calves by simply giving vegan milks, cheeses, and yogurts a try.”

Dr. Kurt Vogel, associate professor of livestock welfare and behavior at the University of Wisconsin (UW)–River Falls, writes, “In my professional opinion, the horn removal procedure depicted in the video I reviewed was flatly unacceptable. … [T]he calves that were observed in this video experienced pain and suffering during the procedure.” His full statement is available here.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat or abuse in any other way”—notes that calves’ horn buds attach to the skull at about 8 weeks of age and that disbudding calves thereafter can cause holes in the sinuses and subsequent bleeding and infection. The procedure—which is common in the dairy industry—leaves third-degree burn wounds that can cause calves pain for weeks.

The American Veterinary Medical Association stresses the importance of minimizing pain associated with disbudding. Experts in Wisconsin—America’s second-largest milk-producing state—concur. UW-Madison Department of Dairy Science Assistant Professor Dr. Amy Stanton recommends a local anesthetic such as lidocaine prior to the procedure and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as meloxicam afterward.

Broadcast-quality video footage is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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