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Poultry veterinarians need to be the ‘voice of the birds’

Veterinarians need to be more proactive and be the “voice of the birds” on issues related to health and well-being, according to Nancy Reimers, DVM, a poultry veterinarian in California and chair of the Animal Welfare Committee, American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP).

Decisions about whether to treat isn’t a new ethical issue for veterinary medicine. The topic of treating with antibiotics, however, has come to the forefront due to changes in marketing and in regulatory requirements, she told Poultry Health Today.

These developments prompted AAAP to issue a position paper reminding the food chain that “antibiotics are an important tool for poultry veterinarians to protect the health and well-being of flocks and should not be sacrificed in the name of marketing.”

“We felt that we needed to be a voice for the birds and put forth the idea that raising a healthy bird is actually important,” Reimers said.

When developing the white paper, the AAAP considered medically important antibiotics that are used in human medicine versus the ones that only have impact in poultry. The AAAP wants to preserve bird health and help bird welfare, preserve public health but also ensure that antibiotics needed for poultry last for generations to come, Reimers emphasized.

Many people looking at the antibiotic issue aren’t thinking about the tie-in with bird health and welfare, she said. “We, as veterinarians, need to preserve that welfare for our patients, as well as helping our clients making sure that the customer has a safe product to eat.”

Most of the antibiotics that have traditionally been used in poultry act to suppress disease in the birds, notably clostridia, and as a secondary benefit help the birds grow more efficiently, Reimers said.

She cited the so-called FLAWS of poultry medicine – feed, light, air, water and space and sanitation — factors that are important for ensuring the health and welfare of the birds. Medications are a portion of that FLAWS concept, she added.

Posted on July 20, 2017

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