Journal Scan: Animal welfare: Reflections on why the veterinary profession should take a firm stance

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Journal Scan: Animal welfare: Reflections on why the veterinary profession should take a firm stance

The policies adopted by the AVMA still tend to emphasize physical over emotional health, particularly in the food animal arena.
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Sep 08, 2015

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In a commentary published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM, discusses the unique role of veterinarians in influencing animal welfare standards. Evolution of these standards over the years has led to practices that not only encompass an animal’s physical needs, but also consider the animal’s mental health. 

While Kipperman acknowledges that there has been some positive change the veterinary profession with respect to welfare standards, he notes that the welfare policies adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) still tend to emphasize physical over emotional health, particularly in the food animal arena, and lag behind society’s views. 

In his commentary, Kipperman provides two specific examples of animal welfare issues—battery cage confinement of laying hens and the use of gestation crates for breeding sows—both of which restrict an animal’s movements and do not allow for expression of natural behaviors such as nesting and rooting. Currently, AVMA policies take no position on either of these issues despite the fact that industry mandates and legislative initiatives have been enacted to phase out these systems because of their negative impact on animal welfare. 

Given the AVMA’s influence within the veterinary community as well as within the scope of public perception, Kipperman notes that the AVMA should do more to promote policies that favor mental health and natural behaviors in addition to physical well-being. “The public, animal advocacy groups, and veterinarians themselves expect the AVMA to not only mirror the changing roles of animals in society but also to act as a leader in guiding and improving our stewardship of all animals,” concludes Kipperman. 

Kipperman BS. The role of the veterinary profession in promoting animal welfare. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;246(5):502-504.