Webster's New World dictionary defines advocacy as "speaking or writing in support of something." Although the issues affecting the swine industry have often changed, one fact remains the same. These issues have the potential to affect swine medicine--sometimes adversely. For that reason, the AASP's role in advocacy has not wavered. Too often, an organization remains silent on an issue. Too often, silence is interpreted as implicit agreement on an issue. Sometimes, silence may be seen as apathy. Whether an organization speaks for its members or remains silent, decisions will be made that impact our profession and industry. The AASP continues to be a vocal advocate for our members.

Over the years, many AASP members have effectively represented our interests. The breadth of the representation encompasses a wide range of associations, organizations, federal agencies, state agencies, and even Congress. AASP members have contributed a great deal of time and expertise on advocacy. Without their hard work, our successes would be fewer.

Advocacy can be a frustrating exercise, especially if your target ignores your messages. On the other hand, advocacy can be rewarding when your message is heard and acted upon. Sometimes the victories are small, but nonetheless hard fought and worthy. The AASP is known in many circles for our advocacy on behalf of swine practitioners and the pork industry. Our advocacy has proved to have critical bearing on the outcome of several issues.

Activities at the Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM) have captured a great deal of our attention. The issue of drug availability has been central to many of the opportunities for advocacy. The AASP has been involved in the issues of extra-label drug use, the Veterinary Feed Directive, flexible labeling, and judicious use of veterinary antimicrobials. On a number of occasions, the AASP has been asked to bring practitioners to meet with FDA/CVM staff. Our members' experiences on the realities of swine practice serve as insightful and valuable messages to the agency staff making policy decisions.

More recently, the issue of antimicrobial resistance is the top priority of the FDA/CVM. The relationship between the use of antimicrobials in food animals and the development of resistance in zoonotic bacteria is under intense scrutiny. Public health agencies and other organizations are involved at an unprecedented level of advocacy for their positions. Some public officials have mistakenly equated prudent use with no use of antimicrobials in food animals. The AASP has consistently taken positions based on science and asked that others, including federal agencies, do the same.

The AASP's representation does not stop at the United States (US) borders. Over the last 2 years, the AASP has participated in meetings with the World Health Organization (WHO). In June, I had the privilege to represent the AASP at a WHO meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The subject of the meeting was the development of "Global Principles for the Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance Due to Antimicrobial Use in Animals Intended for Food." Even though this meeting addressed animal agriculture, representation from that sector was a definite minority--with only Dr. Paul Sundberg representing the National Pork Producers and Dr. Lyle Vogel representing the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Like the two prior WHO meetings that dealt with food animals, this meeting (also known as a consultation) was highly political. Most of the focus was placed on developed countries, specifically the US and the European Union (EU). Little to no attention was paid to the challenges faced by developing countries. United States agriculture serves as a large target for the EU, where several bans against antimicrobial use are already in place.

The global principles developed at the WHO meeting are not binding on the FDA/CVM. However, the principles have the very real potential to affect current and future drug approvals in the US. They certainly may influence upcoming regulatory and legislative actions. Within the discussion on the principles (there are 42 in total), there were three specific areas that demonstrate the need for AASP advocacy:

  • There was a definite agenda among some EU representatives to prohibit veterinarians from selling antimicrobials. The sale of antimicrobials would then be limited to pharmacies.
  • There was significant support from public health representatives for a national formulary for each species of food animal. Such a formulary would dictate drugs of first, second, and third choice for each disease condition.
  • Public health representatives were also advocating for severe restrictions on the prophylactic use of antimicrobials. They view prophylactic use as misuse and overuse of antimicrobials.

Although the final draft of the WHO principles is pending, our joint advocacy with the NPPC and the AVMA was successful in counterbalancing the aforementioned agendas. Each proposal for more restrictive language in these areas was turned back by a concerted effort. The final results will be acceptable to swine practitioners.

Not only has the breadth of issues broadened over the years, so have the number and composition of the alliances and coalitions of which the AASP is a participant. Those circumstances will continue into the future. There will also be new issues requiring advocacy. AASP members are one of our best resources for monitoring emerging issues. Please contact me if you see an area or an issue that calls for our advocacy.

Finally, I urge you to be involved on behalf of your producers. Advocacy does not have to be on a national or an international level. It is just as important on a local level that veterinarians serve as advocates for their producers. On September 19, 20, and 21, 2000, producers will be voting in a referendum on the pork checkoff. If the checkoff is voted down, it is very likely that the National Pork Producers Council will cease to exist in its current form. If this were to happen, the AASP will lose a valuable ally in advocating for the swine veterinarian and the US pork industry. If the checkoff is reaffirmed, then NPPC will continue to serve the industry. Please speak to your producers in support of the pork checkoff.