The weekend before last we had a booth at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention in Boston. The AVMA is the largest association of veterinarians and takes rational, science-based approaches to animal welfare. That runs counter to a group like HSUS, which pushes a radical ideology. Unsurprisingly, HSUS has clashed with the AVMA in the past.
A few years back, HSUS started a group called the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), which absorbed an existing group called the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. AVAR had a reputation of being a group for radical, PETA-like veterinarians and even once ran an attack ad accusing the AVMA of betraying animals.
HSVMA had a booth at the AVMA Convention this year, and we got a booth opposite HSVMA. (The picture above was HSVMA’s view as we were setting up.) What better way to have a debate than having both sides right near each other? Unsurprisingly, HSUS/HSVMA wasn’t interested in a debate. The people running the booth promptly complained to the AVMA and tried to have us thrown out.
So the AVMA did us a favor. Since the sourpusses at HSVMA couldn’t tolerate healthy discourse, AVMA moved our booth to a highly trafficked area in the middle of the exhibit hall. HSVMA was left in the far corner of the show by some bathrooms. A fitting position.
HSVMA is an interesting case. The group does some good things such as rural veterinary services but is tainted by the larger HSUS political agenda, which leads to counterproductive positions. For instance, a few years back the AVMA opposed an HSUS-backed measure to ban the slaughter of horses in the US for food, arguing that the horses would simply go to Mexico where the animal welfare standards are not as stringent. HSUS attacked the AVMA—but in the end, the AVMA was correct. Truckloads of horses are going to Mexico now. Animal welfare has been reduced thanks to HSUS.
More recently we’ve seen HSVMA send a letter signed by vets to New Jersey lawmakers calling for a ban on individual maternity pens, used to house pregnant pigs. The letter seemed strange—we know plenty of swine veterinarians who support the use of maternity pens. It turned out the HSVMA signers were almost all small-animal (cat and dog) vets. It’s unclear if they had any experience with pigs, but they were certainly tools for HSUS/HSVMA propaganda.
The bottom line is that vets with HSVMA need to decide if they want to be associated with a radical overlord that wants to use them. The folks who run HSUS are not veterinarians. They are longtime PETA-style activists. However, they are smart enough to know they need someone with credibility carrying their agenda. No matter how many free spay-neuters HSVMA provides, its members should ask if they can’t do good work with a more reputable group.
How did vets react to the booth? Very positively. A number of vets, especially older vets, already get the joke, but quite a few younger vets and students had no idea.