AVMA, swine veterinarians respond to video of pig abuse

Published on October 01, 2008
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A video showing the abuse of pigs on an Iowa farm brought a swift response from the AVMA and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleges that workers kicked sows, beat the animals with metal rods, and improperly killed newborn pigs. Undercover members of PETA filmed the abusive practices, and PETA released the footage to the Associated Press on Sept. 16.

"If the video is accurate, the system failed these animals," noted Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA executive vice president, in a Sept. 17 statement from the AVMA. "The responsibility for ensuring food production animals are cared for humanely falls on the shoulders of everyone involved in the process, from birth to slaughter."

The AASV, in a Sept. 17 post on its Web site, acknowledged that the farm's veterinarians are AASV members.

"They are extremely concerned and actively taking measures to correct the situation," according to the alert. "The AASV, working in concert with the National Pork Board, has been active in meeting with the farm owners and managers to address the situation on the farm, and in answering questions from the media regarding the video and swine welfare."

In the AVMA statement, Dr. DeHaven emphasized that veterinarians take their ethical responsibility to protect the health and welfare of animals seriously. He urged food supply veterinarians to remain vigilant.

"The veterinary profession as a whole must make it clear that, if these allegations prove true, such abuses cannot be tolerated," Dr. DeHaven said.

The AVMA has several relevant policies. "General Comments on Food Animals" states that "animals raised for food, fur, and/or fiber should be treated and handled humanely with due consideration to their welfare and well being." The policy states that "all must identify and take steps to abandon or correct practices that are cruel, abusive, neglectful, and contrary to the well being of animals." The AVMA policy on disabled livestock states that disabled livestock should be handled humanely in all situations.

According to Iowa Code 717, the investigation of PETA's allegations falls under the jurisdiction of local authorities. The AVMA urged authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the matter and to enforce applicable penalties for violations of the code.