An organization representing rural state legislators recently passed a resolution that discourages use of ballot initiatives to effect laws on animal care.
The State Agriculture and Rural Leaders passed the resolution in mid-January. It includes language similar to that of a policy the AVMA Executive Board approved Jan. 8 just before the Veterinary Leadership Conference in Chicago. The AVMA policy, titled "Establishing Public Policy to Ensure Animal Well Being," originated from a recommendation from the AVMA State Advocacy, Animal Welfare, and Animal Agriculture Liaison committees.
The SARL resolution and AVMA policy both encourage use of legislative committee processes with substantial expert input from individuals and organizations. Both state that "Ballot initiatives are poorly designed for addressing complex issues" including setting animal care standards.
The measures also note that ballot initiatives can lead to polarizing public debates based on incomplete information. The SARL resolution urges state leaders to create livestock care standards boards or authorize existing agencies to establish care standards for livestock and poultry.
The SARL resolution states that in setting standards, such boards should consider "agricultural best management practices for care and well-being, biosecurity, disease prevention, animal morbidity and mortality data, food safety practices, and the protection of local, affordable food supplies for consumers."
The AVMA policy expresses support for the creation—through regular legislative or regulatory means—of expert bodies to set animal welfare standards. It also encourages legislators to include veterinarians and animal welfare scientists on those panels.
"As animal care experts, veterinarians and animal welfare scientists bring to the table not only their technical understanding of animals' physical and mental needs, but also an appropriate focus on balancing those needs with animal use practicalities and public expectations," the AVMA policy states. "Veterinarians and animal welfare scientists, who have been professionally trained to responsibly advance animal care, should thereby be given substantial opportunity for representation."
To view the AVMA policy, go to www.avma.org/issues/policy/establishing_public_policy_aw.asp. The SARL resolution can be viewed at www.agandruralleaders.org/. Click on "2010 Ag Chairs Summit" at the top of the page and scroll down to the Resolution on Establishing Public Policy on Animal Care Standards link.