Veterinary Medical Ethics Déontologie vétérinaire Ethical question of the month — March 2015 The prescribing and selling of appropriate pharmaceuticals for the treatment and prevention of disease are key components of a veterinarian’s professional activities. Regular communication between pharmaceutical companies and veterinarians is important to ensure products are being used appropriately and are working effectively. Veterinarians also play key roles in evaluating pharmaceuticals in terms of safety and efficacy. Associations between antimicrobial use in livestock production and the development of antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens have brought the relationships between veterinarians and pharmaceutical companies into question. One article addressing this concern is available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/23/ farmaceuticals-vets-idUSL1N0U60Y220141223 (Last accessed January 19, 2014). Can academic and practicing veterinarians maintain a professional working relationship with the manufacturers of important veterinary medical compounds without appearing unduly influenced in their professional judgements?
Question de déontologie du mois — Mars 2015 La prescription et la vente des produits pharmaceutiques appropriés pour le traitement et la prévention des maladies représentent des éléments importants des activités professionnelles d’un vétérinaire. Une communication régulière entre les compagnies pharmaceutiques et les vétérinaires est cruciale en vue d’assurer que les produits sont utilisés adéquatement et qu’ils agissent efficacement. Les vétérinaires jouent aussi des rôles clés dans l’évaluation des produits pharmaceutiques en ce qui a trait à leur innocuité et à leur efficacité. Les liens entre l’utilisation des antimicrobiens dans l’élevage du bétail et le développement d’une résistance antimicrobienne des pathogènes humains ont remis en question les relations entre les vétérinaires et les compagnies pharmaceutiques. Un article abordant cette préoccupation est disponible au : http://www.reuters.com/ article/2014/12/23/farmaceuticals-vets-idUSL1N0U60Y220141223 (Dernière consultation le 19 janvier 2014). Les vétérinaires travaillant en pratique et dans les universités peuvent-ils entretenir des relations professionnelles avec les fabricants de préparations médicales vétérinaires importantes sans que leur jugement professionnel ne semble indûment influencé?
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, 6486 E. Garafraxa, Townline, Belwood, Ontario N0B 1J0; 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 D r Tim Blackwell, 6486, E. Garafraxa, Townline, Belwood (Ontario) N0B 1J0; téléphone : (519) 846-3413; télécopieur : (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 56 / MARCH 2015
D É O N TO LO G I E V É T É R I N A I R E
Ethical question of the month — December 2014 Supply managed commodities in Canada have created benefits for farmers and allied industry personnel including veterinarians. This Canadian policy of allowing commodity boards to set the price for milk, eggs, and poultry is unique in North America. Although some groups benefit from supply management, others argue that the system suppresses the advantages that would accrue in a truly free market including improved efficiency and innovation. Although consumers in Canada pay more than their American counterparts for dairy products, poultry, and eggs, the products themselves are indistinguishable in quality or safety. In addition, housing and management of dairy, chicken, turkeys, and laying hens are similar in both countries including practices considered inhumane by certain animal welfare organizations. Can a system that requires Canadian consumers to pay more than Americans for essentially equivalent products of livestock origin be justified?
Question de déontologie du mois — Décembre 2014 La gestion de l’approvisionnement des denrées au Canada a créé des avantages pour les agriculteurs et les travailleurs œuvrant dans les industries connexes, y compris les vétérinaires. La politique canadienne qui permet aux offices de commercialisation de fixer le prix du lait, des œufs et de la volaille est unique en Amérique du Nord. Même si certains groupes profitent de la gestion de l’approvisionnement, d’autres font valoir que le système empêche les avantages qui découleraient d’un marché vraiment libre, notamment l’amélioration de l’efficacité et de l’innovation. Même si les consommateurs canadiens paient plus que leurs homologues américains pour les produits laitiers, la volaille et les œufs, les produits en soi présentent une qualité et une salubrité identiques sur tous les plans. De plus, le logement et la gestion des bovins laitiers, des poulets, des dindons et des poules pondeuses sont semblables dans les deux pays, y compris les pratiques considérées cruelles par certains organismes de bien-être des animaux. Peut-on justifier un système qui exige que les consommateurs canadiens paient plus que les Américains pour des productions animales essentiellement équivalentes?
Supply Management — Comments Canada’s harsh climate dictates higher production costs for farm animal products, which are not subsidized by government. By enabling producers to receive a fair and stable return, supply management systems can be expected to facilitate the implementation of improved farm animal welfare standards and practices identified in the revised Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle (2009) and those anticipated in the two poultry codes which are now being revised under the new, science-informed and inclusive code of practice development process of the National Farm Animal Care Council (1,2). Supply management may be justified on this basis, provided that producers implement their respective codes in a timely and consistent manner across Canada. Dr. Gord Doonan, Orleans, Ontario
References 1. Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals. National Farm Animal Care Council. Available from: http://www.nfacc.ca/codesof-practice Last accessed January 19, 2015. 2. Croney CC, Millman ST. The ethical and behavioral bases for farm animal welfare legislation. J Anim Sci 2007;85:556–565. Available from: http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/85/2/556.full Last accessed January 19, 2015.
This is a very unusual question for a Veterinary Medical Ethics column — totally inappropriate and out of place, as the complex issue of supply management is an agricultural policy issue, not an ethical issue. To arrive at any sort of an informed decision requires exhaustive financial and policy review, looking at 224
the true cost of food production including direct and indirect farm payments to producers through both United States and Canadian farm support programs. There is only one consumer, one taxpayer, and that person will expend his/her dollars to buy supply managed products directly, or perhaps spend even more dollars to support an American style farm support program through tax dollars. Please don’t try to inject veterinary medical ethics into complicated United States/Canadian agricultural policy that carries an incredible amount of often confusing history. Dr. Allan Preston, Preston Stock Farms Ltd., Hamiota, Manitoba My first comment is that Canadian and United States dairy products are not indistinguishable in quality. Canadian regulations regarding milk quality limits the maximum allowable Somatic Cell Count (S.C.C.) to 400 000 cells/mL, whereas the United States maximum is 750 000 cells/mL; a value nearly 50% less wholesome. Products of livestock origin pale in the face of other, much more expensive consumer items. For example, a “Honda Pilot” manufactured in Alliston Ontario, less than 1 hour from Midland retails for $35 100 in Ontario, whereas the same vehicle in Atlanta Georgia is $30 750. This difference, which is constant regardless of the value of the Canadian dollar, represents a lot of groceries. Can this arrangement by big business and government be justified? Dr. H. J. Rumney, Midland, Ontario CVJ / VOL 56 / MARCH 2015
An ethicist’s commentary on supply management
CVJ / VOL 56 / MARCH 2015
In today’s world, concerns for animal welfare have become a major source for the values undergirding the production of animal products. Controlling the supply of milk or eggs, for example, assures that producers possess the wherewithal to create improvements in production systems that benefit the welfare of the animals, for example replacing battery cages for laying hens with enriched cages or aviary systems. Blunting the relentless pursuit of profit represented by the free market provides the producer with a bit of wiggle room for creating welfare-friendly modifications in production systems. This value figured significantly into the reasoning of Colorado cattlemen some 35 years ago when I pointed out to them the unfairness of shipping “downer” or lame cattle to market. I remember raising the issue at a rancher meeting and having one of the most prominent ranchers reply that “You’re right Doc. We should eat our mistakes, not ship them.” This view is a sacred remnant of the traditional ethic of good husbandry — “we take care of the animals, and they take care of us!” As one of my veterinarian friends put it, “if I have a milk cow that has given me her all for eight to nine years, I owe her much more than shipping her to market when she is not totally fit just to realize a few more dollars.” The Colorado law passed at that time prohibiting shipping downer animals was drafted by cattlemen, as revealed by the stipulation that if one does ship a downer or crippled or suffering animal, it will be immediately euthanized at the destination at the expense of the shipper, and the carcass will be sent back to the shipper at his expense! This explains the extremely infrequent violation of the law. In the same way, egg producers in Manitoba have indicated their intention of wishing to replace battery cages for laying hens with enriched cages that take cognizance of the animals’ needs and natures. The ability to control the supply in order to realize enough money to pay for such conversion provides a vehicle for incorporating social and moral demands for animal welfare improvements. By all indications worldwide, consumers in developed countries are quite willing to pay a few more pennies per dozen eggs to assure hen welfare, as evidenced by the fact that more than half the eggs sold in Britain and New Zealand come from systems more expensive than battery cages. Bernard E. Rollin, PhD
V E T E R I N A RY M E D I CA L E T H I C S
One of the most pervasive mythological falsehoods in the United States is the notion that the United States’ economy represents a nearly ideal free market state. Anyone seriously attending to that claim soon realizes that this is not the case. To take an example relevant to the current question, it is widely believed that confinement agriculture has created a situation where the United States citizens enjoy “the cheapest food supply in the world.” One of the valuable contributions made by the Pew Commission in its recent detailed study, “Putting Meat on the Table,” is to debunk this myth. While it is certainly the case that United States food is “cheap at the register,” one salient reason for that is the externalization of costs related to food production. What this means is that what one pays at the register does not represent the full cost incurred in producing food. To calculate the latter, one must also reckon the cost of roads and bridges degraded by the constant use of them to transport products to consumer loci. Maintenance and replacement costs are considerable, but are hidden in that they are drawn from taxes. One way or another, costs are passed on to consumers, but in a manner that conceals their full extent. Another example belying the allegedly free market nature of the United States economy is the legal prohibition of the child labor that once contributed a fair amount to that economy before the late 19th century. Indeed, moral reasons represent a significant factor militating in favor of putting constraints on a totally free economy. In the same way, regulation of supply represents a set of morally based reasons for stepping back from a totally free market. It is abundantly clear that one of the reasons for putting constraints upon a totally free market is the fear of large, vertically integrated production systems forcing out small producers through the acquisition of monopolistic domination of the market. Regulating the supply as is done in Canada helps assure that small producers can remain in competition with corporate giants, a moral value favored by consumers both to assure the survival of those small producers as well as providing a roadblock to the cornering of markets by large players to fix prices. I remember giving a keynote speech to the “Ontario large dairy producers,” a group representing larger operations. I was told at the time that, given the Canadian regulatory system, a large producer was a dairy farm not much bigger than 300 cows. In the United States on the other hand, large dairy farms can number 15 000 or more cattle.