Washington DCâAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) urges the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to revise its guidelines to no longer allow animals to be killed by causing heatstroke, method known as “stop ventilation plus.” “
In a letter handed over earlier this month to AVMA, the main professional body representing veterinarians, AWI reiterated its concerns Express by AVMA’s own members that all forms of ventilation interruption are likely to cause prolonged and severe suffering and should be reclassified as ânot recommendedâ for depopulated animals.
AVMAs “depopulation” directives apply to the large-scale slaughter of farm animals in emergency situations, including for disease control purposes, such as in response to highly pathogenic avian influenza. AVMA originally published its draft depopulation guidelines in 2017, recommending a form of ventilation shutdown called âventilation shutdown plusâ (VSD +) under âconstrained circumstancesâ. In VSD +, operators seal the barn, shut off the airflow, and add heat and sometimes steam to raise the temperature up to 170 degrees. The process can take hours and cause extreme distress.
At the time, AWI warned that these guidelines might not prevent producers from using this extreme method in situations that instead call for humane euthanasia. In fact, that’s exactly what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the meat industry’s failure to protect workers from infection forced dozens of U.S. slaughterhouses to temporarily close. . Faced with financial losses and severe overpopulation of farm animals – which already suffered from cramped conditions and garbage – producers resorted to slaughtering their animals.
Some producers spent a lot of time preparing for depopulation, further demonstrating that this was not an emergency by AVMA’s depopulation standards. Although the USDA does not track the number of farm animals killed by various methods of depopulation, VOD + was used during the COVID-19 pandemic to kill at least a quarter of a million healthy pigs that posed no risk to public health.
“Vets have sworn to protect animals, but AVMA tolerates the most horrific deaths imaginable,” said Dena Jones, farm animal program director for AWI. âEven the international authority on animal diseases, the World Organization for Animal Health, does not tolerate stopping ventilation. Meat companies should not be rewarded with a quick fix due to their complete lack of emergency preparedness and failure to protect their workers. “
In January, more than 1,500 veterinarians asked the AVMA to classify all forms of stopping ventilation as ânot recommendedâ. The AVMA Animal Depopulation Expert Group is currently reviewing the proposed changes. Although the AVMA guidelines are voluntary, the United States Department of Agriculture generally relies on them to facilitate depopulation events in the event of an animal disease outbreak.
Meanwhile, the USDA is providing Payments to producers who depopulated chickens, turkeys or pigs between March and December 2020 due to insufficient access to slaughter. The payments, which can exceed $ 1 million per producer, cover the cost of slaughtering the animals, regardless of the method used.
Although the AVMA guidelines are presented as evidence-based, the veterinary organization has provided no scientific evidence demonstrating that the use of any form of VSD in commercial agricultural settings meets its standards: 100% mortality for poultry and, for pigs, more than 95% of animals died within one hour. In addition, no peer-reviewed research study has examined the impacts on animal welfare.
The eminent zootechnician Temple Grandin expressed concern about the potential of VSD + to cause animal suffering under field conditions, which led her to advise against its use: âThe high level of engineering expertise that would be required for properly carrying out this process is so great it should not be used. To do so badly would cause great suffering. “*
In a recent email to AWI, Grandin referred to a to study by veterinarian Angela Baysinger and others published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, who found high death rates within 90 to 110 minutes after heat began to be added to a sealed pigsty, stating that “most farms wouldn’t have the engineering expertise to do the job. [Baysinger] heat and humidity procedure correctly. The use of a trailer-mounted electric stunner, similar to commercial abattoir systems, would be a better method. “
Rather than recommending VSD + in certain situations, AVMA could encourage efforts to produce, deploy and use more humane methods of depopulation. If AVMA continues to license VSD + under âlimited circumstancesâ, supply chain disruptions should not be eligible.
“By supporting stopping ventilation, AVMA allows the meat industry to continue to act irresponsibly by constructing massive buildings that confine tens, if not hundreds of thousands of animals regardless of how they will be protected in emergencies, âJones said. “Euthanasia literally means a ‘good death’, but these animals are probably enduring enormous suffering as the USDA writes a check to the meat industry, thanks to US taxpayers.”
* Email statement to Direct Action Everywhere, October 10, 2021.
The Animal welfare institute (awionline.org) is a non-profit, charitable organization founded in 1951 dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by humans. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the lab, on the farm, in commerce, at home and in the wild. follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal welfare news.