AVMA President Dr. Ted Cohn today sent a letter to Reuters’ reporters regarding their special report calling into question the integrity of veterinarians working in food animal medicine, industry and academia. Reuters is a wire service which supplies content to media outlets around the country. They do not have a “Letters to the Editor” section. We encourage you to watch your local media sources for the story and sharing your thoughts directly with that source. Here is the content of the letter:
Dear Mr. Duff and Ms. Dwyer:
Your article “Vets face conflicting loyalties to animals, farmers – and drug firms” clearly questions the integrity of doctors of veterinary medicine and their motives. As the largest organization representing America’s veterinarians, we take exception to the implication that veterinary professionals, who have committed their lives to the health and well-being of animals, could be so easily swayed by financial motives.
We take special exception to your impugning the character and professionalism of our food-supply veterinarians, who have the dual responsibility of ensuring not only production animals’ health and welfare, but also protecting the world’s food supply to ensure that people around the globe can rely on safe and wholesome food products.
Like every business, veterinarians must make a profit to stay in business. But to suggest that a profit motive would compromise our professional judgment without any supporting evidence is irresponsible. Veterinarians work tirelessly to earn the trust and respect of food animal producers, government agencies, educators, industry and the public. There is no evidence to suggest that a veterinarian’s prime motivation is anything other than to do what is in the best interest of their patients and clients.
Veterinary medicine is a small profession. Often times veterinarians called upon by professional associations, government, and industry groups for their expertise may serve various roles in those groups specifically because of their level of knowledge and training. With 100,000 veterinarians, and only about 11,000 working in food animal production, grants for scientific research, STEM programs, and continuing education lectures provide opportunities for advancement in human and animal health.
Corporate sponsorship is not unique to veterinary medicine. Like most Americans, veterinarians are used to seeing corporate logos from the time they enter grade school. But the very nature of veterinary education prompts them to question what is seen in front of them and to look deeper. It is no different when they are deciding the best course of treatment for an animal.
The American Veterinary Medical Association certainly supports full disclosure of any potential conflicts of interest. As stated in the article, such admissions are called for in the AVMA’s Code of Ethics, accordingly, we would be happy to work with Rep. Slaughter or any federal officials in the drafting of legislation designed to increase transparency and eliminate any perceptions of impropriety.