In a time when politicians are looking to cut everything they can -- from budgets to costly programs -- one thing remains sacred: cow tails.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week banning the painful practice of tail docking that he once mocked as being a waste of legislators' time.
Schwarzenegger's spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor has a record of supporting animal welfare legislation, including upping penalties in 2006 and 2009 for dog fighting, and in 2005 banning the sale of puppies under eight weeks old.
"In the summer, when the governor made the comments, he was saying the legislature ought not be having hearings on cow tails but ought to be focused on a solution to our budget," McLear told The Associated Press.
"We never said we didn't like the bills," he said.
Dairy officials say the practice of cutting off cow tails to prevent them from slinging manure is practiced on fewer than 15 percent of the state's 1.5 million dairy cows. Docking is usually done without numbing, either with sharp shears or with a tight rubber band that stops the blood flow and causes the tail to die.
Some dairy operators have argued that removing tails improves sanitation, a claim that research has not supported. In 2004 the American Veterinary Medical Association came out against the practice.
California the first state in the nation to ban the painful practice.