July 24, 2006
At their annual meeting, held this month in Hawaii, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the voice of veterinarians across the United States, refused to place animal welfare over the economic interests of agribusiness.
The resolution to make animal welfare a priority was proposed by Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Supported by hundreds of veterinarians, it stated that "veterinarians have an ethical obligation to promote animal welfare"; acknowledged that "in some instances, the economic priorities of animal industries may be in conflict with the welfare of animals"; and resolved that the veterinary profession "will place a higher priority on animal welfare when required to choose between animal welfare and economic considerations."
In response, the AVMA drafted a last minute resolution of their own to counter Farm Sanctuary's proposal. The AVMA's resolution, which passed unanimously, supports the "responsible use of animals for human purposes." But, it does not define "responsible" or whether certain inhumane practices would be considered "responsible." Farm Sanctuary is urging the AVMA to take a stand against cruel and "irresponsible" farming systems, including the severe confinement of pregnant sows in gestation crates and calves in veal crates, crowded battery cages for egg- laying hens and the brutal force-feeding of ducks for foie gras.
This year, the AVMA also denied a resolution to "oppose the practice of mechanical force feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras because of the adverse effects on the birds' health and welfare." Failing to speak against this cruelty (which has been banned in more than a dozen countries because of humane concerns) reaffirms AVMA's alignment with agribusiness and its interest in promoting economic interests over animal welfare.
"Unfortunately, we are not surprised by the outcome of these proposed resolutions," said Farm Sanctuary President Gene Bauston, "The AVMA has a history of aligning itself with agribusiness' economic interests and defending the use of cruel factory farming practices to the detriment of animal welfare. We've challenged the AVMA to re-evaluate these priorities and thus far, they've failed to meet the challenge."
Farm Sanctuary has asked the AVMA to adopt policies that discourage the use of cruel farming practices, including "gestation crates," barren two foot wide metal enclosures where breeding sows are confined for most of their lives, unable to walk, turn around or even lie down comfortably, as well as the force feeding of ducks and geese to make "foie gras." The force feeding makes the birds' livers expand up to ten times their normal size, causing disease and making it difficult for the birds to walk or breathe comfortably. Although the AVMA has adopted policies that support inhumane factory farming, most of its members oppose such practices. A nationwide survey of over 1000 veterinarians found that most veterinarians oppose industrialized farming practices that are supported by the AVMA.