CVMA Wimps Out on Humane Farming Initiative

 |  Aug 17th 2008  |   8 Contributions


I discussed California's Proposition 2, the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, in a recent post.

Proposition 2 will appear on California's ballot in November. A brief quote from the text of the ballot initiative presents a succinct view of its goal.

The purpose of this Act is to prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

Veterinarians have a number of roles in society. According to the veterinarian's oath, our duties include the conservation of livestock resources and the promotion of public health. But above all, veterinarians are supposed to help and heal animals. That is what our profession is all about. And that's why approximately 600 California veterinarians have endorsed Proposition 2.

The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) is the leading veterinary organization in California. Most vets in the state are members. The association's mission is to represent and promote the interests of veterinarians in California. It is a politically active organization. It was bound to take a stand on the proposition.

The initiative presented a conundrum for the CVMA. The CVMA must not only represent the interests of pro-Proposition 2 companion animal veterinarians such as me. Its membership also includes food animal vets. Some (but certainly not all) of these vets favor the farming status quo.

So, I wondered, how would the CVMA balance the obvious moral superiority of endorsing Proposition 2 against the need to placate its anti-Proposition 2 members?

In the end, according to the initiative's sponsors, the CVMA endorsed the measure. But the CVMA has released an official position statement that is one of the most incredibly cowardly works of neutrality, buck-passing and fence sitting I have ever seen. It is the political equivalent of betting on both red and black at the roulette table. Here it is (quoted from the July/August issue of California Veterinarian).

The CVMA, guided by The CVMA's Eight Principles of Animal Care and Use, has thoughtfully considered the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.

As experts in animal health and welfare, California veterinarians must balance scientific knowledge with ethical, philosophical, and moral considerations. While the CVMA supports the concept that animals should be allowed to turn around, line [sic] down, stand up and fully extend their limbs when confined, we also believe that issues such as public health, biosecurity and good farming practices must be considered.

The CVMA firmly believes that any modifications of [sic] the current system should be made in consultation with California's food animal veterinarians, the leading authorities on the health and well being of production animals.

I realize that the CVMA must balance the interests of a diverse and fractious group of veterinarians. But Proposition 2 is a no-brainer. In this case, it seems that bureaucracy has trumped common sense.

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