Proposals push for more veterinarians for slaughter inspection, disease response

Published on June 14, 2017

The National Association of Federal Veterinarians has proposed resolutions to the AVMA House of Delegates that would urge the Department of Agriculture to recruit and retain more veterinarians for slaughter inspection and disease response.

Dr. Douglas Fulnechek (right), a veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, is the senior FSIS official at a poultry slaughtering facility in Arkansas. (Courtesy of USDA)

The House will consider the resolutions during its regular annual session, July 20-21 in Indianapolis.

The following resolution regards the role of veterinarians in slaughter inspection at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:

The Importance of Veterinarians in Food Safety

RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) support the USDA FSIS Public Health Veterinary workforce hiring efforts by recommending that FSIS implement the three actions below to resolve the recruiting and retention issues when hiring of veterinarians in FSIS:

  1. All slaughter plants must be under the direct supervision of a Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian (SPHV); Federal veterinarians, as animal and public health professionals, are uniquely equipped to lead the inspection and food safety processes necessary to protect Americans' food source.
  2. Remuneration and incentives of SPHV's must be immediately improved to be commensurate with their extensive education and expertise and to be competitive with the private sector.
  3. Administrative time and support for annual professional continuing education and training are essential to retaining SPHVs.

According to a passage in bold within the statement about the resolution, "FSIS has, for the first time in its 110 year history, proposed changes that remove veterinarians from their direct role in food safety and to instead place inadequately educated lay inspectors into more primary decision making roles with much less direct supervision or oversight from the SPHV."

The following resolution regards USDA veterinarians in disease response and other emergency response:

The Importance of Federal Veterinarians in Emergency Response

RESOLVED, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) supports the recruitment and retention of veterinarians in the Federal Government to build a veterinary emergency response surge capacity. Further, the AVMA supports providing veterinary specialty and board certification pay for federal veterinarians, as well as recruitment and retention incentives to address this need.

The statement about the resolution asserts, "The USDA veterinary workforce is not robust enough to adequately respond to major animal disease outbreaks and the severe repercussions of that event."

Proposals going to the House of Delegates are available on the AVMA website. Members of the AVMA can find their delegates' contact information on the AVMA's My Leaders webpage.

Related JAVMA content:

House asks for review of unlicensed practice (March 1, 2017)