An American Veterinary Medical Association (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. AVMA contends the report isn’t consistent with the well-documented, science-based reports it’s come to expect from the Pew Commission.

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.

David R. Smith, University of Nebraska Extension dairy and beef veterinarian and one of the volunteer leaders who read the Pew report and crafted the response, says it’s important for AVMA to provide veterinarians' perspective on the Pew Commission's conclusions.

The Pew report lacks insight into animal-health issues, why antimicrobials are used in food-producing animals, and the regulation of those antimicrobials, Smith says. "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."

The Pew Commission launched an advertising campaign this summer to influence Washington, D.C., decision makers and it has included advertisements in the city's Metro stations that say antimicrobials are being misused in animal agriculture.

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 U.S. aren’t 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 AVMA report, issued in response to the Pew Commission’s efforts, states it’s 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.

"While we believe there is value in some of the recommendations offered by the Pew Commission, we assert that many of the Commission's sub-points have significant shortfalls and lack in comprehensive idea development or in how the Commission would execute a new plan or program," the AVMA summary states.
-- American Veterinary Medical Association release