‘A Powerful Case for Doing the Right Thing’

In case you haven’t already seen it, on April 28 the AVMA released a strong statement (in writing and in video) condemning the abuses documented in undercover video on a cattle ranch in Texas. As we said in the statement, “The frequency with which these videos appear prohibits us from considering them as isolated incidents or accepting the excuse that the producers were unaware of the abuses taking place on their property. We’re seeing this happen much too often, and it’s time we take a stronger stance against such abuse. The bottom line is that we must have zero tolerance for these abuses, isolated or otherwise.”

As expected, this statement has gotten a lot of attention, and most of the responses we’ve received have been very positive.  Here are a few examples:

“I have just read your statement and heard your video in response to the Mercy For Animals video.  I have goosebumps – you made a powerful case for doing the right thing…”

“I was really happy to see your latest response to the abuses at the E6 ranch. I think the AVMA has been perceived as silent on these issues for too long, and the much stronger letter and video are much appreciated…”

“Well done Ron (and Gail) that’s exactly where the veterinary profession (my profession) should be. Protection of animals being at the forefront of our ethos…”

“Your statement condemning calf abuse on a Texas farm, as uncovered by Mercy for Animals, was a superb condemnation of the abusive tactic depicted therein. What made it even more compelling was the fact that you clearly recognized–and asked our colleagues to do so, too—that this is not an isolated incident. To date, this is the strongest statement that the AVMA has ever issued on an incident of cruel treatment of food animals.”

“Just wanted to say how great I thought the video and press release were on the E6 situation. I love how AVMA is taking a strong stand and underscoring ‘zero tolerance.’ I thought it was all really well done.”

We’d like to know what you think – please feel free to comment below.

52 thoughts on “‘A Powerful Case for Doing the Right Thing’

  1. @Laura Knipfer, DVM
    Dr. Knipfer, the following was just posted on the Texas Veterinary Medical Association’s Facebook page:
    TVMA has contacted the County Sheriff’s Office and has been informed that they are currently investigating the matter of the cruelly treated horses in Presidio. They could not provide additional information about the matter due to the inability to comment on an ongoing investigation but have indicated that the horses are currently being fed and watered. Local media is reporting that the horses were trucked into Presidio from different areas around the United States and were bound for slaughter in Mexico. They are also reporting that many of the horses came into the facility in extremely poor condition. We will continue to investigate this matter.

  2. As an active horse rescuer, the conditions at Unadilla, Sugarcreek and New Holland are deplorable. Dead and dying horses are being trampled. Crippled and blind horses, foals, drafts, etc. all being crammed into pens together like sardines, onto trucks for shipment all in plain view and supposedly with a vet on the grounds to do health certificates and coggins for the ones that sell privately. What exactly does the AVMA intend to do to improve these conditions and hold these veterinarians accountable if they see and do nothing? It’s one thing to SAY a stronger stance is being taken, but something quite different to actually DO something about it.

  3. What about the MT incidence where 200 plus goats were locked in barn to starve? How did the AVMA get involved and support this abuse?

  4. Any person or organization that does not condemn the abuses depicted in that video will have absolutely no credibility with the public with regard to his/her/its concern for animal welfare. I was glad to see the AVMA not only condemn the abuse but do so in a way that did not reflect the wishiwashiness sometimes seen in the past. If the ag industry wishes to maintain its own credibility on this issue, it must not only condemn such abuses but work to prevent them — and work against such initiatives as the anti-video ones, that appear to support such abuse by helping to hide it. What are they thinking?!

  5. SADLY AND Too often the AVMA has not been on the foreground of animal well being.
    I hope this issue will be a turning point so that the AVMA vigorously and clearly stands for animal welfare now and in the future with consistency.

  6. I am also glad the AVMA has taken a stand on this issue. The most important portion of the statement in my opinion is that more veterinarians need to be a part of production agriculture. Many large agricultural production outfits are illegally able to buy drugs without a veterinary client patient relationship and this eliminates the need for veterinary supervision and is part of the reason these kinds of episodes occur. The veterinarian is the only one that has taken an oath to promote animal welfare and eliminate suffering. The key to prevention of this type of episode is veterinary involvement and training of production staff. I would encourage everyone to visit the link Dr Lori Teller posted in her comments on this page by Dr. Jim Humphries from Veterinary News Network. Dr. Humphries has some real world ideas to help prevent further episodes like this one. I believe these episodes are rare in production agriculture and most farmers and ranchers are humane and have the animal’s best interest at heart. However, we have to work to prevent any future episodes of cruelty from occurring.

  7. @Carl Welti
    C’mon – this forum is not about bulldogs – stick to topic – I actually agree with you on the bulldog issue – breeding animals that cannot breathe is inhumane. But that is for another discussion. Just stick with the AVMA finally doing something good for animal welfare and go with that.

  8. FINALLY !!!!! Thank your for finally taking a stand on this issue! Now enforce it so we can make some progress.

  9. Is the AVMA going to rally against the Iowa bill to make undercover videos of animal abuse at production farms and slaughterhouses illegal? Of course, if these same production farms and slaughterhouses would allow 24 access to humane organizations and news reporters there wouldn’t be a need for undercover videos. The public has a right to know, if they want to, how their food is being produced. Slaughter of animals for human or animal consumption must be humane; the animals lives are sacrificed, there is no valid reason to allow suffering before and/or during their sacrifice. As for economic concerns, it is almost always the large production farms or the high volume slaughterhouses where the highest number of disease problems occur, leading to economic loss. It is somewhat understandable that some people involved in mass production and slaughter of animals may lose their compassion for the animals, but they should no longer have a job if they can’t perform their tasks humanely.

  10. I commend the AVMA and Dr. DeHaven for the strong comments they made regarding the E6 debacle. Felony criminal charges have been filed in the case. This is the first step in the right direction towards ensuring veterinarians are the expert voice in the humane care of our food animals. AABP and VNN (http://youtu.be/FrXuw8Bc8OU) also made some excellent comments, and I hope the AVMA will now take the next step and promote humane handling techniques to the public and and education of ranch staff. Thank you for moving forward with this!

  11. Thank you for taking a strong stance on animal abuse of any kind. AVMA’s position on issues is highly regarded among both professional and private individuals. In addition, please be careful about some of these videos – there are several incidents in which these videos have been staged and situations where people have admitted under oath that they were paid to create shocking footage. These people have even been linked to crimes of domestic violence and child abuse and are dangerous to both animals and society. Often there is another agenda behind the release of these videos by their creators or funders, and we would be naive as a profession to ignore that.

  12. when thinking of farm animals and abuse/cuelty, please RE-CONSIDER horse slaughter. due to the inability of people to slaugher horses (which actually is NOT cruel), they are now just turning them loose, or leaving them in a dry lot to starve to death. Some are being hit by cars & killed or slowly die. Tell me this is not cruel!!

  13. Finally the AVMA is taking steps to join the 21st century. People in this country have become much more aware of how and where their food comes from. We all need to step up to the plate, create new ways of creating our food supply needs safely and HUMANELY. We have been silent too long!!!!!!!!
    Karen Bennett, DVM Univ TN 1987

  14. I have contemplated after 32 years as an AVMA member discontinuing because I have been concerned that AVMA is not doing enough to minimize suffering of animals. In particular the organization has been less than assertive about addressing factory farming practices, like battery cages for chickens, veal calf and production sow confinement. Not only are these practices inhumane, they promote disease (Salmonella more common in battery cage establishments), and contribute to water quality degredation. The more you do for humane treatment of animals the more likely I am to remain an AVMA member. Please rise above the politics and lobbyists and honor the tenets of our profession.

  15. I also agree that the AVMA statement regarding this video was a step in the right direction for AVMA. Veterinarians need to speak strongly for humane treatment of all animals. We need to be part of the solution so that these episodes do not continue to occur.
    But it is much easier to criticize the industry than to work for its improvement. Currently, we do not have a safe, reliable, economical means of euthanizing large numbers of culled calves. In fact mass euthanasia of many species creates big problems, especially if the meat is to be used for human consumption. Until we put our heads together to solve that issue, progress will be elusive.

  16. Great to see AVMA taking a stand and getting a response out to the press. The AVMA must be more proactive in educating the public on matters such as these. The general public has little understanding of how our foods are produced. Food animal producers care about their animals. Together, veterinarians and food animal producers work together to ensure humane animal care.

  17. I am surprised that there has been so little notice paid to the Indiana proposal to allow people to trap coyotes and foxes then put them in pens to be mauled to death by dogs. A training sport supported by the Indiana government stuns me. It is illegal in Indiana for a child to raise a baby bird or baby rabbit as I did many years ago as a child but the brutal destruction of these animal is actually being considered for approval.

  18. The AVMA’s purported “no tolerance” stand is, of course, a self-serving ploy to deflect all the many inactions it has not taken for real change and actual progress with respect to animal welfare issues. There is not a single argument whether it be factory farming conditions to declawing and tail docking that the AVMA comes down on the side of the 4 legged beast. This sickens me. The hypocrisy of the whole attempt to paint itself on the “right side” is stunning. True change is coming, however the AVMA will not lead that process. It will be dragged kicking and screaming like a cow to slaughter.

  19. Thank you Dr. DeHaven and AVMA for finally making a strong statement against the abuse of farm animals. I have worked with Mercy for Animals for two years, reviewing their undercover footage and providing my veterinary opinion on the welfare of the animals captured on it. The videos are not staged. They are not scripted, enacted, or set up. The videographer simply records what he sees, and I have access to the entire video record, if I want to see it before I finalize my opinion. It is often horrific. I have had veterinarians ask me how I can stand to watch the videos, and as brutal as it often is, I feel someone has to bear witness to the animal suffering and speak up. Animal cruelty is indefensible and is occurring far too frequently on our farms.

  20. unfortunately i do not think that the avma does nearly enough for these poor animals.. we took an oath and all pay dues to a membership that in fact does very little to help these poor animals.. every factory farm is reeling hand over foot in atrocities!! all factory farms represent a cruel brutal unnatural life for these animals for a multitude of reasons that is obvious.. it is one thing for the avma to say ‘zero tolerance’ and another thing to take an actual stance and do something.. i am disgusted by the avma and resent the fact that i have to pay dues to them …. something, alot of things have to change in a mjor way, and quick!!!

  21. I have to disagree with the veterinarian that suggested that these videos were made by extremists. What? What difference does it make WHO made these videos? They are incriminating, period. And while they’re definitely not representative of the entire industry – let’s stop making excuses for the deplorable human beings that cause this pain to any animal whatsover, extremist or not.

  22. I am so outraged, after seeing only 10 seconds of this video. I am also deeply grateful for the AVMA zero tolerance stance, and I pray with all my conviction that the perpetrators of these atrocities are prosecuted to the fullest extent – which wouldn’t even suffice. Shame on them.

  23. Thank you for recognizing that it is our duty as veterinarians to advocate for ALL animals, not just the ones with owners with big wallets. It is high time that we address the conditions under which our meat is produced and squarely position ourselves in the corner of these animals. The financial interests of a few veterinarians should not keep us as an organization from taking a firm stand against abuse of all animals, food or companion (or laboratory)!

  24. I am proud of the AVMA for taking this stance. If veterinarians speak out, people will listen.

  25. Of course we should voice our concern about mistreatment of animals, but I believe the animal production industry is being maligned in the press, on TV, and elsewhere because there is an underlying movement to destroy meat and animal product consumption. There are reports that some of these videos of cruelty to animals have been scripted and enacted by the same organizations that call for them to stop. Maybe we ought to pay more attention to supporting those who have used our services and relied on our guidance with proper animal care.

  26. I don’t like the term zero tolerance. It has led to some really stupid stuff at our schools. Like zero toerance for weapons at school means a 3rd grader gets kicked out for having a butter knife.

  27. I am so pleased that the AVMA is finally taking a strong stance against animal abuse. As a veterinary community we have to stand together and condemn these abusive acts and actively participate in the changes that need to occur.

  28. I agree with others who left comments that a stronger stand from AVMA on all sorts of welfare and cruelty issues is long overdue. But AVMA must be consistent as others are pointing out – how can you be FOR banning undercover videos and then use those same type of videos to take a stand against the animal abuse they uncover?
    What about puppy mills? Another long neglected topic and yet these dogs live in horrible conditions and come out permanently emotionally and behaviorally damaged.
    As a certified applied animal behaviorist, I particularly am appreciative of the mention of Dr. Temple Grandin’s work – a non-veterinarian. Veterinarians should be working with their colleagues in related fields who have much to contribute to helping address welfare, cruelty and well being issues. Please don’t go from taking a back-seat on some of these issues to taking the position that only veterinarians should be front and center – addressing these issues should be a cooperative endeavor.

  29. Carl Welti, Stephen Miller and Dr. David Offutt seem to share the hesitancy I feel about charging off in all directions, waving the Zero Tolerance banner.

    Mercy, kindness, humaneness toward the animals are what all of us want. The aims of PETA and HSUS might include, but are definitely not entirely, these. Please be cautious in your choice of allies.

    If there is a lot of abuse going on, even under current laws, it is unfortunate that a concerted attempt to stop it will mean more bureaucrats, regulations, inspectors, litigation, fines, interference, all leading to more and more expensive meat.

  30. A “critically important conversation” — a “conversation” of any kind — generally involves two viewpoints.

    Did you not receive any negative comments at all that could be shared?

  31. I recently had a case clearly an abuse case. How can you initiate a case of abuse? We started with the humane society, then the sheriff and ended up with the state patrol. Nobody wanted to persue due to lack of consequences and was recomended personally to get a lawyer and persue it myself.

  32. This video is appalling, it places a huge black eye on all of animal agriculture and the veterinary profession. No animal should ever have to be treated this way. There is a tremendous majority of cattle producers and veterinarians that work very hard to assure humane and best possible treatment of their animals up to and including the harvest process. This video suggests that all cattle producers are bad which is untrue. It states that everyone should become vegetarian. The video proceeds to show dehorning and the housing of the calves condeming these as well. As a profession we have a problem in that there are certain husbandry practices which are necessary and involve some pain. As both a producer and veterinarian I go out of my way to assure the comfort and quality of life and conditions for my animals. The video suggests that it is all for the money. Anyone who is actually in cattle production knows there is not a lot of money to be made in cattle and there are a thousand ways to make money that are a lot less work. Do not forget that this video was created by extremists.

  33. Thank you for speaking out against these horrible abuses. Please continue to advocate for the humane care of all animals, and to take a leadership role in animal welfare.

  34. Until we acknowledge ALL animals as equally sentient and susceptible to pain and suffering, these abuses will continue. It is the responsibility of veterinarians to advocate for humane treatment, pain management, and elimination of suffering that includes but is not limited to analgesia for neutering of ALL animals, analgesia for dental extractions of ALL animals, and analgesia for dehorning of ALL animals. Once veterinarians and large animal lay people institute these provisions, it will force a shift in mindset that these animals deserve as much care because they suffer the same pain as ALL animals.
    While volunteering at a feral cat S/N clinic recently, I was shocked to hear a volunteering MD comment that he had seen pig neuters performed by the vet without any anlgesia because, according to the vet, “they didn’t really feel it anyway”!!!!!! We can’t elevate our profession or the animals on whom we practice medicine with this medieval/barbaric mindset. Now that we know better, we can definitely do better!
    Let’s pave the way!

  35. I am happy to see the AVMA is taking a stronger stand against animal cruelty. I agree that this is long overdue. The proposed ban on undercover videos seems unconstitutional. Those who support it must have something to hide from the public, otherwise they wouldn’t be so concerned about it…

  36. I am in favor of a stronger stance by the AVMA and individual veterinarians against the abuse of food and/or companion animals. I particularly appreciate the statement that complicit veterinarians will be held accountable – words without action are too weak a response. For veterinarians to not be in the forefront to protect animal welfare weakens the moral standing of the entire profession.

  37. The frequency with which these videos appear prohibits us from considering them as isolated incidents or accepting the excuse that the producers were unaware of the abuses taking place on their property. We’re seeing this happen much too often, and it’s time we take a stronger stance against such abuse. The bottom line is that we must have zero tolerance for these abuses, isolated or otherwise.” I applaud AVMA for this statement. We, the veterinary community, have a responsibility to prevent animal abuse and cruelty in our society. The public believes if we as veterinarians don’t take a stand, it must not be “that bad”. Our attitude sets the tone for what animal abuse will be tolerated and what will not.

  38. Kudos to the AVMA for the zero tolerance policy concerning animal abuse! This is long overdue. As veterinarians we have a moral and ethical obligation to look after the welfare and humane treatment of ALL animals, regardless of their intended purpose. Although it is important to have all the facts and determine the legitimacy of undercover videos, the mere fact that these videos exist should be a call to action from those with the authority to change these abhorrent practices. If this means that it costs more for meat then maybe we will just have to buy less alcohol, cigarettes or become vegetarians ;)

  39. I second all who ask what action will follow the statement, particularly given that undercover videos may become illegal as was recently announced in a AVMA Smart Brief letter:

    Several states consider laws to prevent undercover farm films Agricultural interests in several states have pushed for proposed legislation to prevent animal rights groups such as Mercy for Animals from creating and distributing secretly taped footage of conditions on farms and food production facilities. Both houses of the Iowa Legislature have approved such a measure, and similar bills are under consideration in Minnesota and Florida.

  40. The AVMA must take action against the proposed laws banning undercover investigations. Under the laws proposed in Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota, undercover investigators would be prosecuted for documenting cruel and unsafe practices–the animal abusers would have somehow been made the victims. State lawmakers and the AVMA must stand up for the public interest and not the special interests, especially when it concerns the food we eat.

  41. I agree animal abuse is cowardly and hateful. I would hope before implementing “no tolerance” policies that we as a body would want to be in possession of “ALL” the facts prior to making blanket statements and policies that make food animal production costs sky rocket with no realistic way of recovering the costs. Please include someone who has actually “farmed” for a living before going off the deep end with rules and regulations.

    I urge the AVMA to not become a mouth piece for PETA and other animal rights groups whose sole purpose is to make food animal production not feasible due to animal welfare costs.

  42. I applaud the AVMAs efforts on animal abuse. However, I would be interested in your comments on the following questions. What is the AVMAs stance on undercover video? How is a determination made whether a particular video is legitimate? How do they determine if the location is that which is stated by the person or persons filming the video? It seems that facts and information should be verified before making accusations or taking a stance. There is much litigation on the legality and use of undercover videos. Is this an infringement on human rights allowing video taping without the owners consent? I feel that more investigation into the method of which this “evidence” is being collected, processed and its validity should be determined.

  43. I have long been disappointed in a perceived lack of concern from the AVMA for the well-being of farm animals and a “blind eye” toward their treatment and care. I am ecstatic that the leaders of the veterinary community/profession are stepping up to the plate and showing the world that the oath we take at graduation means something and is not empty words.
    These animals depend on us to speak up for them and their humane treatment and necessary care. It is shameful that lay people have led the way with undercover filming and infiltration of these places that treat animals so unkindly. It is NOT necessary to be so unkind…meat and products can be provided for humans with humane treatmetn of animals.
    Thanks again.

  44. I know that animal welfare is important but why the AVMA’s stance on ear cropping and tail docking? Does the AMA think that plastic (cosmetic) surgery in people is causing undue pain and suffering? If these procedures are done by veterinarians and pain medications are perscribed like any other surgery are they not as safe. Now the breeders are going to find others to do their surgeries for them or we end up with a bunch of ugly dogs. Are we bowing to the animal rights groups because they are loud or do we really think we are harming the animals? Why don’t we get on the Bulldog breeders about breeding dogs that can’t breath. That is inhumane. Are we going to report all bulldog owners who don’t get the elongated soft pallet and stenotic nares surgery done?

  45. I could not agree more with the statement that a press release is no longer an adequate response to animal abuse. I am glad to see that the AVMA is taking a stronger stance and targeting those responsible for the abuse rather than those bringing it to light. I truly hope this strong statement will be followed by strong action, and that this “zero tolerance” policy becomes something real and enforceable.

  46. Great – now how about we actually DO something like lobbying for more oversight of these facilities or much stiffer punishements. Simply speaking out isn’t going to change anything.

  47. I am so grateful and finally proud of the AVMA for finally taking a strong and meaningful stance against such animal abuse and cruelty. We must be at the forefront on this issue.

  48. I applaud the AVMA for taking such a strong stand on the dairy calf abuse. As a veterinarian who reviewed this footage prior to its release, I was appalled by the blatant cruelty and disregard for these calves. Please continue to speak out against farm animal abuse – you have thousands of your colleagues behind you.

  49. Thank you for taking a stand on this issue. Your position reflects thought and compassion.