This article appeared in the Spring
2002 issue of AVAR Directions, the quarterly newsletter of the
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. AVAR.org.
Most people entering the veterinary profession want to work with
animals, are primarily concerned with their welfare and motivated to
improve their lives and health. Most have had companion animals or
have lived on ranches or farms. These future veterinarians understand
that nonhuman animals are sentient and have needs similar to those of
During veterinary school and after we graduate, many of us join the
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which is the largest
veterinary association in the world. Aside from their excellent
insurance programs, we join the AVMA because we have the perception
that this is an organization whose main goal is to promote the
welfare of animals by improving veterinary knowledge and expertise.
After reviewing the AVMA Positions on Animal Welfare, beginning on
page 73 of the 2002 AVMA Directory, however, it is apparent that the
association has an agenda separate from promoting animal welfare. In
fact, most of the association's policies promote animal industries at
the expense of the animal welfare, including promoting practices that
cause great harm, pain and unplanned death.
Some examples of the AVMA's support of practices which are harmful
and detrimental to animals are as follows: It supports and promotes
confinement rearing of livestock and poultry. This includes forced
molting in hens used in the egg industry, small confining battery
cages and debeaking. It also promotes confinement rearing of calves
used in the veal industry and crating of sows.
Many large animal practitioners have worked in these operations and
have seen the effect confinement has on these animals. I personally
have seen crippled calves in veal operations and lame sows. I have
also seen the piles of dead hens, victims of forced molting and cage
stress. Most European countries are phasing out intense confinement
and returning to loose housing. Even McDonalds is addressing the
confinement and slaughter issues by making positive welfare changes.
Instead of the AVMA's Animal Welfare Committee taking a leadership
role in the positive shift for animals that is occurring in our
country and European countries , it clings to its industry-oriented
policies, resisting pressure to change.
The AVMA also supports the use of random-source dogs and cats for
research, testing, and education, with full knowledge that these
particular animals will be used in acute procedures such as in
surgical labs and will be killed at the end of the procedure. These
animals are not good candidates for longer term research because of
their unknown health history. Many states have laws against pound
seizure. The AVMA continues to condone the sale of these animals,
even though many people have lost their companion animals to this
process. Cats, in particular, fall victim to this practice because
they are so difficult to identify without microchips. When I worked
in medical research for 7 years, I saw many random-source research
cats that were tame and obviously well cared for. I often wondered
if they were merely lost instead of abandoned.
The AVMA supports spectator events, such as greyhound racing, rodeo,
circuses, and sled racing using dogs, even though many localities
have enacted laws against rodeo and circuses because of the inhumane
treatment to the animals. As a former United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) inspector, I saw what goes on in circuses. USDA
inspections constantly reveal many violations of federal law,
including beaten elephants, inadequate food and shelter, improper
transportation, forcing sick animals to perform, and lack of proper
care. Furthermore, elephants can have both bovine and human
tuberculosis, which is infective to both humans and cattle.
As a former rodeo bareback bronc rider, I saw animals injured while
used in rodeo events. These animals, who usually are sent to
slaughter, often have broken backs, broken necks, internal injuries,
multiple bruises and cuts and damaged ligamenta nuchae, according to
veterinary meat inspectors. Five bucking horses were killed last
year in rodeos.
Many greyhounds used by the racing industry are kept in filthy
conditions and often are killed inhumanely when they aren't needed
for racing anymore. Some are sent to research labs; other are shot or
killed by being hit on the head.
It is unfortunate both for veterinarians and animals that the AVMA
has become a trade organization. Its industry-oriented Animal Welfare
Committee (AWC) promulgates policies which are at best confusing and
at worst they are hypocritical. Part of the problem is that the
AVMA's AWC is comprised of pro-industry veterinarians. For example, a
spokesperson for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, whose
son is a rodeo participant, represents equine medicine on this
committee. Two more seats are held by research and poultry industry
veterinarians. Even though the majority of animals under veterinary
care in the United States are companion animals, only one
veterinarian represents this group on this committee. The person
representing humane organizations is not a veterinarian and not
always animal welfare-oriented. The Fish and Wildlife representative
on the committee is pro-hunting and pro-trapping, even though the AWC
considers the steel-jawed leghold trap to be inhumane.
It is unlikely that the current AVMA will change unless members
demand a shift in focus from industry to animal welfare. Fortunately,
a growing number of the veterinarians entering into the profession
have a more progressive view of how our society should treat animals.
With time, the veterinary profession will become an animal advocacy
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.|
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(AVMA - Take A Closer Look at the AVMA's Animal Welfare Policies)