CALL FOR REVIEW OF SOW GESTATION STALLS
AVMA Convention News, July 20, 2003
After a long and sometimes impassioned debate,
delegates on Saturday voted down a resolution that would have rescinded
the Association's current position that gestation stalls for sows
comply with minimal standards for animal care and welfare, and instead
voted for a resolution for further scientific study.
The newly adopted resolution, Resolution 7, reads: Resolved that
the AVMA determine to conduct a thorough and objective review of
the scientific evidence relating to the impact on the health and
welfare of keeping breeding sows in gestation stalls.
Delegates had been discussing Resolution 2, submitted by
petition from the animal protection organization Farm Sanctuary,
which asked that the HOD withdraw the position on pregnant sow housing
adopted last July in Nashville. That position statement,
proposed by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, endorses
housing configurations that minimize aggression between sows, protect
sows from environmental extremes, minimize exposure to hazards,
provide access to food and water, and permit observation of sow
behavior. It further states that current scientific literature indicates
that individual gestation stalls meet these criteria, provided the
appropriate level of stockmanship is administered.
Although delegates overwhelmingly supported that resolution,
some said at the time the AVMA would be criticized for endorsing
only minimal standards of care for sows. This year, several animal
rights and protection groups did just that. Prior to the HOD meeting
Friday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and United Poultry
Concerns staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Adam's Mark
where delegates convened. They were protesting the AVMA's position
statements on induced molting and sow gestation stalls. In Saturday's
Rocky Mountain News, Animal Rights International, the American Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and The
Fund for Animals sponsored a full-page ad claiming that the AVMA
is in violation of the Veterinarian's Oath.
In anticipation of the HOD vote on Saturday, Massachusetts delegate
Dr. Peter Theran and a colleague distributed photos of sows in stalls
on a hog farm he said is in North Carolina. There were also photos
of free-ranging sows and gestation stalls large enough to allow
sows to lie down. North Carolina delegate Dr. Joseph H. Kinnarney
later took issue with the photos, calling them unrepresentative
of his state's hog industry. "This is not a representation
of my state and I don't want us to pass a resolution based on unknown
pictures of unknown hog operations," he said.
Also in anticipation of the vote, the AAVS provided delegates
with information about a soon to be published comprehensive study
that reviewed numerous scientific reports on gestation stalls and
concluded that the stalls do not adversely affect sow health and
In their comments, delegates were clearly split on which course
to follow: make policy solely on the basis of the scientific evidence
presented or, as Dr. Susan Clubb, Association of Avian Veterinarians
alternate delegate, said, balance science with "compassion
AASV delegate Dr. David P. Madsen defended the use of sow stalls
as supported by scientific data. Dr. Madsen explained how the swine
herd is a dominance hierarchy maintained through aggression that
can lead to injury. Over the years stockmen have recognized the
need to limit aggression by limiting their interactions.
[Why, then, are pigs at sanctuaries able to co-exist peacefully?]
AASV alternate delegate Dr. Randall W. Larson stated that the AASV
doesn't claim that gestation stalls are the best way to house sows.
The stalls are, however, better than what were used in the past
[=?] and the swine industry has been improving its husbandry practices
Arguing in favor of Resolution 2, Dr. Theran said that if
the AVMA continues to support gestation stalls, then the AVMA might
as well relinquish its claim to be an advocate for animal welfare.
With the pictures of the North Carolina hog farm raised, he asked,
"Do we need science to tell us this isn't right?" "If
that's the position we take, it won't be us who solves this problem,"
he continued, referring to animal rights and protection groups.
Indeed, last year Florida residents voted to amend the constitution
to limit the use of gestation crates.
As debate continued, some delegates attempted to introduce alternative
resolutions to satisfy veterinarians' concerns about the practice.
After consultation with the parliamentarian, further consideration
of Resolution 2 was postponed until a new resolution could be written
and submitted to the HOD. A two-thirds vote by delegates allowed
provisions of the AVMA Constitution governing the delivery and mailing
or publishing of resolutions to be suspended so that the House Advisory
Committee could convene to draft the resolution. After a brief recess,
the HOD reconvened and the newly written Resolution 7 was presented.
Still, some delegates thought the resolution didn't go far
enough. Pennsylvania delegate Dr. Sherbyn W. Ostrich complained
that Resolution 7 doesn't address the matter of placing an animal
in a stall too small for the animal to turn around. "All we're
doing is delaying, delaying, delaying," he said.
Dr. Madsen thought the resolution short sighted and suggested that
it should direct the AVMA to review all forms of sow housing. North
Dakota delegate Dr. Charles L. Stoltenow defended Resolution 7,
saying that it moves the veterinary profession forward. "We're
not doing nothing about this issue," he said. [Bold leadership
in action!!] Delegates approved Resolution 7 then voted down Resolution
2, an action that had been recommended by the Executive Board, House
Advisory Committee, and Reference Committee 2.
DELEGATES STAND BEHIND INDUCED MOLTING POSITION
AVMA Convention News, July 20, 2003
For a fifth consecutive year, delegates voted down a resolution
declaring the AVMA to be in opposition to inducing laying hens to
molt. Induced molting is a husbandry practice that brings
laying hens into a nonlaying and oviduct rejuvenation period, usually
through feed restriction and reduced photoperiod.
At last year's HOD [House of Delegates] meeting in Nashville, delegates
approved a resolution reaffirming the AVMA position on induced molting
while "encourag[ing] ongoing research into the effect of various
methods of induced molting on the performance and well-being of
This year Resolution 1 was submitted by petition for delegates'
consideration. Because feed is withheld from the hens, the Association
of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and other animal rights and protection
groups claim induced molting is an inhumane practice that the AVMA
should no longer support.
During deliberations, Dr. Michael S. Garvey, American Association
of Veterinary Clinicians delegate, expressed the opinion of the
majority when he said, "This organization needs to vote on
issues according to facts and science."
Relatedly, American Association of Bovine Practitioners
alternate delegate Dr. James J. Jarrett claimed animal rights groups
are attacking animal agriculture with half-truths and innuendo.
The HOD, Dr. Jarrett said, is filled with experts in all aspects
of veterinary medicine and, on the matter of induced molting, delegates
should listen to the poultry veterinarians.
Dr. Walter C. Robinson, South Carolina delegate, criticized
Resolution 1 for not taking into consideration the financial costs
to the laying hen industry if induced molting were to end.
Still, others weren't comfortable with the feed restrictions.
Dr. Susan Clubb, Association of Avian Veterinarians alternate delegate,
said that, while she believes the resolution passed last year adequately
addresses induced molting, she nevertheless believes the AVMA should
work with the poultry industry to find alternatives to the practice
of withdrawing feed.
Several members on Reference Committee 2, of which Dr. Clubb is
a member, felt likewise. The committee recommended that the HOD
refer Resolution 1 to the Animal Welfare Committee with input from
the Judicial Council and the Council on Veterinary Service. Specifically,
committee members wanted guidance on the phrase "intermittent
feeding" in the resolution adopted last year. They felt it
too vague and subject to liberal interpretation.
Not all delegates were comfortable with the AVMA's stance,
however. Nebraska delegate Dr. Theodore Evans Jr. discussed how
other animal species used for food don't have feed withdrawn to
increase production. In July, the Canadian VMA passed a resolution
opposing molting methods that involve food and water deprivation,
he noted. "We should decide whether the AVMA is for animal
welfare or for dollars and cents," Dr. Evans said.
Delegates ultimately voted against Reference Committee 2's referral
recommendation and disapproved Resolution 1. The Executive Board
and House Advisory Committee had also recommended disapproval.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150