September 01, 2007


 AVMA takes no position on foie gras, opposes database mining

Posted August 15, 2007

The AVMA House of Delegates declined to take a position on foie gras July 14 at its annual session in Washington, D.C., with a majority of delegates disapproving competing resolutions opposing or supporting the controversial production practice banned in Chicago and being phased out in California.

Delegates did approve a resolution stating the AVMA's opposition to using information from companion animal microchip databases for purposes of marketing or referral.

The HOD has been disapproving anti-foie gras resolutions since 2004. The latest unsuccessful resolution, submitted by petition, called for the AVMA to oppose artificially force-feeding ducks and geese to produce the fatty liver "because of the adverse effects on the birds' health and welfare associated with this practice."

The Executive Board, House Advisory Committee, and Reference Committee 2 all recommended disapproval of the measure. During HOD deliberations, Dr. Thomas L. Munschauer, the Vermont delegate, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying "I have a problem, as a veterinarian, endorsing any practice that creates disease in an animal."

Although the resolution was voted down, delegates then had to decide whether to consider a resolution from the Connecticut VMA that stated the following:

"Resolved, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) approves that the production of foie gras, in accordance with AVMA welfare committee guidelines, is an acceptable agriculture practice."

Because the resolution was submitted after the May deadline, delegates voted to waive the prior notice provision and waive consideration by the reference committee. Delegates then took a break to allow the HAC to conduct an impromptu appraisal of the resolution and deliver its recommendation, which was a recommendation to disapprove.

Dr. Michael L. Whitehair, HAC chair, explained that the AVMA has no welfare guidelines concerning the production of foie gras, as the resolution incorrectly states. Moreover, it was the committee's feeling that the HOD should avoid species-specific resolutions in favor of more general policies.

Connecticut delegate, Dr. Ned S. Schankman, explained that his state VMA submitted the resolution so that the HOD would go on record as supporting foie gras as a humane practice. "It's time to take a proactive, definitive stand," Dr. Schankman said.

Dr. William E. De Witt, the Alabama delegate, agreed, saying it was time the AVMA took control of foie gras and other welfare issues rather than reacting to them.

Other delegates saw the matter differently. "I think this is a PR nightmare. It would be a mistake for us to go on record supporting this," observed Dr. Ernest C. Godfrey, the Florida delegate. No matter how humane the production of foie gras is, the public won't get past images of ducks and geese being force-fed, Dr. Godfrey said.

Most delegates agreed with Dr. Godfrey, and the resolution was disapproved.

The microchip resolution approved by delegates was an amended version of the proposal submitted by eight state veterinary medical associations. The amended resolution states the following:

Resolved, that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) endorses the use of companion animal microchip registration databases strictly for reuniting animals and owners and opposes their use as a source for marketing or referrals of other products and services.

The intention of the resolution is to protect the privacy of information provided by companion animal owners when registering their animals' microchip numbers. "Companion animal" was added to the resolution so as not to hamper the use of microchip databases by livestock producers and animal health officials.