AVMA delegates to debate microchip privacy, foie-gras issue

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Washington - Privacy of animal-registration database information and feeding methods to produce foie gras comprise the official list of resolutions to be addressed at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates (HOD) annual meeting, July 14.

WASHINGTON — Privacy of animal-registration database information and feeding methods to produce foie gras comprise the official list of resolutions to be addressed at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates (HOD) annual meeting, July 14.

A three-item agenda — two resolutions involving animal microchips and one opposing the way foie gras is made — can expand during the meeting if attendees introduce resolutions on the floor.

Several state veterinary medical associations, including those from California and New Jersey, say no major issues will surface on-site, although last-minute additions are never ruled out.

Seeking privacy

The issue of animal-microchip database information remaining off-limits for marketing or advertising efforts is being argued in two proposed regulations HOD will consider. Both support microchips to reunite animals and owners, but differ on which owners should have their registration information protected.

When registering personal information in a microchip database, all animal owners have an expectation of privacy, a violation of which could lead fewer people to register for microchips, decreasing the effectiveness of the practice, states the first resolution, backed by Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, Florida, Maine, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakota VMAs.

An alternate resolution agrees, but only in respect to companion-animal owners. The National Animal Identification System, used by livestock producers and animal-health officials, should not be protected, in order to ensure quick and effective response to animal-health events, says the resolution, submitted by the AVMA Executive Board.

The foie-gras debate

In opposition to the force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras, HOD will evaluate a fourth-round attempt resolution to outlaw the practice.

Force-feeding ducks three times daily causes their liver to expand up to 12 times its normal size, creating foie gras, resolution proponents contend. Citing an 89-page report by the European Union Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare, the resolution concludes that "force-feeding, as currently practiced, is detrimental to the welfare of the birds." Additionally, "mortality can be very high, largely as a consequence of failure of liver function...steatosis and other effects of force-feeding are lethal when the procedures are continued."

The issue has long been a subject for debate, with animal-welfare advocates arguing the cruelty of the process. In addition to metabolic disease, the list of potential health problems is long, said Dr. Robert E. Schmidt, a board-certified pathologist, in sworn testimony.

AVMA has refused to issue an opposing view of the practice, categorized as obscure and blown out of proportion in the past. In an applauded speech at the 2005 HOD meeting, delegate Dr. Robert Gordon spoke against a proposed bill to ban the practice, saying "taking the rectal temperature of a cat is more stressful than feeding these birds."

Foie gras opponents remain undeterred, and hope for success in their current attempt at approval. "We believe this resolution is in keeping with the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, which state, 'Veterinarians should first consider the needs of the patient: to relieve disease, suffering or disability while minimizing pain or fear," concludes the resolution.

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