House considers proposals on ethics, gestation stalls, governance

Published on June 18, 2014
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The AVMA House of Delegates will consider a revised version of the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, a resolution against sow gestation stalls, and proposals on governance during its regular annual session, July 24-25 in Denver, preceding the AVMA Annual Convention.

Principles of ethics

The AVMA Executive Board submitted the new version of the principles of ethics as a resolution with a recommendation for approval. The Judicial Council has spent more than a year revising the principles and incorporating input from AVMA members.

The council completely reformatted the document, modeling the new version in large part on the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics. The council proposed eight overarching tenets and reformatted the document into three sections—an introduction, principles, and useful terms. The council believes the new framework will allow the principles to endure as written and that supporting annotations can be revised as needed to address new concepts.

The revised version of the document also incorporates input from the House, other AVMA entities, AVMA members, AVMA general counsel, executives of state VMAs, and other stakeholders.

Sow gestation stalls

The Humane Society VMA submitted the resolution against gestation stalls by petition of AVMA members. The resolution would revise the AVMA policy “Pregnant Sow Housing” by adding that housing should allow pregnant sows “to stand up, fully turn around, and stretch their limbs.”

The statement about the resolution asserts: “The intensive confinement of pregnant sows in gestation crates for a prolonged period of time creates serious physical and psychological consequences. Given the viable alternatives to gestation crates, namely a variety of group housing options, there is a global trend toward phasing out gestation crate use where growing social concern and acknowledgment of the ethical issues inherent in gestation crates is being recognized.”

The statement goes on to describe gestation stalls, welfare concerns, the percentage of a sow’s life span typically spent in gestation and farrowing stalls, the elimination of gestation stalls by some states and countries, and a movement away from gestation stalls by some pork producers and food companies. The statement concludes by noting that a recent AVMA literature review acknowledged certain welfare disadvantages with gestation stalls.

The AVMA Executive Board also submitted a resolution to revise the policy on pregnant sow housing per recommendations from the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee (see JAVMA, June 1, 2014). Among other changes, the resolution would revise the policy by adding that housing should provide “adequate quality and quantity of space that allows sows to assume normal postures and express normal patterns of behavior.”

Governance proposals

The board submitted a number of proposed amendments to the AVMA Bylaws for consideration by the House. The proposed changes to governance would provide for AVMA members to elect about half the delegates in the HOD and would reduce the term of board members from six years to four.

The AVMA Governance Engagement Team crafted the proposal that would allow direct election of many delegates by AVMA members.

Currently, the state VMAs and other veterinary organizations represented in the House, such as species groups, each designate a delegate and an alternate delegate.

The proposed bylaws amendments would allow AVMA members residing in each state or belonging to other organizations represented in the House to elect one voting delegate to represent the state or organization. The state VMAs and the other organizations would designate a second voting delegate.

The proposal also would limit almost all delegates to serving no more than two consecutive four-year terms.

The board’s Governance Bylaws Working Group crafted the proposal to change the term of board members from six years to four.

The proposed bylaws amendments would make the term for board members consistent with the proposed term for delegates. The working group believes that a shorter term will result in more opportunities for AVMA members to serve on the board. The bylaws already provide for board members not to serve two consecutive terms.

The proposal also would change the name of the board from Executive Board to Board of Directors to be consistent with the terminology of the laws covering not-for-profit organizations in Illinois, where the AVMA is incorporated.

In addition, the board submitted a proposed bylaws amendment to add a veterinary student as a nonvoting member of the AVMA Council on Research.

Proposals going to the House of Delegates are available here. AVMA members can find contact information for their delegates here

Related JAVMA content:

Pregnant sow housing, cat declawing on HOD agenda (June 1, 2014)