Welfare of farmed deer in New Zealand. 2. Velvet antler removal

Welfare of farmed deer in New Zealand. 2. Velvet antler removal
Peer reviewed


This paper reviews published data on welfare aspects of stag restraint and velvet antler removal, and prevention of antler growth. Several studies of physical restraint and handling demonstrate behavioural and physiological changes both during and after velvet antler removal. Interpretations vary as to whether the act of velvet antler removal imposes a welfare cost additional to that of handling and restraint alone. Chemical restraint presents immediate and delayed welfare risks to the animal. Surgical removal of velvet antler can be achieved without acute pain using a high dose rate of local anaesthetic applied as a ring block, rather than as regional nerve blocks, provided the wait time is adequate. However, there is evidence of less than optimum reproducibility. Lignocaine hydrochloride produces rapid analgesia of short duration, whilst bupivacaine has a delayed onset, but longer duration of analgesia. Mepivacaine has a rapid onset and intermediate duration of analgesia. Mixtures of longand short-acting local anaesthetics provide rapid onset and long duration of analgesia. Present methods for electronic analgesia are aversive and not sufficiently effective. The efficacy and possible aversiveness of compression techniques for inducing analgesia of antlers are currently under evaluation. Post-operative pain and the need for its control have been insufficiently researched. Post-operative sequelae are uncommon, but include clostridial infection. Antler growth in most stags can be prevented by rubber-band application to the growing pedicle, although behavioural changes after ring application suggest this practice may be painful. The procedures used for velvet antler removal, and whether practices are acceptable on the balance of welfare costs and benefits, should be reviewed on an ongoing basis as science, using an increasing range of techniques and measures, provides more data about the welfare implications of this practice.
KEY WORDS: Deer, welfare, restraint, antlers, velvet antler, antler removal, antler prevention, analgesia

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