Presidents' messages

"Wishin', an' hopin', an' thinkin', an'...."

So goes the chorus of a popular song from the deep recesses of the past. Not so deep, however, that the words fail to surface on occasion, particularly now, at the start of a new year and the end of my presidency. Here's my personal wish list with what I hope could help the wish come true.

I wish being a part of the protein provision industry serving the field of human nutrition didn't require the effort needed to scientifically justify facility design, welfare concerns, growth promotion, and environmental risks. I hope our future leaders avoid creating new concerns as they seek to minimize old ones.

I wish it had not become necessary to explainwhere food comes from to those who eat it. I hope our future leaders, including those in AASV, are steadfast in their resolve to do so.

I wish that scientific review would always supercede anthropomorphism. I hope there will always be individuals with sufficient strength of character to see that it does.

I wish the fruits of scientific investigations could be uniformly available to all in a timely fashion. I hope some of our brightest scientists will quit reading their own press clippings and realize we're all in this together.

I wish that, as a non-profit, mostly-volunteer association, AASV would continue to lead in the industry, the profession, and the community. I hope those who seek to lead the association continue to put the organization first and their personal aggrandizement last.

I wish all could recognize the effects of their actions upon their colleagues. I hope corporate pressure upon colleagues does not cause them to undermine broader, less self-serving programs for pig welfare in particular, and for environmental improvement.

I wish there could be a greater likelihood for profit in the pharmaceutical industry, leading to more research and new approved products. I hope you all realize the risk at which you place the industry when you prescribe human generic antibiotics under the umbrella of AMDUCA.

I wish the leadership of the veterinary profession would remember how vital the food animal veterinarian is to society. I hope future generations of veterinarians have the opportunity for professional fulfillment I have had without going across the continent to one of the few schools that might, theoretically, offer food animal medicine.

I wish I could have done more during my tenure. I hope I didn't screw it up.

Thanks to all who have helped me this last year and throughout my career. Good luck to Dr Tokach and all those who serve AASV. This association will be stronger for their efforts.

Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional.

--David Madsen

AASV: Proactive or reactive?

Recently, a long-standing member of AASV emphasized the need for our organization to be more proactive in "hot" issues such as animal welfare, judicious drug use, and farm auditing. It got me thinking. If you polled our members by asking "Should AASV be a proactive organizationor a reactive organization?" nearly everyone would say "proactive".

What is "proactive"? Merriam-Webster defines it this way: "proactive: adj. Acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes." This seems logical. In theory, we all support the idea of being proactive.

The problem comes with the nitty-gritty of proactive behavior. Take animal welfare. We all believe AASV acts very proactively in this arena. As Dr Burkgren outlined in his Sept-Oct 2001 Executive Director column, we have worked with the National Pork Board and the AVMA to be on the forefront of this issue. We have been active on committees and worked with fast food companies. We pushed to have animal welfare become part of the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program. Does this make us "proactive"? We support scientific information on animal welfare, yet we do not take a stance on the hard issues. Should tethers be banned? Should sows be allowed to turn around? Is economics always the driver? When it comes right down to it, it is difficult for an organization as diverse as ours to be truly proactive. To me, proactive means taking an aggressive stance.

My personal favorite is Extra Label Drug Use. This is an area where we ought to be proactive. Animal behavioralists and animalscientists, as well as veterinarians, give their opinions on animal welfare issues. When it comes to drug use, only veterinarians are involved. With October's confirmed cases of anthrax and the rush for ciprofloxacin prescriptions, America has a heightened awareness that unwarranted use of antibiotics is associated with selection for microbial resistance. In October, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article reporting antibiotic resistance of salmonellae cultured from ground meat products. The bottom line was this: "Though our data could not be used to attribute the presence of ceftriaxone-resistant phenotypes to the use of ceftiofur in livestock, it does support previous findings that foods of animal origin are potential sources of ceftriaxone-resistant salmonella infections in humans." Later that month, a new coalition, Keep Antibiotics Working, was launched, targeting use of antibiotics in agriculture.

As a mother of three young children with various colds, earaches, and sinus infections, I have witnessed firsthand the haphazard method by which antibiotics are chosen for human use. I know that the humanmedical profession will have to take some blame for antibiotic resistance. However, the food animal industry is an easy scapegoat. The public would much rather assign blame for the drug resistance problem to the agricultural food industry than to their own general practitioners. Does being proactive mean we must ban the use of any antibiotics that might be thought to cause microbial resistance in the food chain? Not necessarily, in my opinion, but it may mean we have to take a hard look in the mirror and at least eliminate the easy targets.

You should be familiar with the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA). Laminated copies of a practical algorithm based on AMDUCA were sent out with your SHAP journal in 1998. Additional copies are available from AASV or AVMA, or can be viewed online at This brochure is very useful. The problem with it is that people tend to try to bend the algorithm to fit their needs.

Our biggest area of vulnerability is the use of human generic drugs in food animals. If all criteria are met, AMDUCA does permit the use of human generic drugs. The problem is that very few situations actually meet the criteria. Human generic amoxicillin and cefalexin are commonly defended as legal under AMDUCA, but if you read the fine print, they are eliminated early in the algorithm, because food animal products are available and, therefore, must be used in a labeled or extra label manner. An emotionallydriven public is unlikely to ignore veterinary use of these human drugs just because they are cheaper or more convenient. The public are unconcerned about agricultural economics. They just want antibiotics that work for them and food that is wholesome and safe (and preferably cheap). Of course, using the veterinary approvedversion of a drug instead of the human generic version does not solve the microbial resistance problem. However, claiming that veterinary use of an antibiotic that is supposed to cure earaches in our children is justified because the human generic is cheaper or more convenient is not going to find public acceptance.

Trimethoprim sulfa actually makes it to the bottom of the AMDUCA algorithm, but is eliminated in the end because there is no withdrawal-time information. Try to convincethe public that this sulfa should be allowed for use in food producing animals, when sulfas are responsible for the drug residue that has been a central focus of the National Pork Board's PQA program.

This is a dilemma we are all forced to deal with in the most informed way we can. Fortunately, better production methods for eliminating and controlling disease are allowingus to find ways to deal with the problems without the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, if you are an associate veterinarian or production system veterinarian, you may not be in control of prescribing medications. Nevertheless, your name is on the prescription! Will your boss be stopping by to visit when you are flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant because you no longer have a license to practice or, worse yet, when you are in jail? This is certainlya case where ignorance is not goingto be bliss. Let's clean up our act beforesomeone cleans it up for us. Doing it ourselves, in my mind, would be pro-active.

--Lisa Tokach