Can they meet in the middle?
"I think there's a big transition occurring in animal medicine. Those who work for the agriculture industry, they adopt the
orientations of the industry. Welfare groups are questioning how these standards in these industries have gone off track and
how the interest of the animals has been subverted to other practices," says HSUS Chief Executive Officer Wayne Pacelle. "What
you get is a very kind of concentrated view from industry veterinarians, and you don't get any kind of broader discourse within
the larger veterinary community."
But that's not all, says Jamison. AVMA also must grapple with dissenion in its own ranks.
"The AVMA internally has two factions that can't be reconciled because they view animals differently," Jamison says. "You're
not going to be able to reconcile the commodity vet and the companion vets. The AVMA is going to have profound difficulty
internally. It's a very complex issue that has little to do with how animals are treated."
The differences of opinions in AVMA could be a challenge in the eyes of some, but Golab thinks it's an advantage.
"I'm always fascinated by the whole concept of how AVMA is portayed and that somehow it's to our detriment that we have a
diverse composition. And to me, that's actually our greatest strength," Golab says. "What's at either end of the debate is
the lack of that diversity."
A changing of tide could come with a new generation of veterinarians, more exposed to animal-welfare concerns, Pacelle says.
"I believe the problem is the older leadership of the AVMA parroting the views of animal agriculture being too close to industry
vs. any scientific basis for their position," Pacelle says. "Rank-and-file veterinarians support our issues consistently.
I think there is no question that we'll see a convergence of interest as that older generation at AVMA relinquishes power.
At some point, there will be a correction at AVMA, and more animal welfare-related voices will control the policy-making and
decision-making in the future."
While generational differences do play a role in changing views on issues like animal welfare, Golab doesn't think AVMA will
see much a shift in the support of its members as time goes on.
"Certainly there's always going to be differences over generations because people's attitudes as to what's appropriate change.
Equally important is the fact that we're learning more about animal welfare when it comes to how to measure it and what things
are contributing to it," Golab adds.
In the end, the answers to these animal welfare issues should be solved scientifically — not by emotion.
"Ultimately it's finding an appropriate place in the middle. The way you get there is figuing out what about a particular
system works and doesn't work, then taking the parts that don't work and make them better," Golab says. "You have to do some
real hard soul-searching on what's important to you. It's either the political agenda or doing what's best for the animals.
And I think AVMA has decided its agenda."