AVMA says Pew Commission report is flawed, unscientific

An AVMA report says recommendations by a prominent critic of industrial animal agriculture are unscientific and can actually threaten human health.

The document, available at www.avma.org/PEWresponse, questions the validity of the content and review process for a report published in 2008 by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production on the sustainability of the nation’s food animal production systems. The Pew Commission report is available at www.ncifap.org.

The AVMA contends the report is not consistent with the well-documented, science-based reports that the Association has come to expect from the Pew Commission. The AVMA response is being widely distributed, and members of Congress are among those who will receive copies.

The AVMA document, “The American Veterinary Medical Association Response to the Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production,” was a product of members of eight volunteer leadership councils and committees and three staff divisions. The Pew Commission report, “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” was a two-year project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. David R. Smith, a professor and the extension dairy and beef veterinarian for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said it is important for the AVMA to provide veterinarians’ perspective on the Pew Commission’s conclusions. He said authors of the Pew report have been trying to raise awareness about their recommendations, particularly among members of Congress involved in antimicrobial use legislation.

Dr. Smith is one of the AVMA volunteer leaders who read the Pew report, evaluated the commission’s recommendations, and crafted the AVMA’s response. He hopes the AVMA report provides people with a critical look at the Pew Commission’s recommendations and “whether acting on those recommendations would make the world a better place.”

“Largely, our conclusions were that the Pew report was a superficial look at animal agriculture, and the recommendations lacked deep understanding of the issues involved,” Dr. Smith said.

The Pew Commission launched an advertising campaign this summer to influence decision makers in Washington, D.C., and it has included advertisements in the city’s Metro stations that say antimicrobials are being misused in animal agriculture. Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO, wrote a letter to members of Congress that states the Pew advertisements are misleading and scientifically untrue. John W. Carlin, Pew Commission chairman, and Dr. Michael J. Blackwell, vice chairman, replied to Dr. DeHaven in a letter that defends the group’s process and accuses the AVMA of failing to show leadership and of being inappropriately influenced by industry.

The AVMA report states it is imperative to base decisions on evidence and research grounded in the principles of scientific inquiry, while the Pew report is based on what is possible, rather than probable or actual. The AVMA report does not dispute all the Pew Commission’s recommendations, but it urges close scrutiny of those suggestions.

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