Groups working to identify best euthanasia, slaughter methods

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The AVMA will lead a meeting looking to examine euthanasia practices across animal species and harmonize international guidance.

The AVMA Executive Board approved spending $60,000 in 2012 on an animal welfare symposium focused on euthanasia and euthanasia guidance. The AVMA Panel on Euthanasia and AVMA Animal Welfare Committee jointly proposed conducting the meeting after finding differences among euthanasia recommendations in publications from various scientific, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations.

The meeting will likely cost between $120,000 and $150,000, but the panel expects that most of the costs would be offset by registration fees and sponsorship. The events would occur over two or three days, and dates had not yet been determined.

Dr. Samuel C. Cartner, who is chair of the laboratory animal working group of the Panel on Euthanasia, said a forum for continued dialogue on euthanasia could help identify gaps in research and resolve questions. While he sees common ground among guidelines from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, he was among panel members who saw substantial differences.

"I suggested that a symposium might fill a significant role to help us harmonize regulations across continents," Dr. Cartner said.

He thinks the symposium could substantially impact veterinarians' daily practices by helping them identify, establish, and follow best practices, particularly as knowledge about the pharmaceuticals and techniques used for euthanasia changes.

The AVMA will also convene a Panel on Humane Slaughter tasked with producing AVMA guidance on humane slaughter. The panel was created on the basis of a recommendation from the Panel on Euthanasia, which determined that euthanasia and slaughter differ enough in approach, environment, and expectations that the issues should be addressed separately.

The euthanasia panel identified a mix of nine veterinarians and nonveterinarians with expertise in animal welfare and slaughter who were willing to serve as members of the Panel on Humane Slaughter. Those members hope to issue their guidance in late 2012 or early 2013.

Dr. Robert E. Meyer, a member of the Panel on Humane Slaughter and chair of the inhalant methods working group for the euthanasia panel, said veterinarians should be consulted about the appropriateness and humaneness of slaughter methods, as they are in a unique position to recommend ideal methods. Although federal law provides rules on slaughter practices, he said a review of those methods could help further minimize animal suffering.

Dr. Meyer said that, given that millions of animals are slaughtered for food in the U.S. annually, he thinks a report from the humane slaughter panel could have a widespread impact on animal welfare.