AWI Exhibits at AVMA

The AVMA veterinarian's oath promises to "protect animal health and relieve animal suffering." Yet, the AVMA endorses the cruel gestation crate.
Wendy Swann/AWI

A life-size sow replica in an actual gestation crate was displayed at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) booth during the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Annual Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this July. Our impetus was the AVMA's unacceptable endorsement of the gestation crate, which individually confines female pigs during their pregnancy; in the U.S. more than 4 million sows are forced to live in this deprivation. AWI's Wendy Swann and Paul Willis, who raises pigs according to AWI's husbandry standards, worked the exhibit.

There were three promising developments for animals at the convention. First, the AVMA revised its policy regarding forced molting of laying hens and now advocates that neither food nor water be withheld. Second, the AVMA began reviewing the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese to produce foie gras. Although the Association neglected to adopt a policy against this cruel practice, we anticipate that they will vote on it next year. Last of all, as part of her commencement speech, incoming President Bonnie Beaver stated, "It is important for each of us to recognize that we may at times become too close to the industries we serve, losing our objectivity about what is the best welfare and adopting instead that suggested by the industry." Undoubtedly this is what happened when the AVMA endorsed the gestation crate.

More than a year ago the Association called for a task force to reconsider the existing policy, but they still have not met. AWI is encouraging the AVMA to revise its position by acknowledging that sows need to engage in natural behaviors including rooting in natural substrate such as straw, exploring, moving around, and socializing with other pigs. We hope the AVMA will recognize its primary responsibility to serve the animals, not the industry.