From the Executive Director

No apology

Tom BurkgrenPlease have no doubt that there are plenty of things for which I can apologize. Just like you, I'm human with all the accompanying faults. However, one thing for which I will never apologize is having close ties to the pork industry. So often in the dialogues on controversial issues such as antimicrobial use and animal welfare, veterinarians and veterinary organizations are dismissed as being too closely tied to the animal industries which they serve.

It is common practice during these dialogues for those opposing our views to cast doubt upon our objectivity on the issues. It is a convenient argument because it is based on opinion that will never be proved or disproved. It allows the argument to bypass the facts of the issue, as the attacks are directed at the person or organization. It is, however, a pseudo-argument, because those who make these accusations believe they are true merely because they say so - period. There will never be absolute proof to deny their argument, so it stands.

For decades, veterinarians have been a vital part of the pork industry. By choice and by necessity, veterinarians have teamed up with producers to deliver a safe and healthy food supply to the consuming public. This close partnership has proven to be a great asset to veterinarians, producers, and consumers. To deny the benefits of this partnership would be a denial of the true bonds that hold this industry together. To apologize for it would be a betrayal to the successful relationships that we have built over the years.

AASV's reason for being is to increase the knowledge of swine veterinarians. This knowledge is not meant to be hidden away in some ivory tower, where it can be kept pure and objective. Swine veterinarians spend a great deal of time and effort educating producers on a wide range of health and welfare topics in a wide range of production settings. Knowledge is meant to be applied and tested in practical situations. It is needed to improve the health and well-being of our patients. It is used to sustain our clients' farms and business ventures.

Food supply veterinarians operate in the real world where pure objectivity is a luxury. It is no secret that veterinarians are paid by our clients for our services, knowledge, and products. If we don't help keep our clients in business, then we will also be out of business. The condemnation of a profession because of its business relationships is nonproductive. It does nothing to address the real issues that are important to the health and welfare of the pigs in our care. We cannot be credible if we embrace our industry only when it is convenient or profitable and then hold it at arm's length when we want to appear to be objective.

An issue such as animal welfare is fraught with great subjectivity. Judgments of the quality of caretaking are difficult because there are few common assumptions between the opposing sides of the issue. To try to cast aspersions on swine veterinarians because we have close ties to our industry is at the very least a show of ignorance and, at worst, duplicity. As far as I'm concerned, I will never apologize for someone else's ignorance or duplicity!

-- Tom Burkgren