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Advancing Animal Welfare Standards within the Veterinary Profession

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Veterinarians are widely considered to be experts on animal welfare. However, our survey of the positions of five of the world’s leading veterinary associations on five important animal use practices revealed that their positions frequently lagged behind those of the general public. These practices were the close confinement of laying hens in ‘battery cages,’ of pregnant sows in gestation crates, of veal calves in small crates, the cosmetic tail-docking of dogs, and the use of animals in scientific research and education.

To further examine the attitudes of veterinarians towards animal welfare, we ascertained the positions of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) on a broad range of practices commonly considered to result in poor welfare. With a veterinary membership in excess of 72,000 by 2005—the largest of any veterinary association—and claiming to act as “a collective voice for its membership and for the profession,” the AVMA is ideally suited to this purpose. While the AVMA did not support all practices resulting in poor welfare, it did support a substantial number of them, in some cases contrary to strong scientific evidence.

Such poor positions of veterinarians on animal welfare issues are largely attributable to deficiencies in veterinary education. Although humane alternatives are being introduced, harmful animal use in surgical and preclinical training remains common in veterinary courses worldwide, and although animal welfare and bioethics courses are also being introduced, these remain minimal in most veterinary curricula. Additional causes may include deficiencies in the selection of veterinary students, and misrepresentation of the opinions of veterinarians by their professional associations.

Solutions could include consideration of animal welfare awareness and critical reasoning ability during the selection of veterinary students, increased bioethics and critical reasoning training during veterinary education, continuing education credits for veterinarians who participate in such post-graduate training, the replacement of remaining harmful animal use in veterinary education with humane alternatives, and the encouragement of more active involvement of veterinarians in their professional associations.

Published in: Health & Medicine, Lifestyle

Advancing Animal Welfare Standards within the Veterinary Profession

  1. 1. Advancing Animal Welfare Standards Within the Veterinary Profession      ANDREW KNIGHTANDREW KNIGHT DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DACAW,DipECAWBM (AWSEL), DACAW, PhD, MANZCVS, MRCVS, SFHEAPhD, MANZCVS, MRCVS, SFHEA
  2. 2. Overview 1. Animal welfare standards of veterinarians 2. Causes of poor welfare standards 3. Increasing animal welfare standards 4. New European and American veterinary specialisations in animal welfare
  3. 3. Part I Animal welfare standards of veterinarians
  4. 4. Several events in recent years suggest veterinary attitudes towards animal welfare too often lag behind those of the general public…
  5. 5. Live sheep exports Hundreds of thousands of sheep die annually among millions shipped from Australian ports primarily to Middle-Eastern destinations. Widespread public opposition to the trade within Australia. However, at its 2005 annual general meeting, the Australian Veterinary Association rejected a call for veterinarians to oppose the live sheep export trade (ABC News 2005).
  6. 6. Widespread public opposition to the trade within Australia However, the Australian Veterinary Association has consistently rejected calls to oppose the trade
  7. 7. Forced molting of laying hens
  8. 8. Resolutions to discourage forced molting had been presented to the Amer. Vet. Medical Assoc. annually since 1999. Only in 2004 did the AVMA finally adopt a policy discouraging forced molting.
  9. 9. Sow gestation/farrowing crates
  10. 10. Overwhelming concern about poor welfare resulted in Floridians voting to amend their state constitution to prohibit gestation crates on November 5, 2002. However, in early 2002, the AVMA formally voted to endorse their use.
  11. 11. Pate de foie gras production
  12. 12. Bans: more than ½ dozen European countries, Argentina, Israel, California However, in 2005 the AVMA rejected member resolutions to oppose the force feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras (AVAR 2005b).
  13. 13. Veterinary associations survey 2005 - 2006    World Veterinary Association (WVA)  American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)  British Veterinary Association (BVA)  New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA)  Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)
  14. 14. Animal use practices 1. ‘Battery’ cages to house laying hens 2. Small crates to house ‘veal’ calves 3. Gestation crates to house pregnant sows 4. Cosmetic tail docking of dogs 5. The harmful use of animals in scientific research, toxicity testing and education
  15. 15. Positive outcomes  The WVA and BVA had adopted the Five Freedoms (Farm Animal Welfare Council, 1992) within their policies.  The AVMA had guiding principles on welfare statements.  The NZVA referred to extensive NAWAC codes, recommendations and minimum standards on animal welfare.  The AVA had extensive policies on animal welfare issues.
  16. 16. Negative outcomes  Official veterinary positions lagged behind those of the general public on important animal use issues:  close confinement of laying hens in battery cages  of veal calves in small crates  of pregnant sows in gestation crates  Only practice condemned by most people and opposed by most veterinary associations:  cosmetic tail docking of dogs (although the AVMA did not take a firm stance against this)
  17. 17. AVMA ““more than 82,500 veterinarians working inmore than 82,500 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government,private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed servicesindustry, academia, and uniformed services”” Claims  to  act  as Claims  to  act  as  ““a collective voice for itsa collective voice for its membership and for the profession.membership and for the profession.””
  18. 18. ‘Forced’ moulting of laying hens Three main methods:Three main methods: 1.1. elimination or limitation of food and/or water;elimination or limitation of food and/or water; 2.2. feeding low nutrient rations deficient, for example, infeeding low nutrient rations deficient, for example, in protein, calcium or sodium; and, less frequently,protein, calcium or sodium; and, less frequently, 3.3. the administration of drugs and metals includingthe administration of drugs and metals including methalibure, chlormadinone, and progesterone, highmethalibure, chlormadinone, and progesterone, high levels of iodine, dietary aluminum, and zinclevels of iodine, dietary aluminum, and zinc Light-dark manipulation often usedLight-dark manipulation often used
  19. 19. Welfare impacts  Increased but economically acceptable mortalityIncreased but economically acceptable mortality levelslevels  Body weight decreases as high as 35% in theBody weight decreases as high as 35% in the survivors (Webster 2000)survivors (Webster 2000)  Increased levels of plasma corticosteroneIncreased levels of plasma corticosterone  Behavioral changes, such as initial aggressionBehavioral changes, such as initial aggression and heightened alertness followed by lethargyand heightened alertness followed by lethargy (Webster 2003)(Webster 2003)
  20. 20.  Severe stress decreases cellular and humoralSevere stress decreases cellular and humoral immunocompetence (Holt 1992), and altersimmunocompetence (Holt 1992), and alters intestinal flora (Holt et al. 1995), predisposing tointestinal flora (Holt et al. 1995), predisposing to Salmonellosis in particular.Salmonellosis in particular.  In an attempt to obtain nutrients hens also pluckIn an attempt to obtain nutrients hens also pluck and consume the feathers of adjacent hens,and consume the feathers of adjacent hens, causing further pain and stress (Holt 1995).causing further pain and stress (Holt 1995).
  21. 21. AVMA supports forced molting:AVMA supports forced molting: ““Acceptable practices include reduction ofAcceptable practices include reduction of photoperiod (day length) and specific nutrientphotoperiod (day length) and specific nutrient restrictionsrestrictions”” although it does recommend that neither water noralthough it does recommend that neither water nor food be completely withdrawnfood be completely withdrawn
  22. 22. Beak trimming of laying hens  Routinely performed at 1-10 days. Up to half of theRoutinely performed at 1-10 days. Up to half of the maxilla and a third of the mandible are commonlymaxilla and a third of the mandible are commonly excised using a hot blade or wire (contrary to UK Codesexcised using a hot blade or wire (contrary to UK Codes of Practice specifying that not more than one-third of theof Practice specifying that not more than one-third of the upper and lower beak may be removed).upper and lower beak may be removed).  As chick beaks are tiny and the process mechanical andAs chick beaks are tiny and the process mechanical and executed with production line speed, even more beakexecuted with production line speed, even more beak may be removed.may be removed.  If beaks have regrown, producers may repeat theIf beaks have regrown, producers may repeat the procedure just prior to or during the laying period.procedure just prior to or during the laying period.
  23. 23. Welfare impacts  Chickens have nociceptors (sensory painChickens have nociceptors (sensory pain receptors) in the beak, with responsereceptors) in the beak, with response characteristics similar to those of mammalscharacteristics similar to those of mammals (Gentle 1989). Consequently debeaking is a(Gentle 1989). Consequently debeaking is a highly painful procedure producing:highly painful procedure producing:  immediate responses, including visible reactions andimmediate responses, including visible reactions and profound shock;profound shock;  an economically-acceptable proportion of deaths; andan economically-acceptable proportion of deaths; and  long-term responses such as phantom and stumplong-term responses such as phantom and stump pain, due to the exposure of sensitive nerves and thepain, due to the exposure of sensitive nerves and the growth of neuromas (SVC 1996, Gentlegrowth of neuromas (SVC 1996, Gentle et al.et al. 1990).1990).
  24. 24.  Guarding behavior indicative of severe pain: decreasedGuarding behavior indicative of severe pain: decreased time spent pecking, drinking, preening and engaged intime spent pecking, drinking, preening and engaged in associated head shaking and beak wipingassociated head shaking and beak wiping  Lasts at least 3-5 weeks (DuncanLasts at least 3-5 weeks (Duncan et alet al. 1989, Gentle. 1989, Gentle etet al.al. 1990), although experts such as Broom (1992) have1990), although experts such as Broom (1992) have asserted these neuromas may be painful for the rest ofasserted these neuromas may be painful for the rest of the birdthe bird’s life’s life  Consequently, long term increases in dozing, generalConsequently, long term increases in dozing, general inactivity (Eskeland 1981) and depression (Fraser andinactivity (Eskeland 1981) and depression (Fraser and Quine 1989) are observedQuine 1989) are observed
  25. 25. Varying strength of opinion  The European Commission Scientific VeterinaryThe European Commission Scientific Veterinary Committee Animal Welfare Section (SVC 1992)Committee Animal Welfare Section (SVC 1992) recommended that debeakingrecommended that debeaking “should be banned as“should be banned as soon as practicable since it is known to cause pain bothsoon as practicable since it is known to cause pain both during and after the operation.”during and after the operation.” This recommendationThis recommendation was reiterated in the SVC’s 1996was reiterated in the SVC’s 1996 Report on the WelfareReport on the Welfare of Laying Hensof Laying Hens. The UK Ministry of Agriculture’s. The UK Ministry of Agriculture’s Code ofCode of PracticePractice stipulates that debeakingstipulates that debeaking “should be carried out“should be carried out only as a last resort”only as a last resort” (MAFF 1987).(MAFF 1987).  AVMA supports beak-trimming althoughAVMA supports beak-trimming although ““encourages theencourages the development of alternative practices, including geneticdevelopment of alternative practices, including genetic selection, or management of light or nutrition, which mayselection, or management of light or nutrition, which may reduce or eliminate the practice of beak trimming.reduce or eliminate the practice of beak trimming.””
  26. 26. Part II Causes of poor welfare standards
  27. 27. 1. selection of veterinary students  Use of advanced mathematics and science subjects, vs. alternatives such as assessments of character or work experience, as selection tools  Little or no consideration:  communication skills  knowledge of animal welfare issues  compassion for animals  critical thinking ability
  28. 28. The results  Veterinary students are academically very strong, particularly in the sciences  They may or may not possess substantial prior veterinary work experience  They may not possess communication skills, knowledge of animal welfare issues, underlying compassion for animals, or critical thinking ability much different from that of the general student population
  29. 29. 2. Education of veterinary students The importance of educating veterinary students about animal welfare issues and of assisting their development of critical reasoning skills is increasingly recognized However, the proportion of veterinary students receiving such formal education remains small
  30. 30. ‘Hidden curriculum’ endorsing harmful animal use  Anatomy (dissection, often of purpose-killed animals or animals from ethically-debatable sources)  Physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology (‘demonstration’ experiments on living animals, with animals usually killed during or after the experiment)  ‘Terminal’ surgical and anaesthetic laboratories
  31. 31. Alternatives in education  high quality videos  ‘ethically-sourced cadavers’  preserved specimens  computer simulations  non-invasive self-experimentation  clinical/surgical skills models and simulators  supervised clinical/surgical experiences
  32. 32. Educational efficacy www.AnimalExperiments.info - ‘Animal use in biomedical education’
  33. 33. www.apehperu.com
  34. 34. Comparative studies  12 papers published from 1989 to 2006 described 11 distinct studies of veterinary students:  9 assessed surgical training — historically the discipline involving greatest harmful animal use. Humane method: SuperiorSuperior EquivalentEquivalent InferiorInferior 45.5% (5/11)45.5% (5/11) 45.5% (5/11)45.5% (5/11) 9.1% (1/11)9.1% (1/11) www.HumaneLearning.info - ‘Published papers’ - ‘Comparative’
  35. 35. All educational disciplines At least 33 papers sourced from the biomedical and educational literature, covering all educational levels and disciplines, describe studies assessing the ability of humane alternatives to impart knowledge or clinical or surgical skills, when compared to harmful animal use Humane method: SuperiorSuperior EquivalentEquivalent InferiorInferior 39.4% (13/33)39.4% (13/33) 51.5% (17/33)51.5% (17/33) 9.1% (3/33)9.1% (3/33)
  36. 36. Attitudinal impacts Majority of veterinary students receive minimal or no formal education in animal welfare issues or critical reasoning, and are directly required to harm and kill animals during their education Unspoken messages:  Harming and killing healthy animals is not only condoned, but is required to become a veterinarian  Animal welfare concerns are subservient to human interests of debatable merit
  37. 37. Veterinary student studies  Decreasing awareness of veterinary students of animal sentience (specifically, the hunger, pain, fear and boredom of dogs, cats and cows) over the duration of their veterinary courses (Paul and Podberscek 2000)  Decreased likelihood of fourth year students to provide analgesia when compared to second or third year students (Hellyer et al. 1999)  Inhibition of normal development of moral reasoning ability during the four years of veterinary school (Self et al. 1991)
  38. 38. Desensitisation-related phenomena Psychological adaptations, enabling previously caring students to withstand psychological stresses, resulting from requirements to harm and kill sentient animals in the absence of overwhelming necessity
  39. 39. Part III Increasing animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession
  40. 40. 1. Demographic changes Marked feminisation of a previously male-dominated profession Cross-sectional study of veterinary students in their first preclinical year, first clinical year and final year of study: women in each group rated themselves as having significantly higher levels of empathy with animals than did the men. difference most marked in final-year students; moreover, the males in that group showed lower levels of empathy than their peers in earlier year-groups - Paul and Podberscek, 2000
  41. 41. 2. Selection of veterinary students During veterinary student selection some weighting must be given to:  awareness of animal welfare issues  positive attitudes towards animal welfare  critical reasoning ability
  42. 42. 3. Formal veterinary education These foundations must be built upon during formal veterinary education by the incorporation of bioethics and critical reasoning courses into veterinary curricula.
  43. 43. Concepts in Animal Welfare Syllabus: History and progress Jasmijn de Boo BSc (Hons), MSc, DipEd Former Education and Training Coordinator World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
  44. 44.  WSPA realised:WSPA realised:  importance of veterinarians in improvement ofimportance of veterinarians in improvement of animal welfareanimal welfare  the omission of animal welfare topics from mostthe omission of animal welfare topics from most veterinary curriculaveterinary curricula  In 2003, WSPA and the University of Bristol,In 2003, WSPA and the University of Bristol, veterinary school launched theveterinary school launched the ‘Concepts in‘Concepts in Animal Welfare’ syllabusAnimal Welfare’ syllabus  Currently being implemented in manyCurrently being implemented in many veterinary schools around the worldveterinary schools around the world
  45. 45. “Concepts” – Objectives 1.1. To develop an understanding of animalTo develop an understanding of animal welfare relevant to an animalwelfare relevant to an animal’s physiological’s physiological and psychological well-beingand psychological well-being 2.2. To recognise welfare, ethical and legalTo recognise welfare, ethical and legal implications and to be able to apply criticalimplications and to be able to apply critical analysis from each perspective, for differentanalysis from each perspective, for different species in different situationsspecies in different situations 3.3. To stimulate focused critical thinking onTo stimulate focused critical thinking on welfare issues, which can be developedwelfare issues, which can be developed throughout the course and the individualthroughout the course and the individual’s’s professional careerprofessional career
  46. 46. “Concepts” – Methodology  To provide theoretical teachingTo provide theoretical teaching unitsunits  To illustrate topics with practicalTo illustrate topics with practical examples and case studiesexamples and case studies  To provide assessment materialTo provide assessment material  To provide suggested reading lists andTo provide suggested reading lists and additional relevant materialsadditional relevant materials
  47. 47. Teaching modules - overview Participatory materialParticipatory material  Small group discussionSmall group discussion  3 topics with associated key points for the lecturer3 topics with associated key points for the lecturer  Project workProject work  5 topics with associated key points5 topics with associated key points ExaminationsExaminations  10 short answer questions with brief model10 short answer questions with brief model answersanswers
  48. 48. 4. Continuing education
  49. 49.  Cambridge University course on animal welfare science, ethics and law, September annually  Five components: Welfare Concepts and Assessment, and Zoo Animal Welfare; Law and Companion Animal Welfare; Horse Welfare; Principles of Ethics in Relation to Animal Use; and Farm Animal Welfare  Can attend all or just some  Royal Veterinary College distance learning courses  Currently offers MSc degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Certificates in Livestock Health and Production, Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health Courses open to all
  50. 50.  University of Edinburgh MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare  International reputation for its teaching on current issues in animal behaviour and welfare  Since 1990 the course has welcomed around 25 students annually from around the world  University of Edinburgh Online MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Law  In association with the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education  Focuses on the international use of animal welfare science, and associated ethics, policy and law. ‘The first and only online programme in International Animal Welfare, Ethics & Law’
  51. 51.  Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine MS in Animals and Public Policy  Offered within the Center for Animals and Public Policy, founded in 1983.  Guiding vision: "an institute for advanced education, research and policy study that investigates the ethical, legal, social and scientific dimensions of human-animal relationships.”  An intensive program exploring the "historical, philosophical, scientific, cultural, legal and political underpinnings of contemporary human- animal relationships."  Students "develop research, analytical, and communications skills that empower them to promote the status and welfare of animals, and deepen public understanding of the role of animals in society."
  52. 52.  Michigan State University (MSU) Animal Behavior and Welfare Group  Undergraduate and graduate level courses in animal welfare, applied animal behavior and contemporary issues.  Taught in the classroom, on the farm and online.
  53. 53.  MSU online course:  Principles of animal welfare science  Problem-based approach to develop ability to objectively assess welfare of species in production, research, zoos, companion, and other situations  Includes lectures, readings, notes, quizzes and exercises, assessment scenarios, evaluation and discussion  Because students taking the course come from across North America and around the globe, an asynchronous format allows discussion and interaction across multiple time zones and differing personal schedules  To further allow students to work at their own pace, course material has been divided into three 5-week-long units with a deadline at the end of each unit
  54. 54.  University of Guelph MSc or PhD  Offered through the Department of Animal and Poultry Science  A core of graduate courses in animal welfare science and behavior with selected electives. Students can focus on the welfare of food, laboratory, or zoo animals, with the possibility of some projects related to companion animals  Students must complete a focused research project and paper or thesis  MSc can be completed in 1 year (three semesters)  Also: post-graduate distance education course: ‘Assessing Animal Welfare in Practice’
  55. 55. Other examples: Plymouth University BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare University of Northampton MSc in Animal Welfare  Delivered in partnership with Moulton College Cambridge e-Learning Institute  distance learning  certificates in animal behaviour, animal ethics, animal welfare, critical thinking
  56. 56.  Australian College of Veterinary Scientists Membership in Animal Welfare  Membership: signifies expertise and competence in the subject  at least four years post-graduate experience as a veterinarian  written and oral/practical examinations  The RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice (CertAVP)  Can include some modules to reflect personal interests, including those on the theory and practice of Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Veterinary qualifications
  57. 57.  Australian College of Veterinary Scientists Fellowship in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law  Fellowship: signifies scholarly and technical excellence in the subject. standards of training and examination meet/exceed prerequisites for registration as an Australian/New Zealand Veterinary Specialist  96+ weeks of fulltime directly supervised training in the clinical and technical aspects of the discipline. To be completed within 6 years  candidate and the supervisor must spend 25+ hours per week working in the clinical and technical aspects of the discipline  written and oral/practical examinations Specialist qualifications
  58. 58.  RCVS Diploma in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law  At least 200 days of formal training  dissertation, case reports  written and practical exams  RCVS Diplomas being phased out in favour of European diplomas, final enrolments: 1 November 2012 Specialist qualifications
  59. 59. Part IV New European and American veterinary specialisations in animal welfare
  60. 60.  Created in 2011 within the College of Animal Welfare and Behavioural Medicine (ECAWBM). Working towards formal recognition by the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation  Will replace the RCVS Diploma  Will develop a diploma residency program and examinations  First five years (until April 2016): will accept 'de facto' diplomates: not required to undertake a residency programme or submit to examination initially. Eligibility:  seven years of professional experience in the speciality  spend at least 60% of full-time work in AWSEL  publications: three as first author, three as co-author European sub-specialty in Welfare Science, Ethics and Law (WSEL)
  61. 61.  American College of Animal Welfare petitioned for formal recognition by the American Board of Veterinary Specialties in 2010  Training Route to credentialing:  Undertake an ACAW recognized training program  Publication requirements: first author of two original articles  Examination  Provisional Route to credentialing:  Five years of training and/or experience in animal welfare  Publication requirements: as above  Must sit the exam within the first 7 years following ABVS approval of ACAW American speciality in Animal Welfare
  62. 62.  The replacement of remaining harmful animal use in veterinary education with humane alternatives must be accelerated.  Veterinarians must become more actively involved in their professional associations, in order to ensure these accurately reflect their positions. 5-6. Additional steps
  63. 63. Such initiatives would all be expected to increase animal welfare standards within the veterinary profession. The profession could then become a leader, rather than a follower, of evolving social standards on animal welfare issues. Expected outcomes
  64. 64. References/publications: www.AndrewKnight.info

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