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Executive Board sinks HSUS joint venture
Schaumburg, Ill. - The American Veterinary Medical Association wants no part of any signed pact with the Human Society of the United States - even when endorsing mutually supported initiatives.
SCHAUMBURG, ILL. — The American Veterinary Medical Association wants no part of any signed pact with the Human Society of the United States — even when endorsing mutually supported initiatives.
The unanimous decision came during AVMA's Executive Board meeting in April, when group leaders nixed plans to send Congress a joint letter pushing issues ranging from a stance against animal fighting to promoting animal welfare in the United States.
The deal breaker: HSUS' support of an Arizona ballot initiative to ban sow gestation stalls, a move that crosses many allied veterinarians. Although HSUS commands a powerful lobbying force in Washington, AVMA ended its budding partnership with the $100-million association in response to concern from food animal counterparts, Executive Board Chairman Dr. Bud Hertzog says.
"HSUS is helping underwrite the cost of the Arizona swine referendum, so I think there was reluctance on part of the majority of the board to sign any statement with them," he says. "I'm sure there will be individual issues we can work with them on, but as far as having any joint statement, I don't think that's a possibility."
Time to adjust
Hertzog's stance is 180 degrees from where AVMA leaders sat in February, following a meeting with HSUS President Wayne Pacelle in the group's Washington offices. At the time, AVMA President Henry Childers was forging a relationship with the group, known for its ties to welfare activism. Childers, who believes in creating coalitions to move common agendas, expresses disappointment the partnership wasn't embraced by AVMA's more conservative members.
"It's very important that we form these coalitions, but it made some members angry and feeling hostile, especially in food animal medicine," he says. "I think you have to give these things time. As far as sending a bill to Congress together, the profession does not feel right about it, and it could do more harm than good if you push these things."
On the unity table were several initiatives, including an anti-animal fighting bill, a measure to add a bittering agent to antifreeze, legislation to protect captive primates and support for the Pet Animal Welfare Statute as well as the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act.
Childers reports the two groups talked about co-sponsoring bills to Congress. Considering HSUS' influence and capital, Pacelle finds the Executive Board's decision "mind boggling."
"We could have done a lot of good things together if we'd had just agreed to disagree on the contentious issues," he says. "I'm very disappointed that it's ended this way. It doesn't look like HSUS and AVMA will be working together in this capacity in the future."
Taking a distance approach
It was the only right decision AVMA could make, says Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
"You can't send a message to Congress showing unity with HSUS and then hold them at arm's length on issues where we don't agree," he says. "You don't want to send the message that HSUS has any role in policy-making at AVMA."