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:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
stclair
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andrew Tillett-Saks
Labor’s Political Stockholm Syndrome: Why Unions Must Stop Supporting Democrats Like Clinton
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Renee Parsons
Blame It on the Russians
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is it the Cops or the Cameras? Putting Police Brutality in Historical Context
Russell Mokhiber
Dems Dropping the N Word: When in Trouble, Blame Ralph
Howard Lisnoff
The Elephant in the Living Room
Pepe Escobar
The Real Secret of the South China Sea
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Yarmouk: A Palestinian Refugee’s Journey from Izmir to Greece
John Laforge
Wild Turkey with H-Bombs: Failed Coup Raise Calls for Denuclearization
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail