New veal calf housing policy encourages greater freedom of movement

New veal calf housing policy encourages greater freedom of movement
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Veal calf operation

The AVMA has adopted a policy that calls on the veal calf industry to adopt less-confining housing systems.

At its regular July 19 session in New Orleans, the AVMA House of Delegates passed by a large majority Resolution 16, which states the AVMA "supports a change in veal husbandry practices that severely restrict movement, to housing systems that allow for greater freedom of movement without compromising their health or welfare."

The House Advisory Committee submitted the resolution, which noted that an AVMA policy adopted in 2005 recognizes veal calf production is well-established, can be humane, and can ensure the welfare of calves.

In that policy, veterinarians and veal calf producers are encouraged to cooperate to provide management and housing systems that, among other things, permit calves to stretch, stand, and lie down comfortably, the resolution stated in its background.

Resolution 16 was one of two proposals addressing veal calf housing to come before the HOD. Resolution 14 was submitted by petition and directed the AVMA to support group housing systems rather than individual calf crates.

Delegates voted to refer Resolution 14 to the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, which has been engaged in a review of the scientific literature concerning veal calf housing systems.

During the HOD's deliberations over the resolution, Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, explained that the review will likely be completed in time for the committee's fall meeting.

Some delegates encouraged the HOD to pass Resolution 14, however. "If people actually take time to look at the science, they will come to the conclusion that Resolution 14 is the right decision to make," said Dr. Gary I. Block, Rhode Island alternate delegate.

Dr. Block worried that not passing the measure could leave veterinary students with the impression that the AVMA is "irrelevant" on animal welfare issues.

Oregon delegate Dr. Martha H. DeWees disagreed, saying Resolution 14 appeared to be micromanaging and discouraged the HOD from passing the proposal. "If we vote in favor of this, we invite AVMA micromanaging of every animal welfare issue there is," she warned.

A majority of delegates supported referring the resolution to the Animal Welfare Committee and awaiting its report. Dr. Golab said the committee's review is comprehensive and would deal with issues broader than just housing, such as nutrition and socialization.