After lambs are several weeks old, (, , and ) is carried out. Vaccinations are usually carried out at this point as well. Ear tags with numbers are attached, or ear marks are applied, for ease of later identification of sheep. Castration is performed on ram lambs not intended for breeding, although some shepherds choose to omit this for ethical, economic or practical reasons. However, many would disagree with regard to timing. Docking and castration are commonly done after 24 hours (to avoid interference with maternal bonding and consumption of colostrum) and are often done not later than one week after birth, to minimize pain, stress, recovery time and complications. The first course of vaccinations (commonly anti-clostridial) is commonly given at an age of about 10 to 12 weeks; i.e. when the concentration of maternal antibodies passively acquired via colostrum is expected to have fallen low enough to permit development of active immunity. Ewes are often revaccinated annually about 3 weeks before lambing, to provide high antibody concentrations in colostrum during the first several hours after lambing. Ram lambs that will either be slaughtered or separated from ewes before sexual maturity are not usually castrated. Tail docking is commonly done for welfare, having been shown to reduce risk of fly strike. Objections to all these procedures have been raised by animal rights groups, but farmers defend them by saying they solve many practical and veterinary problems, and inflict only temporary pain.
Even adoptable animals aren't safe.
Despite a wealth of studies and literature to the contrary, these isolated and poorly designed studies have resulted in the promulgation of new regulations, including a mandatory 90-d rodent subchronic toxicity feeding study for all new GE approvals in the EU (), and have generated a great deal of media attention (). They are also contrary to the field experience as documented by the health and production data collected on the billions of commercial food-producing animals that have primarily been consuming GE feed for over a decade. The media attention devoted to these sensational studies is exacerbating the continued controversy associated with the safety of GE food and feed and is bolstering arguments calling for the mandatory labeling of milk, meat, and eggs from GE-fed animals.
Organic livestock production statistics in the United States (2011)
Studies have concluded that animals do not digest transgenic and native plant DNA differently and that rDNA from GE crops has not been detected in animal products (). Fragments of highly abundant plant DNA (e.g., chloroplast genomes) have been found in the digestive tracts and tissues of some species (); however, neither recombinant DNA nor protein has ever been found in milk, meat, or eggs from animals that have eaten GE feed with the exception of a single study that reported the presence of fragments of transgenic DNA in both “organic” and “conventional” milk in Italy (). The organic milk was derived from animals not fed GE crops, so the authors postulated that the rDNA was due to feed and fecal contamination during milking of cows offered GE diets. This result has not been repeated despite recent studies using more sophisticated techniques that have looked for the presence of transgenic material in animal products (; ; ; ). It is important to note that animals and humans regularly ingest DNA and RNA as part of traditional diets without consequence. The DNA from GE crops is chemically equivalent to DNA from other sources and both are thoroughly broken down in the gastrointestinal tract during digestion (; ; ).
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