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US professor criticises US vets for not speaking out on animal welfare

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US professor criticises US vets for not speaking out on animal welfare

UK must not join “a race to the bottom” in pursuit of a transatlantic trade deal, says expert, in a bid to stimulate debate and encourage open and frank dialogue

US livestock vets don’t speak out sufficiently about animal welfare issues and, as a result, animal welfare is less consistent than it is in the UK, argues Jim Reynolds, professor of large animal medicine and welfare at Western University of Health Sciences in California, in this week's edition of Vet Record.

Speaking at last week’s Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum, he advised the UK to hold on to its position on high welfare standards and not join “a race to the bottom” in pursuit of a transatlantic trade deal.

He was publicly critical of the US profession, saying that in many dairies, animals are largely ignored and their medical needs are not noticed or tended to by vets.

When they do, they are too task-focused (not providing holistic care) and ‘business-bound’ (more concerned with keeping the client than optimising welfare). As a result, they had limited influence, he said, and that had been consistently the case for decades.

But he argues that strong veterinary leadership is important for influencing legislation. “If the veterinarian groups in a state don’t speak out and have a consensus on these issues, then the legislative bodies can’t act.”

He acknowledges that there are many instances where veterinarians and clients interact very well on farms but says by and large, “we have moved more marginally and many many farms in the US don’t use vets in any serious capacity any more.”  

However, Gail Golab, chief veterinary officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which represents more than 93,000 US vets, said the organisation had a long history of developing animal welfare policy and encouraging its implementation.

“Our policies reflect the latest advancements in animal science and research and are designed to help guide our members and the profession,” she told Vet Record.

In a linked editorial, Adele Waters, Editor of Vet Record said Reynolds’ views are timely, as consumer attitudes about meat are changing.

UK consumers are increasingly interested in eating ‘meatless meat’ for health, environmental and animal welfare reasons, she writes, while the demand for vegetarian/vegan options has transformed from a fringe or niche interest to a significant movement with pound signs attached.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) also advocates eating less but better meat.

In its report on sustainable animal agriculture, published in April, it argued that by reducing overall meat consumption but maintaining spend, consumers could support the production of higher quality meat – one that maintained high welfare standards.

“Rather than fear this societal change as something that threatens veterinary work, this can be an opportunity for vets to advise and promote,” writes Waters.

[Ends]

14/06/19

Notes to editors:
News: US professor slams American farm vets for ‘not speaking out’ on welfare
Editorial: Is the end of eating meat in sight?
Journal: Vet Record

Link to Academy of Medical Sciences press release labelling system: https://press.psprings.co.uk/AMSlabels.pdf

Peer-reviewed? No
Evidence type: Opinion
Subjects: US farm vets

Link to news article: https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/vr.l4194
Link to editorial: https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/vr.l4192

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