AVMA welfare director joins OIE panel on slaughter, depopulation

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Dr. Johnson
Dr. Cia Johnson

An AVMA staff member is representing North America on a panel that is drafting revisions to international standards on slaughter and emergency killing of animals.

Dr. Cia Johnson, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, is among seven panelists that first met this April in Paris on a project to update some World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. The OIE World Assembly of Delegates from member countries would vote on whether to update the terrestrial code.

The updates would modify existing OIE guidance on humane slaughter and killing to control disease as well as expand the disease control guidance to include depopulation in response to other types of emergencies, such as natural disasters. The panelists will address welfare measurements, animal husbandry, worker training, stunning, and species-specific techniques.

Dr. Johnson expects the revisions will include a shift away from technical details—such as units of measurement, animal handling methods, and acceptable stocking densities—and toward outcomes and performance-based standards. That would shift attention toward how animals respond, using those observations to guide animal welfare decisions.

Dr. Johnson worked with AVMA staff and expert volunteers on the Association's euthanasia, slaughter, and depopulation guidelines. The euthanasia guidelines were revised in 2013, and they are scheduled for updates this year. The slaughter guidelines were published in 2016, and the depopulation guidelines are in editing, with plans for publication late this year.

Dr. Johnson said the OIE panel is expected to be a three-year commitment. She is the only representative from North America, and she said her inclusion shows the AVMA's importance in developing standards for humane endings to animal lives.

AVMA and industry-developed guidance are more likely to be used within the U.S. than are the OIE standards, Dr. Johnson said. But the OIE standards have implications for trade and global animal industries.

She expects harmony between the revised OIE standards and the AVMA guidance.

Dr. Johnson said she was surprised and honored to be selected by the OIE to participate in the panel, and she feels great responsibility for such an important task. She also is happy to help the AVMA be at the forefront of issues regarding humane killing of animals and to give veterinarians helpful resources, she said.

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA finalizing depopulation guidelines (June 1, 2018)