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

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail