AVMA Answers

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How is the AVMA addressing the controversy surrounding housing pregnant sows in gestation stalls?

 Dr. Gail Golab, AVMA assistant director of professional and public affairs and staff consultant to the Animal Welfare Committee, responds:


During its July 2003 meeting, the AVMA House of Delegates passed a resolution directing the AVMA to conduct a thorough and objective review of the scientific evidence relating to impacts on the health and welfare of keeping breeding sows in gestation stalls. The resolution was then forwarded to the Animal Welfare Committee for action, and the committee recommended that the Executive Board appoint a task force of experts on the housing of pregnant sows to conduct the review. During its November meeting, the board established the task force.

The task force is charged with conducting the review and recommending an appropriate position for the AVMA on the housing of pregnant sows. The composition of the task force reflects the Animal Welfare Committee's intent that experts from a variety of fields be included—that is, an Executive Board member as chair, two research scientists, a swine veterinarian, a swine producer, a behaviorist, a statistician, an epidemiologist, an Animal Welfare Committee member, an Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee member, and a humane organization representative.

In addition, one agricultural economist and one ethicist/animal welfare scientist, with international expertise, will be selected to serve as consultants to the task force. To ensure that the task force would benefit from the widest possible range of expertise, nominations in many of its categories were opened to both veterinarians and nonveterinarians. The Executive Board is expected to make its appointments to the task force during its April 2004 meeting.

The task force will meet twice, and its members will attend the 2004 AVMA Animal Welfare Forum on Sow Housing and Welfare. In addition to face-to-face meetings, there will be conference calls and ongoing electronic discussions. It is expected that the task force will seek the services of the AVMA librarian and others to conduct an extensive review and compilation of the scientific literature.

Once the scientific review and associated discussions have been completed, task force members will prepare a written report for review by the Executive Board. That report also will be distributed to the Animal Welfare Committee for its consideration and comment. The report and associated comments will then be forwarded to the House of Delegates for its review.

Because the amount of information the task force must sort through is voluminous, I don't expect that its report will be complete and available for HOD review prior to that body's July 2005 meeting.