The recent horrific attacks in Syria reminded me of the concerns following 9/11 about potential attacks on livestock and poultry.  Those concerns rose to the highest echelon in our government and others, exemplified by the first International Symposium on Agroterrorism, held in Kansas City, Missouri on May 5, 2005.

I attended that meeting and was awestruck by the opening video-a poignant memorial to the farmers and others involved in agriculture from across the country, highlighting their back-breaking work that feeds and clothes everyone in the United States, and much of the world.  I would love to see that video again-if anyone has a link, please share.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III greeted the attendees, describing the unique challenges involved in distinguishing intentional acts of agroterrorism from natural disease outbreaks:

This distinction is important. If a car bomb explodes outside of a building, we know the attack was intentional. But if a cow contracts Foot and Mouth Disease or a soybean plant exhibits rust, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether the attack was intentional or occurred naturally.

Director Mueller highlighted the federal, state and local public-private efforts then recently adopted and deployed to investigate a potential threat:

Several months ago, the State Department received an anonymous tip that an unknown individual had threatened to introduce a virus to a large pig farm in Kansas. The State Department passed this information to the Secret Service, which notified one of its agents in Kansas. This agent was part of the FBI’s local Joint Terrorism Task Force. Together, we got the investigative ball rolling.

We coordinated with a local veterinarian, the USDA, and the FDA to assess the threat. Working with INS and local law enforcement, we found this man and questioned him. As it turns out, he had recently returned from South Africa, and it was possible that he could have transported a virus with him.

In the end, this investigation turned out to be a poison pen letter. The man we questioned had no intention of spreading a damaging virus. But because of our established networks, we were able to quickly assess the threat and move to prevent any attack.

In 2008, the FBI, Department of Justice and USDA published the “Criminal Handbook for Agroterrorism,” which “represent[ed] a joint effort of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Counterterrorism Division; the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; the Department of Homeland Security; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General.”

The handbook was considered important since “[a]n attack against the food or agriculture sector . . . requires a high level of cooperation . . .  to identify . . . the threat, prevent . . .the spread of the disease or further contamination of a food product, prevent . . . public panic, and apprehend . . . those responsible. Lack of mutual awareness and understanding, as well as the absence of established communication procedures, could hinder the effectiveness of joint law enforcement investigations. Due to the continued likelihood of attacks against the U.S. food and agriculture sector, the effective use of all resources during an incident will be critical to ensure an efficient and appropriate response.”

Protecting the food supply in this country remains a priority of the FBI, according to Mollie Halpern (not a relative), explaining:

One way the FBI ensures the safety of the nation’s food from farm to fork is through agroterrorism workshops. Our 56 field offices across the country host these workshops, which bring together the public and private sector—such as farmers, law enforcement, federal regulatory agencies, and academia. Supervisory Special Agent Kelly Decker says outreach, liaising, and awareness are the best defenses against agroterrorism.

USDA has continued its efforts to protect the nation’s food supply.  The Office of Inspector General at USDA published a report in March 2017, “Agroterrorism Prevention, Detection, and Response

“to evaluate if USDA’s [Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Coordination’s] OHSEC had developed and communicated effective plans and procedures to prevent, detect, and respond to agroterrorism threats.”

The OIG recommended:

Development and implementation of written processes to effectively oversea USDA’s agroterrorism prevention, detection, and response activities;

Development and implementation of a comprehensive process to track USDA’s compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-9; and

Improvement of the process used to create the Sector Specific Plan (SSP).

The recommendations were largely accepted and will hopefully be completed before they are needed.

 

I recently reconnected with colleagues at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture in Columbus, Ohio on April 6, 2017 where a special session was held, titled “Animal Care Standards: How Laws, Commitments, & Public Perception Have Changed the Landscape.”

A special shout out to the attending former and current State Veterinarians, including Dr. Glauer-State Veterinarian Ohio (ret.), and Dr. Tony Forshey-State Veterinarian Ohio.  State Veterinarians are a state animal health officials charged with protecting the health and well-being of animals in their state.  I served as the New Jersey State Veterinarian for nearly a decade.

Also attending were presenters, including: (1) Dr. Janet Helms, National Director of American Humane; (2) Chelsea Good, J.D., VP government and industry affairs, Livestock Marketing Association; (3) Candace Croney, Ph.D., Director, Center for Animal Welfare Science, Associate Professor, animal Behavior and Wellbeing, Purdue University; (4) Judge Linda Chezem, Indiana Court of Appeals (ret.) and others representing retail, private and public organizations.

One topic discussed was how governmental and private animal care standards of care benefit animals and consumers.  There is some concern that consumers, unfamiliar with the different certifying standards available, may be confused by labeling at the point of sale.  This is compounded by the fact that most consumers are unfamiliar with animal agriculture―fewer than 2% of the US population is directly involved with animal agriculture facilities that provide food and fiber to the rest of the US population and much of the rest of the world.

One of the longest standing third-party certification program, American Humane Certified™, was established by American Humane.  This nonprofit was “f]ounded in 1877 . . . [and] is committed to ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals.”

As described on its website “The American Humane Certified™ program is a voluntary third party animal welfare audit program that is rapidly setting the standards for the way that food animals are raised in the U.S.

The American Humane Certified™ Animal Welfare Standards are species-specific and grounded on solid scientific research. The standards were created with input from renowned animal science experts and veterinarians and are frequently reviewed by our Scientific Advisory Committee to reflect current research, technological advances, best practices, and humane handling methods. Our Animal Welfare Standards were built upon the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which require that an animal be healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express normal behavior, and free from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. American Humane Certified producers are audited for their compliance to the standards.”

There are numerous private and publicly available standards of care for livestock and poultry, but American Humane’s emphasis on obtainable, scientifically-sound practices and its commitment to partnering with livestock producers to provide consumers with safe, healthy, and humanely raised animals sets it apart from many others.

The challenge for livestock producers is to make sure that consumers can rely on labeling or standard certifications to insure that the animals raised are treated humanely and that the food produced is healthy and safe.

 

At the request of New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), and New Jersey Farm Bureau, State legislators adopted a law in 1996 “which directs the Department of Agriculture—in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station—to adopt ‘standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock,’ as well as ‘rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.’”  35 NJR 1873(a) 2003.  At the time, livestock owners were increasingly concerned about the uneven-handed enforcement of the State’s animal cruelty statutes by state and county societies for the protection of animals (SPCA), who often had minimal, if any, knowledge about the proper care of livestock and horses.  As the State Commission of Investigation reported, there were “no standards, rules or guidelines governing [SPCA’s] composition, operation, training or activities, there is no consistency or uniformity in their make-up, functioning or enforcement of the laws.”  NJSCI Report 2000.

The law was adopted to “[p]rotect. . .  the health and well-being of New Jersey’s livestock . . . to ensure farm animals are humanely treated.  This includes livestock farmers whose livelihood depends on raising healthy animals and who, therefore, have an added financial incentive to properly care for their animals.”  35 NJR 1873(a) 2003To ensure that experts qualified to investigate complaints of cruelty involving livestock the law also requires notification of NJDA of complaints received by investigating authorities.

The NJSPCA, county SPCAs or other State or local government authority receiving a complaint shall immediately notify the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and, if the complaint is in writing, provide a copy to the NJDA at the address provided in N.J.A.C. 2:8–8.3(c).

Unfortunately, while the standards mandate humane care, the enforcement of those standards remains problematic.  It is not clear if NJDA has been notified immediately upon receipt of complaints to SPCA’s, as required by law.  This notification is critical to ensure that only the approved standards are used as guidelines, and to ensure that all inspections are conducted in accordance with accepted biosecurity protocols referenced herein to prevent the spread of infectious or contagious agents on or off farm premises.

I recently discussed these ongoing issues at the 2017 New Jersey State Agricultural Convention, where the delegates adopted a resolution to address “continued concerns from stakeholders because of humane-law enforcement personnel’s inconsistent and inappropriate enforcement of animal cruelty statutes against the owners of livestock and poultry in New Jersey, by largely ignoring the Humane Standards, even when they are being followed by the livestock owner, have not changed since the adoption of the law, despite the clear rules to guide the investigation of complaints.  See Resolution No. 6, Humane Treatment of Livestock.

The delegates “urge that New Jersey’s agricultural community evaluate the consistency and appropriateness of the implementation of the Humane Standards by the SPCA and other humane-law enforcement personnel who are tasked to respect and follow them with enforcing animal-cruelty statutes.”

They also encourage the Legislature to adequately fund the implementation and enforcement of the Humane Standards and to require SPCA agents to comply with the provisions set forth therein.

Assembly bill No. 2052 includes the following definition of “necessary care: in the definition section of New Jersey’s animal cruelty statute that could be problematic for farmers raising livestock and poultry in the state, if it were to apply to them:

“Necessary care” means care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal, and except for emergencies or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the person responsible for the care of the animal, providing the following: (1) food of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal growth or maintenance of body weight; (2) open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the needs of the animal; (3) access to adequate protection from the weather, including an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal in which there is adequate bedding to protect the animal against cold and dampness; (4) adequate protection for the animal from extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions; (5) veterinary care to alleviate suffering and maintain health; and (6) reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

The reason for concern is that provisions (3), (5), and (6) are inconsistent with the provisions set forth in the Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock (N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 et seq.) as provided for in N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1. which provides:

Rules and regulations; standards for humane treatment of domestic livestock-

  1. The State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and within six months of the date of enactment of this act, shall develop and adopt, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c. 410 (C. 52:14B-1 et seq.): (1) standards for the humane raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock; and (2) rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards.
  2. Notwithstanding any provision in this title to the contrary:

(1) there shall exist a presumption that the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards developed and adopted therefor pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock;

(2) no person may be cited or arrested for a first offense involving a minor or incidental violation, as defined by rules and regulations adopted pursuant to subsection a. of this section, of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock, unless that person has first been issued a written warning.

  1. For the purposes of this act, “domestic livestock” means cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock for such purposes, according to rules and regulations adopted by the department and the board pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act.”

CREDIT(S) L.1995, c. 311, § 1, eff. Jan. 5, 1996.

The bill statement for A2052 states:

This bill amends the definition for “necessary care,” established 43 by P.L.2013, c.88 (designated as Patrick’s Law), to provide for 44 additional specific care requirements.

Before consideration by the senate, since the bill statement clearly indicates its intention was to provide for domestic companion animals and not domestic livestock, the definition of “necessary care” should be amended to exclude provisions regarding domestic livestock which are prescribed in N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.1 et seq. as the legislature previously mandated.

A2052 was passed by the Assembly on December 19, 2016.

As recently reported by Stephanie Strom in the NY Times (Business Section, Oct. 21, 2016), hens housed in aviaries have been observed to suffer higher morbidity and mortality rates, compared to hens housed in cages.  As egg farmers, veterinarians  and scientists previously warned, concerns about the welfare of hens housed in aviaries results from the well-known cannibalistic behavior of hens.  That behavior historically lead to the husbandry practice known as beak trimming, a practice activists consider a “mutilation.”

As discussed previously, the husbandry and housing techniques used to protect of animals raised for food or fiber has developed over time, informed by animal scientists researching and testing different methods that provide for the health of the animals, their welfare, the safety of their caretakers, and to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In “A Comparison of Cage and Non-Cage Systems for Housing Laying Hens,” as reported by the AVMA, there are many factors that must be considered:

contributing to the hens’ welfare, including whether hens are free to move; whether the system allows them to engage in behaviors that are normal for hens; whether they are protected from disease, injury, and predators; whether food and water are available in the appropriate amounts and type, and are of high quality; and whether the hens are handled properly.

 For example, sows, known as the “mixing vessels” of avian influenza, are often raised in enclosed structures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases from wild animals and insect vectors.  Their enclosures also protect them from exposure to parasites and protect the environment from their destructive rooting behavior and fecal contamination.  

However, similar to public concerns about hen caged housing, bans on the use of gestation stalls for sows have been enacted throughout the country.  Unfortunately, where these stalls are banned, hog farmers cannot provide updated sow housing techniques and equipment that allow sows a choice-protection in their stalls from aggressive animals or the ability to move around in the group-housing area.

 As the AVMA has repeatedly pointed out, like for hens, there are pros and cons to every type of housing for sows.  In a literature review and analysis, titled “Welfare Implications of Gestation Sow Housing” published on Nov. 19, 2015, the AVMA concluded: 

Gestation sow housing systems vary in their advantages and disadvantages regarding the welfare of the sow. When comparing housing systems for pregnant sows, making a definitive welfare judgment requires assigning weights to an array of contributing welfare indicators including, but not limited to, type, severity and incidence of injuries; behavioral and social opportunities; and exposure to parasites, disease, and harmful or aversive stimuli. As no universally accepted weighting system exists, there is no clear consensus as to which is the superior system across all situations. However, the public is generally more critical of gestation stall housing than other systems, which has led to voluntary and mandatory transition to alternative housing systems by some producers. As such there is an ongoing need to develop an array of housing systems that suit local conditions, effectively provide enhanced opportunities for the sows to move and interact socially, and avoid an unacceptable increase in negative outcomes such as injury associated with aggression or exposure to environmental hazards.

Absolute bans on husbandry and housing techniques should be carefully considered, and informed by animal scientists, veterinarians, and the farmers who know the most about the needs of their animals.

In preparation for the VFD final rule, which outlines the revised process for authorizing use of VFD drugs (animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed and that require the supervision of a licensed veterinarian), FDA released it’s final version of its industry guidance #233 titled “Veterinary Feed Directive-Common Format Questions and Answers.”

While rejecting a suggestion that FDA require a uniform veterinary feed directive form, FDA has provided a “common VFD format [that] would help veterinarians, their clients (i.e., animal producers), and distributors (including feed mills) quickly identify relevant information on the VFD.”

In addition to providing a list of information that is required, FDA has provided a blank VFD form and several examples of completed forms, several of which are reproduced below.

Blank VFD form
Blank VFD form
Example 1 VFD form
Example 1 VFD form
Example 2 VFD form
Example 2 VFD form

Example 2 VFD form

The information that must be included pursuant to § 558.6(b)(3) on any form utilized includes:

the veterinarian’s name, address, and telephone number;

the client’s name, business or home address, and telephone number;

the premises at which the animals specified in the VFD are located;

the date of VFD issuance;

the expiration date of the VFD;

the name of the VFD drug(s);

the species and production class of animals to be fed the VFD feed;

the approximate number of animals to be fed the VFD feed by the expiration date of the

VFD;

the indication for which the VFD is issued;

the level of VFD drug in the feed and duration of use;

the withdrawal time, special instructions, and cautionary statements necessary for use of

the drug in conformance with the approval;

the number of reorders (refills) authorized, if permitted by the drug approval, conditional

approval, or index listing;

the statement: “Use of feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug in a

manner other than as directed on the labeling (extralabel use), is not permitted.”;

an affirmation of intent for combination VFD drugs as described in § 558.6(b)(6); and

the veterinarian’s electronic or written signature.

It would be surprising if veterinarians did not use the forms suggested by FDA to insure they were providing all the information required.

Not everyone is satisfied by the increased restrictions set forth by FDA regarding antibiotics for food animals provided in feed and/or water.

A number of nonprofits filed a citizen petition under section 512(e) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 360b(e), “to request that the Commissioner of Food and Drugs withdraw approval of the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock and poultry for disease-prevention or growth-promotion purposes.”

These nonprofits want to prohibit the use of critically important antibiotics that prevent disease in food animals.  Such use is imperative to continue to protect food animals from preventable illness.

Anyone who works with livestock knows how difficult it can be to manage manure properly  from an economic, environmental and animal health standpoint (not necessarily in that order).

28,000 hogs (and their manure) were affected during Hurricane Floyd.

As reported by the NY Times:

“In the hurricane, feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers from the overburdened waste pits the industry calls lagoons.  The storm killed more than two million turkeys, chickens and livestock in the region, and waste from the farms is expected to keep leaching into the water supply until next spring.”

That is why the announcement by BHSL about their ability “to find an economic alternative to land spreading for poultry manure produced in broiler rearing by developing the technology to use the manure as a fuel for energy generation on the farm” is so revolutionary.”

“BHSL championed the development of the new rules for on-farm combustion of poultry manure at European Commission level, in close collaboration with the UK and Irish governments, on behalf of the European poultry industry.  The resulting rules reclassified poultry manure as a valuable Animal By-Product for on-farm combustion, which meets emissions animal health and human health standards.

BHSL’s bio-feedstock energy systems enable chicken producers to safely, securely and consistently produce fuel alongside food.”

The ability of livestock producers to contain and utilize manure productively and safely is of paramount importance for animal health and environmental protection.

Other technologies have been utilized to manage manure.  For example, “[a]nimal manures from intensive livestock operations can be pelleted to improve handlings and recyclings of embodied nutrients.”

Other technologies have been utilized to manage manure.  For example, “[a]nimal manures from intensive livestock operations can be pelleted to improve handlings and recyclings of embodied nutrients.” Atsushi Hayakawa, et. al, N2O and NO emissions from an Andisol field as influenced by pelleted poultry manure, 2008.12.011.  The use of pelleted manure may effect nitrogen levels in the soil, as this report and others have identified.

Concerns about manure are not limited to poultry.  EPA regulates animal feeding operations, defined as “agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations,” because of concerns that “[m]anure and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute to pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics to the environment.”  See EPA’s website.

According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC):

“[t]he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008 finalized its regulations under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The CAFO rule is the most comprehensive federal water-quality regulation ever put on pork producers.”

Despite the economic impact this regulation has had on livestock producers, industry associations like the NPPC are committed to continuing “to work with EPA and others to support fair, sound, and practical implementation of the final CAFO rule, including support for the development and use of effective Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) to guide the land application of manure.”

One thing is certain, manure management will also be an integral part of animal agriculture.

Therefore, continued development of advanced scientific technologies to manage manure will help ensure that people and animals are healthy.

 

Animal agriculture, like other animal-related industries, is a constantly evolving enterprise, informed by results from scientific studies focused on the best methods to raise livestock so as to minimize animal discomfort and disease.

With increasing concerns about the impacts on antibiotic resistance resulting from the use of antibiotics in livestock, methods to keep livestock healthy without relying on antibiotics has become the focus of scientific research.

Hence, the ability to modify animal genes to protect them from disease infection has been an area of increased interested.

Genus, a world-leading animal genetics company, recently announced “the discovery of the first pig resistant to Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome virus (‘PRRSv’)[1] in collaboration with the University of Missouri. An exclusive global license has been signed enabling Genus to develop and commercialise the technology.”

As reported on USDA’s website[2]

PRRSV is the etiologic agent of PRRS, an economically devastating, pandemic disease of swine that is typically characterized by reproductive failure in breeding herds and respiratory problems and growth retardation in growing pigs.  Two PRRS outbreaks were first reported in the late 1980s in North America and central Europe.  The disease is now found in most pig-producing countries and affects the swine industry and food safety worldwide, causing enormous economic losses each year.  In the US, the annual loss due to PRRS is estimated to exceed $500 million.  Over the last decade, this genetic/antigenic diversity of PRRSV has expanded continuously and rapidly, highlighting the dynamic nature of PRRSV evolution and epidemiology.

Using gene editing technology, Genus and its subsidiary the Pig Improvement Company (PIC) reportedly made “small changes . . . to inactivate a single gene from the pigs that produces a protein, known as CD163, [which] the PRRS virus requires for infection to occur.”

The results allow the production of PRRSv resistant pigs.

As described on Genus’ website:

“Using precise gene editing, the University of Missouri was able to breed pigs that do not produce a specific protein necessary for the virus to spread in the animals.  The early stage studies conducted by the University demonstrate these PRRSv resistant pigs, when exposed to the virus, do not get sick and continue to gain weight normally.  Genus will continue to develop this technology, and we expect it will be at least five years until PRRS resistant animals are available to farmers.”

Since there is no cure for PRRSV and the disease results in “the suffering or death of millions of pigs and piglets each year,” this type of innovative advance in science is considered a breakthrough.

[1] While antibiotics are not effective in treating viruses like PRRSV, such infections are often accompanied by secondary bacterial infections which are susceptible to targeted antibiotic treatment.

[2] This information is from Utah State University’s submission to USDA’s Current Research Information System (CRIS).

USDA, authorized and tasked with enforcing the humane treatment of horses pursuant to the Horse Protection Act, has published amendments to its regulations pursuant to the Act.

According to a 2010 Audit Report by USDA’s Office of Inspector General:

“APHIS’ program for inspecting horses for soring is not adequate to ensure that these animals are not being abused. At present, horse industry organizations hire their own inspectors (known as designated qualified persons (DQP)) to inspect horses at the shows they sponsor. However, we found that DQPs do not always inspect horses to effectively enforce the law and regulations, and in some cases where they do find violations, they deliberately issue tickets to friends or family members of responsible individuals so that the responsible person could avoid receiving a penalty for violating the Horse Protection.”

APHIS agreed with the findings of this report and proposed regulations that would dramatically amend its regulations—not only removing the authority of horse industry organizations to train designated qualified persons, and reassigning that responsibility to APHIS—but also amends the regulations “to prohibit use of pads, substances, and action devices on horses at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions.” See 81 FR 49112, July 26, 2916.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), who will be most affected by the proposed regulations have expressed concerns about the proposed rule, warning that:

“[t]he proposed rule by the United States Department of Agriculture that would eliminate the use of any pad, action device or hoof band as well as eliminate all self-regulation will have devastating impacts. The demands on horse show management will be costly and create an unnecessary hassle and the demands on exhibitors to enter horses, regardless of the division will be prohibitive as well. Horse shows in many cases will cease to exist.

The proposed rule is clearly an overreach, typical of today’s Washington, and an overt effort to bypass Congress. In order to appease radical animal rights organizations, USDA is refusing to objectively look at the facts and instead implementing rules that are not based in science or reality. Veterinary experts at Auburn University and the University of Tennessee have proven that action devices and pads do not harm horses.”

Instead “TWHBEA is calling on USDA to assemble a group of Equine Specialists to determine objective tests and end more than forty years of conflict,” adding that:

“TWHBEA is currently funding veterinary research in order to obtain objective, scientific tests for our show horses. Changing inspectors and eliminating our show horse will do nothing to help the welfare of our horse and will crush hundreds of civic clubs across the country who depend on our shows for fundraising.”

The American Association of Equine Practitioners, whose mission is “to improve the health and welfare of the horse, to further the professional development of its members, and to provide resources and leadership for the benefit of the equine industry,” is in favor of the proposed regulations.

 

“The AAEP is extremely pleased with the USDA’s work in proposing regulation changes to end the inhumane act of soring, which is one of the most significant welfare issues affecting any equine breed or discipline in the United States.

As doctors of veterinary medicine, we have previously recommended the use of only veterinarians to inspect horses at shows for evidence of soring, as well as a ban on action devices and performance packages. Both of these items are included in the USDA’s proposed rule changes.

Soring is an intentional, cruel act which must end. The AAEP will continue to support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act and work to eliminate this practice.”

In USDA’s “Regulatory Impact Analysis & Analysis in support of Certification that the Rule will not have a Significant Economic Impact on a Substantial Number of Small Entities” the agency concluded that the proposed  “rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.”

However, the agency also invited comments that refute that conclusion, which provides the TWHBEA or others negatively affected by this proposed regulation the opportunity to inform USDA about potential unintended consequences of its rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FDA, gearing up for the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), recently “issued a letter reminding retail establishments that sell medically important antimicrobials for use in feed or water for food animals that the marketing status of those products will change from over-the-counter (OTC) to prescription (Rx) or to veterinary feed directive (VFD) at the end of calendar year 2016.”

As reported in the Daily Herald, those servicing livestock producers in Utah have also been trying to spread the word:

“Local veterinarians, feed suppliers and livestock producers gathered in Lehi on Thursday to learn how the federal feed directive, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, will affect their operations.

The meeting is just one of a series of meetings being held across the state to make sure livestock producers aren’t taken by surprise when the new directive takes effect. It is expected to affect almost everyone who raises animals for human consumption — from 4-Hers to turkey farmers to bee keepers.”

The VFD sets forth “the process for authorizing use of VFD drugs and provides a framework for veterinarians to authorize the use of medically important antimicrobials in feed when needed for specific animal health purposes” as reported by Lydia Zuraw on JUNE 3, 2015 at Food Safety News.

FDA announced that the final rule is:

“an important piece of the agency’s overall strategy to promote the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals. This strategy will bring the use of these drugs under veterinary supervision so that they are used only when necessary for assuring animal health.”

Notably, as previously discussed here, the rule memorializes the concept that veterinarian may only prescribe antibiotics to animals “within the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), which includes sufficient knowledge of the animal, visits to the farm, and follow-up evaluation or care.”

While many states include that requirement in state veterinary medical practice acts, not all states include a definition of or specifications for the “veterinarian-client-patient relationship.”  (See table of state laws compiled by AVMA).

The VFD will require veterinarians to follow state-defined VCPR requirements as long as the state requirements include the key elements in the final VFD.

FDA requires:

“the veterinarian engage with the client (i.e., animal producer or caretaker) to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about patient (i.e., animal) health, have sufficient knowledge of the animal by conducting examinations and/or visits to the facility where the animal is managed, and provide for any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.”

However, “where the FDA determines that no applicable or appropriate state VCPR requirements exist, veterinarians will need to issue VFDs in compliance with federally defined VCPR requirements.”