January 20, 2008

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) denies allegations that it is "in the pockets of industry" over animal welfare issues.

"That accusation is simply not true," the AVMA said in a question-and-answer document recently published on its website.

Opponents of horse slaughter in the United States have signalled their intention to target the policies and stance of the AVMA this year. The AVMA opposes a proposed federal law that would ban horse slaughter in the United States, and prevent the export of horses for the same purpose.

The AVMA, which has more than 76,000 members, representing more than 85% of vets in the United States, argues: "Effective answers to animal welfare questions and concerns are science-based and practical.

"Our evaluation of animal welfare issues includes looking at the entire system of animal care, not just one or two pieces of it.

"When science clearly supports a policy or action by the AVMA, that policy or action is developed based on that science. Although all inputs and opinions are considered, the scientific data form the backbone of our recommendations."

The AVMA cited its recent support of changes to rules regulating the transport of horses to slaughter in double-decked trailers.

"Although some members of the industry are opposed to the rule change, science available to date indicates that transporting horses in double-decked trailers is not in the best interest of these animals.

"Therefore, the AVMA responded to the US Department of Agriculture's request for comments and recommended that the proposed changes be implemented."

The organisation continued: "While we value our independence in decision-making, we also recognise that stakeholder input and involvement is critical to the identification and implementation of effective solutions to animal welfare problems.

"In that regard, the AVMA regularly communicates with a broad range of stakeholders, including individuals and organisations associated with the animal protection community, the animal industries, and governmental agencies."

The AVMA's latest question-and-answer document was in response to a January 14 announcement that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was collaborating with the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) to form the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA).

"The formation of the HSVMA will not affect the services and representation offered for the veterinary profession by the AVMA," it said.

"As the recognised voice of the profession, the AVMA will continue its focus on compassion, scientific validity, and practicality in its answers to questions raised in the course of caring for animals."

Veterinarians who are members of the HSVMA are entitled to all privileges of membership of the AVMA.

"We value the diversity of opinions and perspectives within our profession and membership. All veterinarians are our colleagues and we welcome and encourage them to participate actively in their professional association."