FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

They Call Him Dr. Cruel

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Leaving a government job for the private sector used to mean an end to pressure, accountability and visibility. But not for former Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrator, Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, the Department of Agriculture’s top veterinarian.

As head of the $1.9 billion, 8,300-employee agency responsible for administering the Animal Welfare Act, Dr. DeHaven’s three year tenure was rocked with charges of cruelty to downer cattle, inhumane transport of livestock and refusal to extend humane slaughter to birds and rabbits. Its “wildlife damage management activities”–poisoning of millions of blackbirds, starlings, foxes and coyotes–were said to be nothing more than free government service to private ranchers and farmers.

And as the new executive vice president of the 75,000 member American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Dr. DeHaven joins an organization that already supports animal research, confinement farming and pregnant mare urine collection and just refused to oppose foie gras for the fourth year in a row. He should fit in just fine.

Of course it isn’t easy for the world’s largest veterinary organization to take a stand against animal abuse because of the “what’s next” problem and where to draw the line.

A resolution against foie gras might appear like a no brainer but it would just lead to resolutions against veal calves and other “production agriculture” warned the AVMA New York delegate Dr. Walter K. McCarthy during 2005 deliberations. And end up cost the ag industry real money.

“We cannot condemn an accepted agricultural practice on…emotion,” said Dr. McCarthy adding that foie gras birds’ “mortality is much less than at most agricultural facilities.” Whew!

Vermont delegate Dr. Robert P. Gordon seconded the sentiment. “It is more distressing to take a rectal temperature in a cat,” than produce foie gras he said cautioning the House of Delegates against “anthropomorphism.”

And aside from the slippery slope–will vets be accused next of eating their patients?–there’s the difficulty of measuring stress and well-being.

Sure force feeding looks cruel. Blood flow and hepatocyte function in the liver are impaired enough to “cause death” and birds “fast for a period of 3 days or longer” if force feeding is stopped “indicating that ducks have been fed beyond the point of satiety” according to the AVMA’s own fact sheets. But maybe we are anthropomorphizing.

“The people who have actually seen these facilities are the ones you should listen to,” says Dr. McCarthy.

The same goes for sow crates.

Sure the sow can’t turn around or lie down without her udder protruding from the stall, her head touching the feeder or her hindquarters touching the back of the stall; sure the liquid manure system precludes straw though it would have dietary, thermoregulatory and recreational value” to the sow–the caretakers are the “experts” not us Dr. John Deen, an associate professor of swine production systems at the University of Minnesota told an AVMA Animal Welfare Forum. We’re just doctors!

Of course “experts” also let 20,000 Smithfield pigs drown in their pens during Hurricane Floyd,160,000 laying hens burn to death at Green Valley Poultry Farm in Abingdon, VA and put 15,000 spent hens live into a wood chipper at Ward Egg Ranch in San Diego County, CA but let’s not go there.

Finally there’s the PR of it. The AVMA doesn’t want to look pushed around and wishy washy.

“It’s time to take a proactive, definitive stand,” said Dr. Ned S. Schankman, a delegate from Connecticut, at AVMA hearings in July, and stop reacting to the demands of animal advocates. Dr. Schankman actually introduced a pro foie gras resolution–calling it “an acceptable agriculture practice” which the AVMA approves–that did not pass.

The AVMA has plenty of its own guidelines members say without capitulating to others, like its veal welfare position that addresses ventilation, temperature and humidity control while ignoring the fact that animals cannot turn around in their crates.

Still, some AVMA members are willing to break ranks and speak out.

“I have a problem, as a veterinarian, endorsing any practice that creates disease in an animal,” said Vermont delegate Dr. Thomas L. Munschauer about the proposed foie gras resolution in July.

Producing animal disease might be acceptable for research but to create it for a food delicacy “is not a good use of these animals,” Dr. Munschauer said.

Something to do with the vet’s oath about “relief of animal suffering”?

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail