Veterinary Medical Ethics  Déontologie vétérinaire Ethical question of the month — July 2014 Natural selection maintains balance in most wildlife populations. “Survival of the fittest” is seldom an issue for members of the public concerned about animal welfare. However, there is often strong opposition if the decision is made to cull animals when there is an imbalance caused by the disproportionate increase of one species within an area or ecosystem. Examples of cull programs that have generated heated opposition include the feral rabbits on the campus of the University of Victoria, wild horses in Alberta, moose on the island of Newfoundland, feral dogs in isolated northern communities, and Canada geese on golf courses and around airports. In most of these cases the target species has no natural predators within the area in which it is problematic. The resulting population imbalance causes harm to the overpopulating species as well as to other members of the bionetwork. Can shooting, trapping, or poisoning all or most of an “invasive” species be justified on an ethical basis?

Question de déontologie du mois — Juillet 2014 La sélection naturelle maintient l’équilibre dans la plupart des populations sauvages. La «survivance des plus aptes» est rarement une question envisagée par les membres du public lorsqu’ils pensent au bien-être animal. Cependant, lorsqu’il se produit un déséquilibre causé par la hausse disproportionnée d’une espèce dans une région ou un écosystème, la décision d’éliminer des animaux soulève souvent un tollé. Citons, à titre d’exemples de programmes d’élimination qui ont suscité une forte opposition, les lapins féraux sur le campus de l’Université de Victoria, les chevaux sauvages en Alberta, les orignaux dans l’île de Terre-Neuve, les chiens féraux dans les collectivités isolées du Nord et les bernaches du Canada sur les terrains de golf et à proximité des aéroports. Dans la plupart de ces cas, l’espèce ciblée n’a aucun prédateur naturel dans la région où elle cause des problèmes. Le déséquilibre qui en résulte nuit à l’espèce en surpopulation ainsi qu’aux autres membres du réseau biologique. Peut-on justifier, du point de vue de l’éthique, l’élimination d’une espèce «envahissante» à l’aide de fusils, de pièges ou d’empoisonnement?

Responses to the case presented are welcome. Please limit your reply to approximately 50 words and forward along with your name and address to: Ethical Choices, c/o Dr. Tim Blackwell, Veterinary Science, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 6484 Wellington Road 7, Unit 10, Elora, Ontario N0B 1S0; telephone: (519) 846-3413; fax: (519) 846-8178; e-mail: [email protected] Suggested ethical questions of the month are also welcome! All ethical questions or scenarios in the ethics column are based on actual events, which are changed, including names, locations, species, etc., to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved.

Les réponses au cas présenté sont les bienvenues. Veuillez limiter votre réponse à environ 50 mots et nous la faire parvenir par la poste avec vos nom et adresse à l’adresse suivante : Choix déontologiques, a/s du Dr Tim Blackwell, Science vétérinaire, ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Alimentation et des Affaires rurales de l’Ontario, 6484, chemin Wellington 7, unité 10, Elora (Ontario) N0B 1S0; téléphone : (519) 846-3413; télé­ copieur : (519) 846-8178; courriel : [email protected] Les propositions de questions déontologiques sont toujours ­bienvenues! Toutes les questions et situations présentées dans cette chronique s’inspirent d’événements réels dont nous modifions certains éléments, comme les noms, les endroits ou les espèces, pour protéger l’anonymat des personnes en cause.

Use of this article is limited to a single copy for personal study. Anyone interested in obtaining reprints should contact the CVMA office ([email protected]) for additional copies or permission to use this material elsewhere. L’usage du présent article se limite à un seul exemplaire pour étude personnelle. Les personnes intéressées à se procurer des ­réimpressions devraient communiquer avec le bureau de l’ACMV ([email protected]) pour obtenir des exemplaires additionnels ou la permission d’utiliser cet article ailleurs. CVJ / VOL 55 / JULY 2014



Ethical question of the month — April 2014 Animal welfare rules and regulations related to farm animal welfare continue to be proposed and instituted in many jurisdictions around the world. It is difficult to ensure compliance with many of these regulations because there are few or no provisions for enforcement. Animals in chronic discomfort can be economically viable and with profit margins often slim to non-existent, flouting of regulations can be expected. Is there a practical way to “level the playing field” so that farms ignoring welfare regulations do not benefit from these actions?

Question de déontologie du mois — Avril 2014 Partout dans le monde, de nombreuses compétences continuent de proposer et d’établir des règles et règlements se rapportant au bien-être des animaux. Il est difficile de garantir le respect de bon nombre de ces règlements car très peu de mesures, le cas échéant, sont prévues pour l’application. Les animaux souffrant d’inconfort chronique peuvent être viables sur le plan économique et, vu que les marges de profit sont souvent minces ou non existantes, on peut s’attendre à ce que l’on fasse fi des règlements. Y a-t-il un moyen pratique d’«uniformiser les règles du jeu» afin que les fermes qui ne respectent pas les règlements en matière de bien-être animal ne profitent pas de ces actions?

An ethicist’s commentary on enforcing farm animal welfare standards The first thought that comes to mind for enforcing animal welfare regulations is to utilize government inspectors. However, such an approach is very difficult to defend during times of economic difficulties that are still significant. Most people in North America (myself included), feel extremely oppressed by prying governmental bureaucracies that seem to poke around in every nook and cranny of our lives. Such bureaucracies are also extremely costly to taxpayers, who in turn do not perceive that benefits outweigh costs. On the other hand, an increasing number of people, when polled, indicate a preference for a legislative solution to farm animal welfare issues. In addition, in the United States there is a precedent for government regulation of animal welfare requirements in the area of animal research. Currently, such research is regulated by the United State Department of Agricultural (USDA) through its branch known as APHIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Relatively few people in the research industry are happy with that regulation. The inspectors are typically not trained in laboratory animal medicine or science, and have historically tended to be excessively rule-governed, often generating an adversarial relationship with research institutions, and a fair amount of tension with researchers. APHIS would be the plausible agency to inspect agricultural facilities. But, the APHIS budget is extremely tight, and the agency would probably be ordered to “do more with less.” Even more important is the fact that the USDA is primarily chartered to be an innovator in and cheerleader for American agriculture, with many of the very industrialized practices that have led to a societal demand for legislation and regulation regarding agricultural animal welfare having been developed by the USDA. Therefore, mandating that the USDA enforce farm animal welfare regulations would put the agency in a significant conflict of interest situation and, as agricultural technological innovation continues to grow, might well create a “fox watching the chickens” situation and a bureaucracy ambivalent in its commitment to farm animal welfare.


Nonetheless, we are all aware that regulations lacking a meaningful enforcement structure are very unlikely to be successful, and end up failing to reassure the public but costing significant amounts of money. It was for this reason that the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production recommended against federal regulation of farm animal welfare. Instead, the Commission endorsed privatization of inspection, managed by the companies that wish to assure the public that their animal welfare practices are exemplary. Many companies have developed their own audit systems to reassure consumers. Chipotle, for example, has been a pioneer in developing a system of well-trained auditors who regularly visit suppliers in both announced and unannounced inspections. Although the costs of such audits are inevitably passed on to consumers, the creation of an extensive government bureaucracy is avoided. Groups performing such audits have proliferated, and have refined what they are looking for during inspections. These auditors must inevitably take their charge very seriously, as any suspicion of failing to meet company welfare standards can rapidly harm the company’s image in the eyes of the public, and destroy the credibility essential to its image. Most of the auditors whom I have met are deeply committed to their mission, while at the same time developing good relationships with producers. For many of these auditors and the producers they regulate, a sense of common mission and common cause characterizes the relationship, for the benefit of all concerned, as well as consumers. Such auditors sometimes assist in developing standards they enforce, thereby creating a sense of ownership in the process, a sense too often absent in government regulators. One final point: All audits should be reviewed annually by a national oversight group, both to ensure that all audits cover more or less the same ground and for auditors to learn from one another. The approach outlined should keep costs down, while assuring that audits rise to a high common denominator. Bernard E. Rollin, PhD

CVJ / VOL 55 / JULY 2014

Veterinary medical ethics.

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