AVMA not yet biting on PETA protest
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to AVMA June 9 asking the national association to reconsider the use of dead fish during the event.
PETA declared in a statement that fish are "intelligent, sensitive animals who deserve better than to be torn from their ocean homes, only to have their corpses used as toys at a convention of veterinarians." The animal-rights group offered to send convention organizers rubber fish to use in place of real ones. PETA's request already has garnered headlines around Seattle and at some national news outlets.
Workers from Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market were scheduled to demonstrate fish-throwing during the AVMA meeting in July.
"They've been around for years, and they've taken it beyond a tourist attraction and made it a business for corporate team-building activities," says AVMA's Dr. Ron DeHaven. "We think it's a very relevant team-building and motivational tool for our membership, but I think this issue has surfaced because of a fundamental difference of principles between PETA and AVMA.
"They are clearly coming from a vegetarian standpoint," he adds. "We support the use of animals for purposes such as food and fiber, but there is no stronger advocate for animals that veterinarians and AVMA."
The fish-throwing display planned at the meeting re-creates the work of fish- market workers who toss the meat across the counter to a fishwrapper who catches the fish and packages it for a customer. The Pike Place Fish Market has been as success because of the attitude of its workers and their ability to create a fun working environment, engage customers and work as a team to maximize their output, DeHaven says. These are the same principles veterinarians should employ for a successful practice, DeHaven adds.
"Those are some of the basic principles that the Pike Place workers have brought to the workplace, and they use the fish-tossing event as a way of delivering that message. It's much more about those principles than it is about tossing fish," he says. "You could make the argument that, while the fish still have all their parts attached, it is not much different than a steak or pork chop. It's not meant to be disrespectful to the animal."
AVMA hasn't made a decision yet on whether to use fake or real fish during the event, DeHaven says.
"I think they are trying to capitalize on the difference between AVMA and PETA and the fact that AVMA is planning on hosting this event as a means of garnering a lot of publicity, which they have succeeded in doing," DeHaven says.