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Members plan to fight HOD defeat of foie gras ban
Washington — Some Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) members plan to fight a House of Delegates (HOD) action to dump a ban on foie gras production in favor of further research.
WASHINGTON — Some Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) members plan to fight a House of Delegates (HOD) action to dump a ban on foie gras production in favor of further research.
The pledge highlights one of two rare moves in which the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) delegates in July defied leadership guidance from the Executive Board, House Advisory Committee and reference committees assigned to review the issues.
Criticized for his role in guiding American Veterinary Medical Foundation finances, Dr. Robert Gordon received his colleagues' overwhelming support with his recount of animal welfare inside a foie gras production facility. Gordon's description of "healthy birds" worked to offset a resolution banning the forced feeding of ducks and geese.
The unanimous decision came down in July, when delegates at the AVMA's annual convention in Minneapolis voted against the foie gras decree submitted by the Executive Board and supported by the AWC. The turning point came with floor statements from three delegates including Dr. Robert Gordon's speech, which incited crowd applause on the House floor. The New Jersey-based small animal practitioner who visited a foie gras farm in New York publicly chided Executive Board members for pushing an initiative they had not researched first hand.
"They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Well, my feeling is that seeing with your eyes and asking questions is worth more," he says. "After being on the premises, my view and my position changed dramatically. Taking the rectal temperature of a cat is more stressful than feeding these birds."
Driving foie gras through AVMA
AWC member Dr. William Folger boils at the analogy. The Houston small animal practitioner promises to push the issue back to the Executive Board for a vote during its meeting in November.
An influential eye: Executive Vice President Dr. Bruce Little holds no voting power on positions concerning foie gras production; his job is to administer policy as head of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
But AWC members first must consent to the motion, which will likely be discussed during the group's October meeting. There's an urgent need to proceed, Folger says. AVMA failing to act against the forced feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers is "a public relations nightmare" that gives activists ammunition, he adds.
"Physically holding an animal to shove a metal pipe down their throat is categorically inhumane," Folger says. "This is one of the easiest questions of animal welfare. It's torture. Period."
While the issue incites emotion, little peer-reviewed science addresses the production practice, which is employed only in a handful of U.S. facilities. Last fall, the AWC reviewed hundreds of pages of research and viewed video of forced feeding practices, says Dr. Gail Golab, assistant director of the AVMA Education and Research Division. Should the topic go before the Executive Board, a few outcomes are likely, including further review, she adds.
Faced with a foie gras debate, the board can defer the issue back to the AWC for additional analysis or rule on the initiative. Board members also can postpone the issue for later meeting to allow time for further examination.
It's rare for the board to approve a position statement in direct contrast with a recent HOD decision. While AVMA positions are derived from both bodies, the two usually work cooperatively, Golab says.
"I would be surprised if there was a strong feeling by the House that theExecutive Board would go against that," she says. "If they do, delegates will have a chance to review that decision when it meets next July. It's part of the checks and balances system."
Pledge to pressure
Dr. Holly Cheever, spokeswoman for the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, vows "to not let the issue drop." In addition to the Executive Board's resolution, delegates also voted down a similar foie gras decree brought by activists. While she's accustomed to AVMA's apparent reluctance to speak out on production practices, she's "surprised" the Executive Board's initiative failed considering its widespread support.
"I am so disappointed because this had the backing of the Executive Board, the Animal Welfare Committee, the reference committee and the House Advisory Committee," she says. "What this means is we can't stop. We're already working on another resolution for next July."