American Veterinary Medical Association

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The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is a professional association and industry lobbying organization for veterinarians and affiliated industries in animal commerce and agriculture. The AVMA was founded in 1863 and is headquartered in Schaumburg, Illnois with an office in Washington, DC. According to its website, the AVMA represents over 80,000 veterinarians. [1]

Animals in agriculture & commerce

The AVMA endorses practices which are not supported by the animal welfare community or the general public. These include gestation crates, foie gras, steel jaw traps, [2] the inhumane slaughter of birds, horse slaughter and large commercial dog breeding operations or puppy mills. See also sections 1 & 2.

Sow gestation crates

Sows in gestation crates

A review of AVMA policies reveals that standards for farm animals generally echo agricultural industry recommendations. For example, the AVMA condones gestation crates; universally considered to be inhumane by animal advocates and a growing portion of the general public. According to the AVMA:

"Gestation stalls do not induce a physiologic stress response compared to group housing for pregnant sows."[3]

In 2001 when Florida voted to ban gestation crates, the AVMA went on record to state that their use was acceptable. [4] 80% of U.S. breeding sows are confined to gestation crates for the duration of their 112 to 115 day pregnancies (individual metal enclosures so restrictive that the pigs cannot turn around.) Crated sows suffer from urinary tract infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, lameness and neurotic, obsessive behaviors. Economic pressure, rather than science or animal welfare, is the driving force behind their use. Gestation crates are banned in Sweden and the United Kingdom. The European Union (EU) has committed to phasing them out by 2013. Although they remain a common animal agribusiness practice in the U.S., they have been banned in several states. [5] See also Animals raised & hunted for food on pigs.

Inhumane slaughter of birds

In a widely reported account, a San Diego, California farmer deposited 25 thousand fully conscious hens into a wood chipper on the advice of Dr. Gregg Cutler of the AVMA's "Animal Welfare Committee". In spite of widespread outrage and disgust, Dr. Cutler remains on the committee. [6]

Foie gras

Delicacy of Despair: Inside Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Sonama Foie Gras. - November 2006
Foie gras duck being force fed

In 2004 and 2005, the AVMA's House of Delegates rejected resolutions to oppose force feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras. According to a July 16, 2005 meeting, "science vs emotion was the guiding principle". A delegation from New York, the location of two of the country's three foie gras farms, "took a strong stand" against actually taking a position on an animal welfare issue. According to NY delegate Dr. Walter K. McCarthy, similar positions would certainly follow, such as taking a position on veal crates:

"We cannot condemn an accepted agricultural practice on... emotion."

On July 5, Dr. Thomas L. Munschauer and Dr. Robert P. Gordon visited a foie gras farm in New York. According to Dr. Gordon, "It is more distressing to take a rectal temperature in a cat. ...I did not see animals I would consider distressed, and I didn't see pain and suffering." Instead of the term force feeding, Dr. Gordon advocated the term "tube feeding" and "cautioned against anthropomorphism". According to Dr. Susan L. Clubb:

"Some owners feed psittacines (parrots) via tube. Their esophagus easily accepts a tube without stress, it would seem logical that the same would be true in birds used to produce foie gras."

Dr. James M. Harris agreed that "emotionally laden terms" were inappropriate and urged colleagues not to "give the squeaky wheel the grease". Dr. Greg Cutler, expressed concern over "a prohibition-type situation":

"We need to be looking at animal welfare from a broad policy position ... that can then be applied to all animal operations." [7]

Not surprisingly, policies broad enough to include depositing live hens into wood chippers, might also include foie gras. Avian tube feeding is not force feeding. A "soft latex tubing" is sometimes used for very young or sick birds and is "never" forced down the the esophagus. [8] Even this procedure is not recommended due to risks of injury and other problems. [9] The Animal Protection & Rescue League (APRL) has investigated all three U.S. foie gras farms and several in France, revealing shocking, industry wide abuse. [10] At both Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York and Sonama Foie Gras in California, ducks lived in feces ridden sheds. Some ducks were isolated in wire cages so small they could barely move. Long metal pipes are shoved down the birds' throats two to three times a day to air pump nutritionally deficient corn mush (1/10 of their body weight per feeding). The feed lacks choline, an amino acid essential for liver function, so fat builds up in the liver. Foie gras farms have death rates 20% higher than ordinary factory farms. Barrels of birds who had died from choking, ruptured organs or had exploded from force feeding, were found on every farm. Some birds had died of throat wounds and rips. Birds were suffering from anal hemorrhaging, with many so painfully debilitated they were unable to move. Investigators rescued several ducks, including two crippled birds being eaten alive by rats. [11], [12] Only male ducks are used for foie gras, females are "discarded". The liver of a foie gras bird may be enlarged over 10 times its normal size. According to Dr. Ward Stone, senior wildlife pathologist for NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation:

"Having seen the pathology that occurs from Foie Gras Production, I strongly recommend that this process be outlawed." [13]

See also Animals raised & hunted for food on birds & foie gras.


Animal caught in steel leg hold trap

The AVMA adopted a revised policy on trapping on April 12, 2008 which included a "modified version" of a steel hold leg trap. According to Dr. David Miller of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, it is "special interest groups" which oppose the trapping. However:

"This can actually compromise animal welfare. Sometimes it is necessary to trap animals. For instance, some conservation projects, such as for river otter restoration efforts, require the use of leghold traps." [14]

According to Dr. Gail Golab, some circumstances require the trapping of animals for "study or relocation", for example, when wolves or coyotes prey on livestock:

"Modern traps, when used in conjunction with trap monitors and tranquilizers, have substantially reduced the negative welfare effects of leghold traps." [15]

The primary purpose of leg hold traps is to supply the fur industry. Every year approximately 10 million animals are trapped for their fur. Primary tools are the leg hold trap, the body grip (Conibear) trap and the wire snare. [16] "Nuisance animals" who interfere with government subsidized ranching are not "relocated". Methods used to kill coyotes include aerial gunning, gassing pups in their dens, traps that eject sodium-cyanide into an animal’s mouth, livestock protection collars filled with poison, steel traps and neck, body and leg snares; in spite of available non-lethal methods and evidence that lethal control is ineffective. Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kills tens of thousands of coyotes, hundreds or even thousands of wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats and other animals; sometimes for eating flowers and pet food, digging in gardens or frightening people. [17] Yet, according to Dr. Miller:

"Wildlife needs to be trapped for conservation, to control disease, to prevent damage to the environment or to avoid risks to human interests. Modified leg hold traps are sometimes the only effective way to capture a given species under particular circumstances." [18]

Leg hold traps have been banned in 88 countries. In spite of irrefutable evidence of cruelty, mutilation and dangers to non-target animals and children; they have only been banned in 8 states. 74% of Americans oppose the leg hold trap, yet Congress has not banned them thanks to the fur industry and lobbies like the AVMA. [19] In a public relations move, the industry began manufacturing traps with a rubber strip across the jaws. However, they still close with the same force. In the up to 3 days it may take for a trapper to return, an animal may suffer or die of dehydration, blood loss, hypothermia, trap inflicted injuries or predators. A 1995 study of coyotes trapped in padded leg hold traps found that 97% experienced severe leg swelling and 26% lacerations and fractures. A study of 55 red foxes found that 25 suffered severe swelling; 23 severe lacerations; 17 fractured their teeth and 13 suffered severed tendons, abrasions or fractures. "Drowning sets" are designed to kill beaver, muskrat and mink. Animals in these traps struggle for an average of 9 1/2 minutes. A beaver may hold out as long as 20 minutes. [20] See also War on Animals, section 5 on trapping.

Horse slaughter

Within a week of the recent closing of two Texas horse slaughter plants, after a long battle over a 1949 law prohibiting the sale of horse meat; a "shocking investigative report" was published around the world under such titles as "Kentucky, land of the thoroughbred, swamped with unwanted horses!" The article was based on privately owned horses observed free grazing at a reclaimed strip mine in Eastern Kentucky. Kentucky state officials from police and animal control immediately debunked the story. However, it raised such a furor that state governor Ernie Fletcher felt compelled to issue a letter describing the article as "filled with inaccurate statements and information." Undeterred, the AVMA, a leading horse slaughter proponent; sent the McMurray article to its member veterinarians as proof of the "dire effects of a ban on horse slaughter". According to Steven Long, Vice President of the Greater Houston Horse Council; even in conditions of severe hay and water shortages in Texas, owners do not abandon their horses:

"stocks were depleted by the commercial suppliers, not only did we suffer a hay shortage, we had a frightening water shortage when the stock tanks dried up. Yet I don't know of a single case of an abandoned horse." [21]

According to the USDA, 92.3% of horses sent to slaughter are not in danger of abandonment or neglect. The remaining 7 to 8% may require rescue or have to be placed into one of over 400 horse rescues and sanctuaries in the U.S. or simply be humanely euthanized. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), it is market forces which dictate the horse slaughter industry. At least 5,000 horses have been imported into one of the three foreign-owned slaughter plants in the U.S. since August of 2004. In California, where horse slaughter was banned in 1998, there was no corresponding rise in cruelty and neglect cases. However, horse theft dropped 34% after the ban. There are hundreds of equine rescue and retirement facilities which rescue horses from slaughter. [22] See also War on Animals, section 3 on horse slaughter.

Lobbying against welfare legislation

Breeding dogs in puppy mill

H.R. 3058: Puppy Protection Act, 107th Congress, 2001-02 (defeated)

The Puppy Protection Act S. 1478/HR 3058 (PPA) was an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) [23] which would have protected animals living in laboratories, puppy mills and pet stores. It was introduced by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). [24] The PPA included a "three strikes and you're out" system, limits on litters for breeding females (to recover between litters) and a minimum breeding age of one year for females. It also contained requirements for adequate socialization with other dogs and people, to prevent future behavior problems. The House-passed version of the Farm bill H.R. 2646, did not contain the puppy mill provision. [25] Opposition to this bill included breeder and industry lobbies like the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the AVMA. [26], [27]

Proposition B: Missouri anti-puppy mill legislation

See also Missouri puppy mills & Prop B.

Prop 2 - Humane Farm Bill Act (California), 2008 (passed)

Hens in battery cages

In a predictable focus on the financial concerns of wealthy, government subsidized corporate farms, AVMA expresses "concern over unintended consequences" of providing animals with enough space to turn around in. [28] There is virtually no animal welfare or health information (with the exception of avian flu).

Avian flu has been blamed on filthy, crowded, disease ridden factory farm conditions. [29]

Letter to New York Times from Chief Executive Ron DeHaven

According to Dr. DeHaven:

"While well intended, Proposition 2 is primarily based on emotion and not on a thorough scientific evaluation of all factors that contribute to animal well-being. For example, while Proposition 2 would provide greater freedom of movement, it would very likely compromise other factors necessary to ensure the overall welfare of the animals, especially with regard to protection from disease and injury." [30]

Dr. DeHaven does not elaborate on why sufficient space to turn around in would "compromise other factors". Factory farms or intensive confinement operations are designed to maximize profits by producing meat, eggs and dairy as quickly and cheaply as possible. Animals are heavily dosed with antibiotics and subject to painful mutilations due to unsanitary, crowded conditions. They are given hormones and genetically engineered to produce faster growth. See also Animals raised & hunted for food. Prop 2 provides minimal space requirements for animals. It proposes to prevent farm animal cruelty, ensure health and food safety, support family farmers, protect air and water and make "common sense reforms". [31] To read the text of the initiative for California's Humane Farm Bill Act, see also: [32] Factory farms have been documented and studied for over 30 years. See also meat & dairy industry, sections 4 & 5.

Companion animals

Position on canine ear cropping & tail docking

The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs solely for cosmetic reasons and encourages the elimination of both practices from breeding standards. [33], [34]

Position on debarking

Debarking of dogs involves the surgical removal of tissue from the vocal chords and is illegal in some parts of the US. [35] According to the AVMA:

"devocalization (should) only be performed by a licensed veterinarian as a final alternative after all behavior modification efforts to correct excessive barking have failed." [36]

This is a very general statement, particularly in light of the AVMAs demonstrated opposition towards humane legislation for dogs in institutionalized settings. See also section 2.1. Such dogs are deprived of opportunities for "behavior modifications" such as socialization and exercise, and are most likely to be debarked as a convenience tool. See also AKC, section 5.

Position on feline declawing

According to the AVMA, the declawing of domestic cats "should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents a risk for disease to its owner(s)". [37]

Vaccines, pharmaceuticals & surgeries

Response to the Vaccine Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force

In November of 1996, the AVMA and affiliated members initiated several studies to find out why 160,000 cats each year in the USA develop terminal cancer at their vaccine injection sites. The goals of the Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force (VAFSTF) were to investigate the epidemiology, etiopathogenesis, treatment and prevention of these malignancies and disseminate information to veterinarians and cat owners. [38] Feline, vaccine-induced cancer has been acknowledged by veterinarian associations world wide. However, the response from the AVMA was to "carry on vaccinating until we find out why vaccines are killing cats and which cats are most likely to die." In the United States, they simply vaccinate cats in the tail or leg in order to amputate when the cancer appears. [39] According to the AVMA:

"For most pets, vaccination is effective in preventing future disease. Occasionally, a vaccinated pet may not develop adequate immunity and, although rare, it is possible for these pets to become ill if exposed to the disease. Any treatment carries some risk, but these risks should be weighed against the benefits of protecting your pet from potentially fatal diseases. Most pets respond well to vaccines." [40]

Profitable treatments & vaccine induced diseases

Veterinary practices in the U.S. are essentially "vaccine based". There is also no requirement that veterinarians provide clients with informed consent and disclosure for vaccine health risks. Veterinary medical practices in the U.S. have become customized to burdening clients with an ever increasing vaccine schedule. According to Patricia Monahan Jordan, DVM:

"All of the internal medicine cases we see are well described vaccine induced disease. Vaccination has proved to be a big business for the veterinary medical doctor and insures job security for the needle jockeys. Big Pharma and the vaccine makers also benefit… expensive drugs, possibly surgery and chemotherapy if treated via conventional medicine." Patricia Monahan Jordan, DVM [41]

"Round table musings" on vaccination

According to critics, there is increasing evidence that vaccinations are harmful and that their alleged benefits have not been scientifically proven and/or do not justify their negative affects. [42], [43], [44], [45] According to Patricia Monahan Jordon, DVM:

"In fact, the custom, because that is all this has turned out to be, was the unscientific, unresearched and unwarranted musings of a round table discussion among veterinarian members of the AVMA. We have no information what if any role the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the vaccines may have played in those "musings". ...It is hard not to become cynical, as to why the Veterinary profession and the drug companies do not want the problem of vaccine related illness properly and accurately investigated. Certainly the weaker among their species will become even more vulnerable and are we not witnessing the 'genetic engineering' of their long term destiny, maybe to extinction as we know them today?" [46]

Associations with animal industries & lobbies

Charles River Laboratories

Charles River Laboratories, Inc. is the world's largest supplier of laboratory animals. It has been described as the "General Motors of the laboratory animal industry". [47] As part of its "Humane Care Initiative", the Charles River Prize was established in 1977 to recognize "to recognize distinguished contributions to laboratory animal science and to promote educational growth in that field". Recipients must be members of the AVMA in the field of animal testing. The award is $2,500 and a plaque. [48], [49] Charles River a history of animal welfare violations. See also Charles River, section 2.

American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is an American association of pure bred enthusiasts and a lobbying group for commercial dog breeders. Since 1994, it has sponsored the "AKC Career Achievement Award in Canine Research" to recognize "long-term accomplishments in the field of canine research." The recipient receives a Tiffany sculpture and a cash award of $5,000. [50] The AKC has no specific health standards and lobbies against humane legislation. See also AKC, sections 3 through 5.

Officers and board members

Officers, executive board, delegates & advisory committee. [51]


American Veterinary Medical Association Headquarters
1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360

Phone: 847.925.8070

Governmental Relations Division
1910 Sunderland Place, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1642

Phone: 800.321.1473

web address:

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. About the AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, accessed January 2009
  2. How the AVMA Hurts Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed December 2008
  3. Pregnant Sow Housing, AVMA Policies, June 2005
  4. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Project: Working for Policy Reform for Farm Animals, Animal Welfare Trust, accessed November 2009
  5. Welfare Issues with Gestation Crates for Pregnant Sows, Humane Society of the United States, Sept 2008
  6. Has anyone betrayed more animals than the American Veterinary Medical Association?, United Poultry Concerns, accessed June 2009
  7. Susan C. Kahler Farm visits influence foie gras vote, Delegates decide issue on science, current practices, JAVMA News, September 2005
  8. Wanda Barras Hand and Feeding Implements: Method and Technique, Cagen Bird, 2001
  9. Sibylle Faye Hand-feeding Methods & Tools,, 2006
  10. Foie Gras: How Much Cruelty Can You Swallow?, Stop Force Feeding, October 2009
  11. Inside Foie Gras Farms, Stop Force Feeding, accessed October 2009
  12. Photos by Animal Protection & Rescue League, Stop Force Feeding, accessed October 2009
  13. Foie Gras: How Much Cruelty Can You Swallow?, Stop Force Feeding, October 2009
  14. JVMA AVMA Discourages Use of Conventional Leghold Traps, Sets Guidelines for Humane Trapping, AVMA Press Release, May 2008
  15. JVMA AVMA Discourages Use of Conventional Leghold Traps, Sets Guidelines for Humane Trapping, AVMA Press Release, May 2008
  16. Animals Killed for Sport/Fashion: Trapping/Fur Farms, Delaware Action for Animals, accessed January 2009
  17. Mark Hawthorn Spoiler Alert: 10 Things Animal Exploiters Do Not Want You to Know, Oped News, Feb 2008
  18. JVMA AVMA Discourages Use of Conventional Leghold Traps, Sets Guidelines for Humane Trapping, AVMA Press Release, May 2008
  19. Animals Killed for Sport/Fashion: Trapping/Fur Farms, Delaware Action for Animals, accessed January 2009
  20. The Truth About Fur Trapping, In Defense of Animals, accessed July 2009
  21. John Holland Holland Refutes AVMA Claims,, accessed January 2009
  22. Myths About Horse Slaughter, HSUS, October 2007
  23. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2009
  24. H.R. 3058: Puppy Protection Act,, 2002
  25. U.S. Senate Passes Farm Bill Addressing Animal Fighting, Puppy Mills, Farm Animals and Bears,HSUS, February 2002
  26. WE WON!!! Puppy Protection Act Defeated, Dog Press, April 2002
  27. Letters needed in opposition to the 'Puppy Protection Act', National Animal Interest Alliance Action Alert, accessed January 2009
  28. California Proposition 2, AVMA Issues, accessed January 2009
  29. Haider Rizvi Factory Farms Fueling Avian Flu, Say Researchers, Oneworld US, February 2007
  30. Ron DeHaven NY Times Letter to the Editor, AVMA Issues, October 2008
  31. Prop 2 Passes! It's a Historic Day for Farm Animals in California., Yes on Prop 2, 2008
  32. Joe Ramsey Request for Title and Summary for Proposed Initiative, California's Humane Farm Bill Act, August 2007
  33. Ear Cropping and Tail Docking of Dogs, AVMA Policy, November 2008
  34. Backgrounder: Welfare implications of Dogs: Ear Cropping, AVMA Reference, December 2008
  35. Surgical Debarking, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, January 2003
  36. New AAHA position statement opposes cosmetic ear cropping, tail docking, JAVMA News, December 2003
  37. AVMA policy: Declawing of Domestic Cats, AVMA Issues, April 2009
  38. Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force, AVMA Issues, 2000, 2006
  39. Catherine Driscoll Science of Vaccine Damage,, accessed January 2009
  40. What you should know about vaccinations, AVMA Animal Health, June 2008
  41. Patricia Monahan Jordan, DVM Cancer in our pet population, why is it on the rise?,, accessed January 2009
  42. The Hayward Foundation Study on Vaccines, Vaccination News, February 2002
  43. Chrissie Mason BRCP, PhD They Shoot Horses but Vaccinate Dogs Dog Patch Humane, accessed January 2009
  44. Catherine O'Driscoll Vaccinations, accessed September 2009
  45. Hans Ruesch Rabies vaccination, Whale, accessed January 2009
  46. Patricia Monahan Jordan, DVM Cancer in our pet population: why is it on the rise?,, accessed January 2009
  47. C. Roland Christensen, Business Policy: Text and Cases, January 1982 p. 54, ISBN 9780256014518
  48. JAVMA, AVMA, October 2003
  49. Awards & Scholarships, Charles River, accessed January 2009
  50. AVMA seeks nominations for 2004 awards JAVMA, JAVMA News, October 2003
  51. AVMA Leadership, AVMA Press Room, 2009-2010