If the new president of the American Veterinary Medical Association gets her way, the AVMA will throw yet one more hat into the increasingly crowded animal-welfare ring.

According to Bonnie Beaver, DVM, AVMA’s new president, veterinarians must more fully engage animal rights groups and humane organizations. “It’s especially critical that veterinarians communicate with the public,” she notes, especially as the animal-welfare issue moves further into the public debate. She’s suggesting that the AVMA create a Division of Animal Welfare, manned by global experts familiar with animal-welfare issues, research and developments.

“The public and animal industries want and expect AVMA to show leadership on animal-welfare issues,” Beaver says. AVMA hasn’t been as active on this front as the species’ veterinary groups, such as the American Association of Swine Practitioners. "It is time to get our (AVMA) heads out of the sand," she says.

That won’t mean blanket endorsement for animal industry procedures. “AVMA must be careful not to let its ties to animal industries cloud its objectivity when considering welfare policies,” she notes. She wants AVMA to revisit animal welfare from a big-picture perspective.

In addition to animal welfare, Beaver notes that the veterinary profession's responsibility is to serve people as well as animals. She notes that veterinarians are increasingly involved in food safety and protecting the nation from infectious diseases and bioterrorism.

Beaver’s approach runs in tandem with the Animal Agriculture Alliance survey, released earlier this year, which shows that consumers consider veterinarians among the most credible sources for animal-welfare information.

Veterinarians do play an important role in ensuring an animal’s welfare. There’s no question, that they can play a more substantial and helpful role in the future for food-animal producers and consumers. It can be a win-win situation as long as the AVMA listens to veterinarians who are experts in their particular species, and don’t try to paint all animals with the same brushstroke.