AWI is urging the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to revise its guidelines to no longer permit killing animals by inducing heat stroke, a method known as ventilation shutdown plus (VSD+). This method has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic to kill at least a quarter of a million healthy pigs who posed no risk to public health. (The pigs could not be sent to slaughterhouses that had temporarily closed and, for economic and logistical reasons, could not be retained by the industrial farm facilities until slaughterhouses reopened.)
In VSD+, operators seal the barn, turn off the airflow, and add heat and sometimes steam to raise the temperature as high as 170°F. The process can take hours and cause extreme distress. In AWI’s letter to the AVMA, we reiterated concerns that all forms of ventilation shutdown are likely to result in prolonged and severe suffering and should be reclassified as “not recommended” for depopulating animals.
The AVMA’s Panel on Animal Depopulation is currently reviewing proposed changes to the guidelines. Though the AVMA guidelines are voluntary, the US Department of Agriculture typically relies on them to facilitate depopulation events for animal disease outbreaks. The USDA is providing payments to producers that depopulated chickens, turkeys, or pigs between March and December 2020 due to insufficient access to slaughter facilities. The payments, which can exceed $1 million per producer, cover costs of killing the animals, regardless of the method used.
AWI also recently coordinated a letter from a coalition of animal protection organizations to congressional leadership requesting that any spending legislation related to animal disease prevention prohibit the use of federal funds to kill animals with the VSD+ method.