AASV: Sick pigs need aid, regardless of marketing plans

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Pigs should receive care to prevent suffering even if that precludes sale of pork as antibiotic free, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.

The association published May 2 a statement that farmers marketing pigs as antibiotic free should have alternative plans for selling pigs that receive antimicrobials for disease treatment or prevention. An announcement accompanying the statement indicates some farms lack such plans.

The statement also advocates for timely decisions on treatment and euthanasia and for veterinarian involvement in herd health management.

Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the AASV, said in an interview that he lacked figures indicating how often pigs with treatable bacterial illnesses are left untreated or euthanized, but the subject had become a concern. Plans to market pigs as antibiotic free can create incentives for farmers to forgo medical treatments, he said.

“For the veterinarian, our main concern lies with the pig and preventing suffering and death,” he said.

In April, officials with the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service proposed rules that would prohibit farmers in the nation’s organic program from withholding treatments from injured, diseased, or sick animals in efforts to preserve organic status (see JAVMA, June 1, 2016).

“All appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail,” the proposal states.

Dr. Burkgren said he was unfamiliar with that proposed regulatory change, although he expected the AASV would support that provision as described.