United Poultry Concerns July 24, 2003

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After a long and sometimes impassioned debate, delegates on Saturday voted down a resolution that would have rescinded the Association's current position that gestation stalls for sows comply with minimal standards for animal care and welfare, and instead voted for a resolution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 well-being.

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 and intuition"?

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 for years.

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.

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 laying chickens."

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
FAX: 757-678-5070

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