AVMA's Response to Videotaped Abuse of Animals

 View video message from AVMA Executive Vice President, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven.

April 28, 2011

It seems that every few months another undercover video is released by an animal rights organization showing abuse of animals on a farm or in a processing facility. Typically, when these abuses come to light, the AVMA condemns the behavior and encourages full prosecution of those responsible for the abuse. This is what we did following the release of the latest such video, which showed the horrifying abuse of calves at a cattle farm in Texas.

I stand by the statements we made in our press release; however, a press release no longer feels like an adequate response to these appalling abuses. While the AVMA understands that the abuse featured in these videos is not typical of most animal operations, the frequency with which these videos appear prohibits us from considering them as isolated incidents or accepting the excuse that the producers were unaware of the abuses taking place on their property. We're seeing this happen much too often, and it's time we take a stronger stance against such abuse. The bottom line is that we must have zero tolerance for these abuses, isolated or otherwise.

Too often, those in the industry seem more concerned about attacking those responsible for producing the videos than addressing the abuse depicted in them, and that attitude has got to change. Attempting to shift the blame is a denial of the real issue. If producers were treating the animals in a humane manner, there would be no need for undercover filming. Frankly, we can't understand why responsible producers would object to being filmed, and would encourage producers, as Dr. Temple Grandin and others have suggested, to install cameras in their operations to show the world that they are treating their animals humanely.

These videos also show us the need for more veterinary oversight on our ranches, farms, livestock markets, and slaughter facilities. We believe that greater involvement and oversight by veterinarians would help to stop and prevent this kind of abuse. That being said, if it comes to our attention that any AVMA member is complicit in this type of abuse, we will bring them before the AVMA Judicial Council. We will also encourage the relevant authorities to investigate their involvement and take enforcement action as appropriate. This would include consideration of disciplinary action by the applicable state veterinary medical board.

A variety of organizations, including the AVMA, industry groups, humane organizations, and state and federal regulatory agencies, offer guidelines to protect the health and welfare of animals used to produce our food supply. Too often, however, these guidelines are ignored. There is no excuse for this. If those responsible for the good welfare of the animals in their care are unable or unwilling to follow these guidelines, then additional oversight, either through public pressure or regulation, may become a necessity. We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way. But either way, it must be done.

Sincerely,

W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA
Executive Vice President