While the public associates veterinarians with cats and dogs, as a job for animal lovers, veterinary medicine is also deeply embedded in the cruel factory farm system. Ventilation shutdown represents the most recent example of long-simmering tensions over veterinary medicine’s values.
MARINA BOLOTNIKOVA: The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the premier organization that represents most of America’s 121,000 veterinarians, might not seem like an obvious target for protests. But at the organization’s annual convention last summer, disruptions were anticipated — animal activists had been gearing up to protest the AVMA for months. Outside the conference in downtown Philadelphia, they unfurled an enormous banner that read, “TELL AVMA: STOP ROASTING ANIMALS ALIVE.”
The protesters were referring to the AVMA’s backing of a method of mass culling animals on factory farms known as “ventilation shutdown plus.” It involves sealing off the animals’ housing and turning up the heat to lethal temperatures so that they die of heatstroke over the course of hours, like a dog dying in a hot car. The method, known as VSD+ for short, was used widely by the poultry and egg industries to cull tens of millions of chickens and turkeys during this past year’s bird flu epidemic.
It is also widely thought to be the most cruel, distressing option for exterminating animals — a practice that opponents say amounts to essentially cooking animals to death.
Yet it continues to be commonly deployed, in part because of AVMA policy. While the organization says ventilation shutdown alone, without the addition of extra heat or carbon dioxide, is not recommended, it deems VSD+ “permitted in constrained circumstances” if more preferred methods aren’t available. This finding became the basis for the US Department of Agriculture’s bird flu containment policy, allowing VSD+ to rapidly become a meat industry default…
The controversy over ventilation shutdown represents the most recent, high-profile example of long-simmering tensions over veterinary medicine’s values. While the public associates veterinarians with cats and dogs, imagining it as a job for animal lovers, veterinary medicine is also deeply embedded in the factory farm system. Veterinarians provide the research, expertise, and scientific and moral authority that allows the US to raise nearly 10 billion land animals in intensive confinement every year.
“At present, the official stance of the veterinary profession in the US often serves to legitimize practices that cause extreme, prolonged pain and suffering on a massive scale, such as intensive confinement and the use of heatstroke as a method of mass on-farm killing,” Reyes-Illg said in an email. “The veterinary profession helps shield such practices from questioning and criticism.” But a new generation of veterinarians is challenging what they see as the “corporate capture” of their profession, as vet Crystal Heath put it, by the meat industry and other sectors that kill animals for profit.
If they’re successful, they argue, they could help topple a crucial pillar of support for factory farming. While the AVMA doesn’t control what methods meat producers choose to use, the veterinary profession’s positions inform legislation and rule-making around how animals are allowed to be treated. The USDA’s rules on how to kill poultry birds due to avian flu, for example, are taken directly from AVMA guidelines. SOURCE…