The American Veterinary Medical Association may be a worthy organization, but it must be known that it's membership is primarily small-animal veterinarians. Yes, some large-animal veterinarians are members, but they are outnumbered.

That's not to say that dog and cat veterinarians have no understanding of livestock rearing practices. However, after having attended a couple of AVMA sessions on the topic, it became clear that the membership and leadership lack a detailed, working knowledge on the topic. Yet AVMA sets policy and makes recommendations on such things as gestation-sow housing. I went away from the aforementioned meetings more nervous than reassured.

Last year, AVMA hired an individual who is charged with reviewing and evaluating livestock production practices, from an animal well-being standpoint, among other things. That, too, made me nervous, only because I'm concerned about hidden agendas.

Now, a bit of a surprise-- AVMA has adopted a revised policy stating that, "according to all criteria for animal welfare, no existing housing system for pregnant sows is better than another, and the advantages of current systems should be retained while improvements are made to overcome problems."

AVMA's Task Force on the Housing of Pregnant Sows submitted the new statement, following an extensive review of some 200 scientific studies on the topic.

The 13-member task force was named in November 2003 on the recommendation of AVMA's Animal Welfare Committee. Earlier that year, a resolution directing AVMA to rescind its existing position of support for sow-housing configurations meeting specified standards for animal care and welfare sparked an impassioned debate among members.

In the end, AVMA delegates defeated that resolution and put in motion the task force review. A full text can be found at:

Now, that's not to say that gestation-sow housing and other animal-care topics relating to livestock and poultry production won't resurface and that AVMA won't change its position or that new scientific findings won't someday revel that production changes are needed. But the system worked, and AVMA deserves a pat on the back.