AVMA: Pew Commission Report Is Flawed, Unscientific

August 19, 2009 07:00 PM

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 (www.ncifap.org) on the sustainability of the nation's food animal production systems. 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.

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.

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 Michael J. Blackwell, vice chairman, replied to 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 counter-report focuses on the Pew Commission's recommendations related to antimicrobial resistance, environmental impact, and animal welfare. It asserts the Pew report contains flaws that lead to "dangerous and under-informed" recommendations by the Commission, and the Pew report romanticizes the lives of small farmers while vilifying larger producers, the AVMA executive summary states.

In a written statement submitted to the House Committee on Rules for a July 2009 hearing, Robert P. Martin, former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, said the commission's findings clearly indicate practices in food animal production in the United States are not sustainable, are detrimental to rural communities, and are risking public, environmental, and food animal health. The hearing was related to the Preservation of Antimicrobials for Medical Treatment Act, which would ban nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animals.

The bill is intended to reduce the risk that antimicrobial-resistant pathogens will proliferate and spread from food animals to humans. The AVMA is opposed to the bill on the grounds that it would lead to increases in animal disease and death without any assurance the resulting bans would improve human health.

The act does not allow for use of antimicrobials to prevent disease, and the AVMA does not see the ban as risk-based.

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.

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