Formation of a new visionary group advising the AVMA Executive Board on animal welfare matters is under way, more than a year ahead of schedule.
Board members green-lighted a plan for immediate implementation of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee during a special meeting held prior to the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference and House of Delegates Informational Assembly in Chicago, Jan. 13-15.
The AWAC will be responsible for drafting overarching animal welfare principles applicable to the veterinary profession. These principles are to serve also as the basis for the AVMA to develop and judge proposed and existing animal welfare policies, resolutions, and actions. The committee will sunset no later than one year after its members have been appointed.
The Executive Board had initially scheduled the AWAC to be implemented in July 2007. But the impression in some welfare circles that the AVMA is failing to adequately address animal welfare prompted the Animal Welfare Governance Task Force to recommend moving forward with a modified version of the committee as soon as possible.
"The perception is we're not acting on animal welfare issues, and we need to pass this (recommendation) to demonstrate we're moving ahead," explained District X representative and task force chair, Dr. David L. McCrystle.
Just prior to the vote, AVMA President Henry E. Childers spoke in favor of the proposal, noting that "(the AWAC) is almost a perfect way of approaching the problems arising from the profession's wrestling with animal welfare issues. In principle, I feel this is the answer."
During her tenure as AVMA president, Dr. Bonnie V. Beaver in late 2004 proposed sunsetting the Animal Welfare Committee and creating a smaller, more visionary group that would help the veterinary profession address the broader issue of humane treatment of animals.
Dr. Beaver saw a need for an AVMA committee unlike the AWC, which represents many segments of the veterinary profession and deals with specifics such as induced molting or pregnant sow housing. Rather, she wanted to bring together individuals with a broader view of animal welfare to advise the board as a visionary body.
After the Executive Board approved the plan, however, some of the allied organizations represented on AWC expressed opposition to creating a new committee they saw as excluding their expertise. As a result, Dr. Beaver introduced a recommendation changing the composition of the AWAC allowing for greater food animal representation. In addition, the board reversed its decision to sunset the Animal Welfare Committee (see JAVMA, May 15, 2005, page 1623).
Soon after the January 2006 board meeting, a call for nominations to the AWAC was issued with a March 1, 2006, deadline. The Executive Board chair will appoint the seven AWAC members—veterinarians with broad experience in animal welfare and an understanding that they are to be visionary thinkers—from the following fields: food animal practice/production animal medicine, preferably involved with large agriculture enterprise; companion animal practice; wildlife/exotic animal medicine; a humane/welfare organization (must be employed by an organization); laboratory animal medicine; a commercial food production company (employed by a company to work on animal welfare); and large animal medicine, preferably equine.