End Painful and Useless Horse Branding

Target: United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Goal: Stop the ineffective branding that causes foals stress and pain.

Not only has hot iron branding of horses been proven to cause significant distress and acute pain, but recent studies conclude that the method is a highly ineffective means of identifying ownership of animals. Despite these facts, many U.S. horse ranchers still use hot iron branding to mark their foals. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service must end this unnecessary abuse by prohibiting hot iron branding of horses.

As the name suggests, hot iron branding is the practice of heating a branding iron over a fire until red-hot, and then holding the iron against the flank of a horse until the skin is permanently scarred. Studies have shown that hot iron branding is the most painful method of branding a horse. When compared with alternatives such as microchip injections and freeze branding, horses experiencing hot iron branding have significantly more intense pain responses. This method also causes a longer experience of pain, with soreness measured a week after the branding.

Hot iron branding is still heavily used because it’s cheap and easy, but recent research proves it to be highly ineffective. Even when experienced individuals are asked to identify these brands, less than one-half of branded horses are identified accurately. Brands on horses a mere five years in age appear faded, distorted, and barely discernible. This method is clearly inferior to the alternatives.

Hot iron branding has been established as a no-win scenario for both horses and ranchers. Because this method is the most painful and the least effective, there is no reason to continue its use. By signing the petition below, you can ask the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to prohibit the hot iron branding of horses.


Dear Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,

Recent studies have proven that hot iron branding is an irresponsible and ineffective way to identify horse ownership. It has been established as the most painful method of branding, when compared to freeze-branding and microchip injection. It has also been shown to produce accurate identification in less than 50% of cases, even when viewed by experts. There is simply no good reason to continue the use of this practice.

Despite all evidence against the method, many ranchers continue the use of hot iron branding in the United States. The method is understandably easier and cheaper than procuring microchips or the liquid nitrogen necessary for freeze-branding. But what good is a cheap method if it works less than half of the time, especially at the cost of causing an animal severe pain? There is truly no good reason to continue the use of this outdated and barbaric practice. Please end the unnecessary abuse of horses by prohibiting hot iron branding in America.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Anne Burgess via geograph

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  1. Sally mclean says:

    Are you ppl serious or what? And I suppose microchipping is totally pain free? Most horses are branded as yearlings! My partner was circumcised and he says he don’t remember a thing!! And no not his choice but better off in the long run just like horses who are branded! Less likely to end up sold for next to nothing and treated badly in the wrong hands! Get off your high horse and get a hobby!

  2. It’s about bloody time they did away with this barbaric practice. The stone-age mentality of the skin-flints who still use cruel methods like this to save a buck is totally repugnant. They, as animal owners, do not belong here in the 21st century, they should have died off in the 1800s. And, to anybody who advocates this and compares it to “painless” male circumcision, I say, SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE UNCIRCUMCISED WOMAN. Incidentally, I have installed micro-chips in animals myself since 1992 and it is comparatively painless when done correctly.

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