Gene editing could provide humane alternative to painful cattle dehorning

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Image source: Farm Animal Welfare Education Centre

Physical dehorning of dairy cattle is a standard practice to protect both human dairy workers and other animals from injury. However, it is not only costly for producers, but also painful and stressful for the animals. As a result, dehorning is currently facing increased public scrutiny as an animal welfare issue. Despite these factors, 94 percent of U.S. dairy cattle producers report routine dehorning.

Gene editing has the potential to resolve these economic concerns by producing high genetic merit polled bulls, thereby eliminating the need for dehorning. Gene editing refers to a category of new tools that can be used to precisely edit or change the genetic code.

While there are many possibilities for gene editing in animal breeding, the regulatory status of animals carrying intentional gene edits … is unclear.

The proposed FDA regulatory approach will introduce additional regulatory oversight on animals produced using gene editing that are no different to those that could have been obtained using conventional breeding. Unfortunately, lengthy process-based regulation triggered by human “intention” rather than novel product risk may effectively preclude animal breeders from employing gene editing to introduce beneficial genetic alterations like polled into our food animal populations.

Read full, original post: Use of gene editing to introduce the polled trait into elite germplasm

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