Most of the world’s more than 2 billion sheep and goats are grazed on range in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Farmers in the United States raised nearly 5.2 million sheep and 2.6 million goats in 2021, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Some operations in the United States raise sheep and goats in similar intensive conditions as other farm animals.
The vast majority of sheep undergo the painful mutilations of having their tails cut off (tail docking) and castration. While not widely practiced in the United States, extreme but less common mutilations include “mulesing”—the slicing off of whole patches of skin around the tail area—and “short docking,” in which so much of the tail is removed that the animals are unable to cover their genitals and can suffer from rectal prolapses when the procedure damages the rectal muscles and nerves. Goats are also routinely subjected to painful dehorning and castration.
On higher-welfare, pasture-based sheep farms, tail docking is prohibited and castration is only permitted when uncontrolled breeding cannot be prevented by any other form of management. Dehorning should be prohibited on goat farms.