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  • Do something? We're already doing it!

    We received the following letters in our inbox. Look for more in the July 2013 issue of dvm360 newsmagazine.

    All sound and fury, signifying nothing—his opinions are offered from a position with next to no credible basis in an apparent attempt to incite other well-meaning but equally ignorant colleagues to “do something.” I’d submit that it’s already “being done” on a daily basis by those practitioners in the field actually doing the work. 

    David Nash, DVM 
    Norbrook, Inc.
    Gallatin, Tenn.

    Edited by DVMnewsmagazine, 1 year ago

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  • Why are schools graduating veterinarians who have no knowledge about farm animals?

    The author starts out his article by stating that growing up he had no knowledge or understanding of how animals on farms were cared for or where his food came from. It’s very clear that he still does not. As a food animal veterinarian I was very disappointed. When the author admits that his knowledge of food animals came from a book he read long after graduation, that tells me that our veterinary schools and admissions departments need a lot of work. 

    Why are schools graduating veterinarians who have no knowledge at all about farm animals? And why are they admitting students that have zero background with animals other than cats or dogs? When an educated person, a veterinarian none the less, gets his information from sources like HSUS (a clearly vegan organization which has a goal of eliminating farm animals/farming all together) and Animal Liberation, instead of personal experience of being on a farm or working with farmers/farm animals, and then is allowed to write a clearly irresponsible article like this, it’s a big problem. 

    No wonder the general public that he refers to in the article is missinformed—veterinarians are as well. He then implies that food animal veterinarians are interdependent with agriculture industry. I’d argue that he himself is interdependent with Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) when he suggests at the end of the article that veterinarians should work with them. When less than 1 percent of HSUS’ budget actually goes toward helping animals, that’s the last organization I’d want to help. 

    In the best interest of the integrity of our profession maybe more veterinarians like Dr. Kipperman need to leave their clean office and actually go out and get their hands dirty by visiting a farm and seeing firsthand how animals are treated and how agriculture is practiced today. 

    Deb Murray

    Edited by DVMnewsmagazine, 1 year ago

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  • It shouldn't be small animal vs. evil large animal vets

    I'm completely taken aback by Dr. Kipperman's commentary. I'm a mixed-animal practitioner and I assure you that I took the same oath, and adhere to it, for ALL of the species that I treat. It's obvious that he has never spent time in actual, high quality, large or mixed animal practice. It's deplorable that he cannot offer any professional courtesy to his large animal colleagues and makes us all out to be horrible, corrupt villains.

    It breaks my heart that he is perpetuating a philosophy that "small animal" vets need to rally against the evil "large animal" vets, and he's leading a crusade that is based mainly on propaganda. Is this where our profession has gone?

     

    Melissa Detweiler, DVM

     

    Edited by DVMnewsmagazine, 1 year ago

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  • Dr. Kipperman speaks out, defends farm animal commentary

    Dr. Barry Kipperman responds to the dozens of letters (positive and not so positive) that came pouring in after his commentary was published in dvm360 newsmagazine.

    The responses to my commentary “Why small animal veterinarians should care about farm animals” (May 2013) remind me of the current debate regarding climate change. There are those denying any problem at all, suggesting that any supportive data is fabricated propaganda, while others are suggesting immediate action. Dr. Douglas Aspros, former American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) president, states that we should approach animal welfare questions from a “broad and informed perspective.” I agree. According to the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Principles, “Decisions regarding animal care, use and welfare shall be made by balancing scientific knowledge and professional judgment with consideration of ethical and societal values.”

    The AVMA has utilized science that is in accord with its present positions as the primary criterion for addressing welfare decisions, diminishing the import of societal mores. Because animals are sentient beings capable of manifesting emotions, the ideal balance would entail equal parts heart and mind, compassion and science, empathy and knowledge. Otherwise, we’re destined to make myopic decisions that are blinded by science. 

    A number of common themes prevailed in the responses to my commentary. Below I address the top five points. 

    1. Animal care on farms is exemplary. Saying that we have a long way to go to improve the welfare of farm animals was distressing to many of my large animal colleagues. I didn’t imply that small animal practice does not have its own ethical dilemmas. I simply chose to discuss farm animals due to the profound numbers of animals affected. Many colleagues remarked that animal care on farms they visit is exemplary. I pose these questions to them:

    > Are these farms representative of the 9 billion animals we produce for food?

    > Is your on-site presence such that your observations are representative of what occurs when you are not there?

    >What about the care of animals on farms that seldom if ever request veterinary care or assistance? 

    Suggesting we examine what has been accepted for decades as conventional treatment of farm animals should be no more offensive than reexamining hospital analgesic protocols to ensure they are contemporary. If we believe that dehorning, castrations and tail docking are painful, are we advising that analgesia be utilized and providing farmers with analgesic protocols to use? 

    2. Small animal doctors just don’t understand. So small animal veterinarians should leave farm animal welfare to the experts who work with these animals and accept the imperfections of present systems? I don’t need to be board-certified in animal welfare to recognize that keeping pigs in gestation crates and birds in battery cages is antithetical to any notion that quality of life can coexist within these methods of extreme confinement. For those that desire scientific support, the Pew Commission produced an evidence-based report of farm animal production in 2008 stating the commision “considers animal well-being an essential component of a safe and sustainable production system for farm animals. Hog gestation pens ... and battery cages for poultry ... constitute inhumane treatment. We recommend phasing out these systems as soon as possible.” (Ref. 1)

    3. My depictions were inaccurate. It’s unfortunate that the majority of farms raising animals for food are located in areas distant to population centers, making the truth difficult to access. That being said, no one disputes that most breeding pigs are housed in gestation crates and most egg-laying hens are confined in battery cages. In addition, recent efforts by the agriculture industry to make it a felony to photograph or take video on farms does not portend an environment for farm animals that the public would be pleased to witness.

    4. Sows need to be alone sometimes. Some readers justified individual confinement of pregnant sows in order to prevent the negative consequences of possible aggressive behaviors. If one accepts the premise that skirmishes and fighting are more harmful than solitary confinement, this still raises the question: Is confinement to the degree of immobility the only alternative to group housing of sows? How do the numerous group-sow housing facilities in operation today prevent such aggression? One is left to surmise that economics is a significant reason for these confinement methods. If so, then let’s not blame the aggressive nature of sows for our rationale for housing them. If not, then why not recommend larger, individual stalls that allow sows to move? 

    5. Slaughter facilities are under veterinary supervision. An audit report just published by the USDA reached the following conclusions:

    > “Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors didn’t take appropriate enforcement actions at eight of the 30 plants visited for violations of the Humane Slaughter Act. We reviewed 158 humane handling violations, and found 10 instances of egregious violations where inspectors did not issue suspensions. As a result, the plants did not improve their slaughter practices, and FSIS could not ensure humane handling of swine.”

    > “Inspectors did not always take necessary enforcement actions required by regulations and policies”. (Ref. 2)

    These findings suggest there’s significant peer pressure against inspectors not to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act, lest they suffer consequences due to the negative ramifications to these corporations. If these problems are noted in our slaughter methods of approximately 100 million pigs, one shudders to contemplate the issues associated with the demise of billions of chickens and turkeys who remain unprotected by the Humane Slaughter Act.

    There was a time early in my career where patients who sustained trauma didn’t receive pain management. We were satisfied if they recovered from shock, as we weren’t trained to provide analgesia. I propose that all veterinarians examine farm animal welfare from a new paradigm—one that’s more in keeping with our oath to “protect animal health and welfare” and “prevent and relieve animal suffering.”

    There remain profound ethical issues associated with the confinement, transport and slaughter of billions of animals raised for food in the United States. The public and our legislators view veterinarians as leaders in animal welfare concerns. Until we are willing to acknowledge and confront these problems as a profession, progress will occur without our input and expertise. I hope that I can respond with confidence in the future when a veterinary student asks me, “What are veterinarians doing to improve the welfare of farm animals?” 

     

    —Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM

    VetCare Veterinary Emergency and Specialist Care Center

    Dublin, Calif.

     

     
    References
    1. Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Pew Commission on industrial farm animal production. 2008. 
    2. USDA-Food safety and inspection service (FSIS): Inspection and enforcement activities at swine slaughter plants. May 2013. 
      

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