THE American Veterinary Medical Assn.'s (AVMA) House of Delegates, at its annual convention, passed an amendment to its policy on pregnant sow housing.
Although it does not entirely oppose the use of gestation stalls, the approved resolution makes language changes to address the quantity of space provided and advises against conditions that could generate stress or fear in the animals.
For the past two years, a discussion on sow housing within the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee prompted the decision to revise the organization's policy based on comments and decisions by pork processors, distributors and retailers, as well as actions taken by state and international governments and agencies.
During its fall 2013 meeting, the committee formed a "perspective-balanced topical subcommittee" — made up of representatives from the Animal Welfare Committee and led by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians — to review the current policy.
As a result, updated language was recommended to the AVMA executive committee, and a document was released in January outlining the issues, including the advantages and disadvantages of various types of sow housing.
"To my understanding, the wording in this policy has been a nice consensus compromise. It brought everyone to the middle of the road for now; it's a workable policy that everybody, at this point in time, can hang their hat on," AVMA board chair Thomas F. Meyer said at the April board meeting. "We could have approved this today in its form, and at the end of the day, we know we'd like to make this our policy, and we're hoping the (House of Delegates) can make this our policy."
The revised language approved by the delegates included inserting the words "distress and fear" into the current statement on the reduce exposure hazard policy in the guidelines for sow housing and management systems.
In the same section, a clarification on the quantity of space was also approved that now reads: "Sow housing and management systems should provide sows with adequate quality and quantity of space that allows sows to assume normal postures and to express normal patterns of behavior."
In addition, a recommendation was included that the benefits and harm to animals should be considered by weighing scientific evidence and veterinary professional judgment.
The accepted resolution also added revised policy to encourage ongoing research to better understand and meet the welfare needs of gestating sows and for people who handle pregnant sows to receive appropriate training for the management system being used.