AVMA Officially Opposes Pet Guardianship

At a meeting of its Executive Board in May, the American Veterinary Medical Association approved a statement opposing efforts to designate pet owners as “guardians.”

The position statement reads,

Ownership vs. Guardianship

The American Veterinary Medical Association promotes the optimal health and well-being of animals. Further, the AVMA recognizes the role of responsible owners in providing for their animals’ care. Any change in terminology describing the relationship between animals and owners does not strengthen this relationship and may, in fact, diminish it. Such changes in terminology may decrease the ability of veterinarians to provide services and, ultimately, result in animal suffering.

Several cities and one state, Rhode Island, have approved laws designating pet owners as “guardians.” Source:

AVMA opposes ‘pet guardianship’. American Veterinary Medical Association, Press Release, July 3, 2003.

Cattle Tether/Pig Gestation Crate Bill Withdrawn in California

In May California Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) withdrew a bill she had introduced to ban the use of gestation crates for pigs and enclosures/tethers for cows.

The bill was supported by a number of animal rights groups, including Farm Sanctuary which successfully pushed a ban on pig gestation crates in Florida. The bill apparently did not have the seven votes it would have needed to clear the Assembly Agriculture Committee.

The bill will likely surface again and if it fails Farm Sanctuary or some other group will likely try to put it on the California ballot as an initiative. Why California? Because, as in Florida, the bill would affect almost no one in the state. As an analysis of the bill commissioned by the Assembly Agriculture Committee noted,

California has roughly 27,000 sows and gilts (or first time pregnant female pigs) being farrowed (per CDFA Resource Guide 2001), which is down from 58,000 in 1993. Nationally, the total number of sows and gilts are estimated at 5.8 million, as of April 1, 2003, per National Pork Producers’ Council. California is a net importer of pork products, producing an estimated one-half of 1% of the state’s demand. California has one large sow-gilt operation, estimated to house between 5000 to 10,000 animals, and another 350 operations with over 50 animals.

The total number of calves slaughtered in California, under federal and state inspection for 2001 totaled 105,000, down from a high of 296,000 in 1996. This is believed to be a very small percentage of the nation-wide total calves slaughtered. It is roughly estimated that California veal processors import well over 98% of their veal from out-of-state producers. There is one known full time veal producer within the state, and his production method is referred to as the European method, which complies with and would be permitted under the definitions of AB 732.

So passing the ban would largely be meaningless except animal rights activists could then portray such legislation as being adopted across the country when they start to push it in states where pig production is more significant. Not a bad strategy.

The committee’s analysis was not impressed by the science either way, though it did note the American Veterinary Medical Association’s statement that “Current scientific literature indicates that gestation stalls meet each of the aforementioned criteria [for acceptable sow housing], provided the appropriate level of stockmanship is administered.” But overall, the analysis concluded,

What science is correct? Scientific references made by the proponents and opponents have used different parts of the same or similar studies to support their positions. The age of some of the studies referenced may no longer be relevant due to the changes in the swine breeds, knowledge gained and improvements made to gestation pens used today versus those used 25 years ago. Most studies have focused on specific health issues and have made assumptions regarding other observations which have been referenced by supporter and opponents to support their conclusions. Studies must have the ability to have a consistent environment or control, and test animals in a fashion that can be evaluated for specific purposes, in order to have a valid conclusion.

Because the level of cattle and pig production in California is so small, the main effect of the bill, in fact, would likely be to shift jobs in these industries into other states,

State law cannot and will not influence the husbandry practices of other states, so sows, gilts and veal calves will likely to continued to be produced using current methods. The impact to our state farm workers will be that fewer year-round employment opportunities will exist.

The full text of the proposed bill can be read here.


Bill Analysis: AB 723. May 1, 2003.

Bill banning crates for pregnant pigs pulled. Larry Mitchell, Chico Enterprise Record, May 9, 2003.

UPC vs. American Veterinary Medical Association on Induced Molting

United Poultry Concerns’ Karen Davis wrote a letter in August blasting the American Veterinary Medical Association’s recent adoption of a resolution endorsing induced molting of hens, but calling for further research into the practice.

Induced molting involves temporarily depriving hens of food which causes them to lose their feathers. The AVMA’s position on induced molting is as follows,

Molting is a natural seasonal event in which birds substantially reduce their feed intake, cease egg production, and replace their plumage. Induced molting is a process that simulates the natural molting events. Induced molting extends the productive life of commercial chicken flocks, improves long-term flock health and performance, and results in substantial reduction in the number of chickens needed to produce the nation’s egg supply. When birds return to full feed, a new plumage develops and the birds resume egg production at a higher rate with better egg quality. Induced molting also has a positive impact on the environment through reduction of waste and natural resources needed for growing more birds for egg production.

The commercial induced molting procedure is carefully monitored and controlled. Acceptable practices include reduction of photoperiod and “day length” dietary restrictions that result in cessation of egg production, but water should not be withdrawn. Intermittent feeding or diets of low nutrient density are recommended, rather than total feed withdrawal. Special attention should be paid to flock health, mortality, and bird weight. Egg quality and safety should be monitored through an egg quality assurance program. The welfare of the bids should be a major consideration in this and any management practice.

The AVMA encourages ongoing research into the effect of various methods of induced molting on the performance and well-being of laying chickens.

The AVMA’s contention about more chickens being required for egg production if induced molting were abandoned is worth elaborating on. The number of additional chickens likely needed would be enormous. An economic analysis of induced molting prepared by Donal Bell of the University of California found that at a minimum, ending induced molting would require egg producers to add at least another 400 million chickens to the production process.

In her letter to the AVMA, Davis writes,

In justifying force molting you have chosen to ignore the pathologic effects of this cruel practice on the birds: naturally molting birds do not degenerate into debilitation and susceptibility to Salmonella enteritis. They do not, in the words of Dr. Ian Duncan, “suffer enormously” as do force-molted hens, and their mortality does not “increase dramatically” as does the mortality of force-molted hens. I live with chickens, and I know that their behavior and condition when molting naturally do not match your assertions.

The AVMA rejected a proposal by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights that would have put the organization on record as opposing induced molting.


An Egg Economics Update Donal Bell, University of California, April 20, 2000.

New position on induced molting wins favor. American Veterinary Medical Association, July 15, 2002.

Open Letter from United Poultry Concerns to The American Veterinary Medical Association. Karen Davis, August 27, 2002.

Farm Bill Turning Into a Rout for Animal Rights Activists

Last week I reported that Sen. Jesse Helms’ office was saying that the provision to exempt birds and rodents from the Animal Welfare Act had been approved for the final version of the Farm Bill that it was attached to. On Friday, the National Animal Interest Alliance reported that the House-Senate conference committee jettisoned the Puppy Protection Act from the final bill.

In a NAIA press release, Patti Strand said,

The PPA was inspired by special interest groups that fundraise using emotional animal welfare issues. As such, it was base don sound bites and depended on evidence from those who aim to restrict all dog breeding. While strongly supporting the elimination of substandard breeding operations and thereby improving animal care, NAIA believes that any legislation designed to do so should be grounded in science and reason as well as good intentions.

NAIA, along with the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club, opposed the bill for being unenforceable and misguided. It would have charged the federal government with making decision on breeding frequency and proper socialization of animals. It also contained a “three strikes” provision that NAIA argues would have actually hampered the USDA’s ability to revoke licenses of noncompliant breeders.

In its press release, NAIA argues that the real problem that needs to be addressed is that of commercial kennels who violate without a license from the USDA and in direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act. According to NAIA,

Current interpretation of the law hinders USDA from tracking pet store puppies back to their suppliers, a situation that hampers the agency’s ability to locate illegally operating kennels. The number one priority for people who want bad kennels closed is to identify the illegal operations that currently duck USDA licensing requirements.

NAIA would also like to see Congress tackle the problem of the increasing sale of puppies from Eastern Europe and other sites abroad. Today there are no regulations that set out any standards for the conditions under which such puppies are raised.


Good Intentions are not Enough! National Animal Interest Alliencae, Press Release, April 26, 2002.