SACRAMENTO, CALIF.-The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) endorses eight animal welfare guidelines designed to direct the group's position on controversial matters, such as cat declaws, tail docking and the production of foie gras.
SACRAMENTO, CALIF.—The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) endorses eight animal welfare guidelines designed to direct the group's position on controversial matters, such as cat declaws, tail docking and the production of foie gras.
The doctrine, entitled "Eight Principles of Animal Care and Use" was released days before the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Animal Welfare Week, scheduled for early November. Among its charges, the principles identify animals as "sentient beings with wants and needs," calls for "respect from individuals and society" and asks veterinarians and owners to ensure "animals reproduce responsibly." (See Table 1.)
CVMA President Dr. Jon Klingborg acknowledges that while some of the principles might seem unconventional, they're far from radical. The document merely pushes the profession to re-emerge as the credible authority on animal welfare, he says, but in some circles, reaction has been stiff.
"I think fundamentally we're talking about how animals should be treated," he says. "We don't think there is troublesome language in here, and yet I've been in at least one conversation where someone was concerned we were giving the animal rights movement ammunition with this document. I think it's critical that the word 'rights' does not appear in the principles. What we're talking about is how animals should be cared for."
The animal care issue has attracted plenty of debate in California. The state, a hotbed for animal activism, has been besieged in recent years with legislation to ban cat declawing and ear cropping, as well as repeated attempts to replace the term owner with guardian among municipalities. In October, Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger signed a bill banning foie gras production in the state, just weeks after the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) admitted the profession lacks information on the industry's production practices and assigned a task force to research the issue.
Lawmakers aren't asking veterinarians to weigh in on welfare, Klingborg says.
"Until now, the profession has not had a specific tool for evaluating an animal welfare issue and determining a clear and consistent stance," he says. "The California Veterinary Medical Association sought to create a set of guidelines or principles that act as a framework to help us reach consistent and appropriate decisions on issues of animal welfare."
But much of what CVMA suggests already exists in the AVMA's welfare policies, says Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director of the AVMA's Communications Division.
"I think the general statements on animal welfare represent our philosophical statements on the issues," she says. "From what I have looked at so far, there's nothing that new."
Klingborg disagrees. "AVMA has pages and pages of animal welfare information, but in the end, they don't take a stance. They say science will make the ultimate decision on welfare. We're saying there's more to animal welfare than live births counts and weight. This is the first time the profession has stood up to say, 'Yes, this is how animals should be treated'."
At presstime, the principles had not been released to CVMA's 5,600-plus members. The document is designed to act as a guide for CVMA policies, Klingborg says.
Elective procedures such as cat declaws and ear cropping likely will be run through the principles in the near future, he adds. n