AVMA bars Association of Vets for Animal Rights from tabling

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2004:

PHILADELPHIA–Fuming over public criticism of American
Veterinary Medical Association farm animal welfare policies, AVMA
executive vice president Bruce Little on July 21 barred the
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights from tabling at a
booth it had already reserved and paid for during the five-day AVMA
annual conference, July 24-28.
AVAR vice president Holly Cheever was allowed to address a
pre-conference meeting of convention delegates, but AVAR was
otherwise excluded for “espousing philosophies or actions in
opposition to those of the AVMA.”
Explained Cheever on the AVAR web site, “On June 21, 2004,
a full-page ad ran in the New York Times asking, ‘Has anyone
betrayed more animals than the American Veterinary Medical
Association?’ The ad,” similar to one published in the April 2004
edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, “was sponsored by Animal Rights
International, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
United Poultry Concerns, and the Association of Veterinarians for
Animal Rights.
“While AVAR did not create the ad,” Cheever said, “we were
asked if we wished to sign it, since it addressed many issues which
AVAR has brought before the AVMA.

“The ad focused first,” said Cheever, “on the AVMA’s
endorsement of the pregnant sow gestation crate. In 2002 the AVMA
adopted a resolution approving use of gestation crates, in which the
sow is confined for months in a barren metal enclosure that prevents
her from moving more than a few inches from side to side. Due to
membership pressure, the AVMA is currently reviewing their position
on this issue.
“Second,” Cheever continued, “the ad highlights the
inexplicable retention of Dr. Gregg Cutler on the AVMA’s Animal
Welfare Committee, where he represents poultry welfare, despite the
fact that he was shown in three separate affidavits, including his
own sworn deposition, to have ordered the mass slaughter of 30,000
chickens in California by throwing them alive into a wood chipper.
Needless to say, death by wood chipper is not included among the
acceptable methods listed in the 2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on
“Third, although AVAR has asked the AVMA to change its
position on forced molting in laying hens to condemn total food
withdrawal, the AVMA continues to permit the total starvation of
hens for an average of 10 to 14 days to shock those who survive into
a second laying season,” Cheever said. “This practice is outlawed
in Europe and is condemned by our Canadian colleagues.
“Finally,” Cheever explained, “the ad cites the AVMA for
its permissive attitude toward the use of the veal crate, in which a
dairy calf is held immobilized for his brief life in a box no more
than two feet wide while being fed an iron-deficient liquid diet,
producing chronic diarrhea and the prized pale anemic flesh desired
by chefs. The calves never have the opportunity to perform natural
postural movements, nor can they socialize, nor do they ever have
the chance to develop the normal digestion of a ruminant animal.
“We at AVAR signed onto the ad,” Cheever finished, “because
we feel that it is incumbent upon the AVMA to follow its own
Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (2003 revision), which
specifically state that ‘Veterinarians should first consider the
needs of the patients: to relieve disease, suffering, or
disability while minimizing pain and fear.'”
Responded AVMA spokesperson Sharon Curtis Granskog,
“Misleading and negative advertisements, such as that appearing in
the June 21, 2004 edition of The New York Times, do nothing to
augment our understanding of animal welfare. Such advertisements are
less about ensuring the welfare of animals than they are about the
conviction of the ad’s creators that animals should not be used for
food or fiber.
“It is AVMA policy that all animals should be treated
humanely, including gestating pigs, laying hens, and veal calves,”
Granskog continued. “The AVMA does not endorse inhumane practices.”
Granskog said that the AVMA is reviewing its position on
gestation crates.
“The AVMA sees molt induction as necessary to reduce the
number of hens required to meet the nation’s demand for eggs,”
Granskog said, adding that “The AVMA advocates for research into
alternatives to feed withdrawal to induce molts.”
Granskog said that “The California Veterinary Medical Board
and the AVMA Judicial Council investigated the allegations” that
Gregg Cutler recommended woodchipping live hens. “Both bodies
concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the
allegations,” she said.
Representing about 3,000 veterinary members, most of whom
also belong to the AVMA, AVAR has tabled at AVMA conferences almost
every year since 1987–but not without previous friction.
“The AVMA decision contradicts the AVMA written policy that
veterinarians are encouraged to participate in humane activities and
that members of the association ‘should strive to understand and
respect’ the views of others in matters involving animal welfare,”
said an AVAR press release.
The AVMA, founded in 1863, represents about 70,000
veterinarians. Nearly half work in agribusiness or animal research,
and many of the small animal practitioners do cosmetic procedures
that AVAR opposes, including declawing, tail-docking, and
AVAR was founded in 1981 by Neil Wolff, DVM, and Nedim
Buyukmihci, VMD, in part to push the AVMA and state affiliates
toward takng more progressive positions on the treatment of animals.
One noteworthy early conflict between AVAR and the vet
establishment came when the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical
Association refused to oppose the Hegins pigeon shoot, held on Labor
Day from 1934 until 1998. The shoot ended after the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that participants could be prosecuted for

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