With the passage of California's Proposition 2, the American Veterinary Medical Assn. is urging care—and the advice of veterinarians and animal welfare scientists—in the proposition’s implementation.
The Standards for Confining Farm Animals requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
Supporters, including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assn., maintain that the proposition is “a modest measure that stops cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.”
But the AVMA, which opposed the initiative, said that while admirable in its goal to improve the welfare of production farm animals, it would likely compromise several other factors necessary to ensure the overall welfare of the animals, especially with regard to protection from disease and injury.
“We agree that more attention needs to be paid to the behavioral well being of production animals,” Gail Golab, DVM, head of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division, said today in a statement. “In doing so, we don’t want to be singularly focused on just providing additional space, as is the case with Prop 2.
“For example, moving laying hens to free-range production systems may allow them to engage in more species-typical behaviors, but it also increases the hens’ risk of illness and injury because it increases their exposure to disease vectors and predators.”
Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of HSUS, said today that Proposition 2 was “the most ambitious ballot measure for animals ever undertaken.”
The AVMA points out that almost $16 million was spent by those promoting their views on the proposition and the same investment could have gone a long way toward improving conditions for livestock across the country if it had been used to help develop science-based and practical solutions to animal welfare problems, said Ron DeHaven, DVM, chief executive officer of the AVMA.
“Now that the ballot initiative has passed, veterinarians and animal welfare scientists must be involved in its implementation to make sure the resulting changes in animal housing actually improve conditions for the animals they are intended to help,” Dr. DeHaven said. “If we are not careful, animal health and welfare problems could be precipitated that are as significant as the concerns Proposition 2 aspires to address.”
Dr. Golab said the AVMA can help California producers protect the welfare of their animals by providing information gained from research at home and abroad on alternative production systems.
Producers who violate the law, which will become effective Jan. 1, 2015, could face fines, imprisonment or both.