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Opposition to VSD+ Within Veterinary Profession


Animal Rights Activists within the veterinary profession led by Dr. Crystal Heath, a practitioner in Berkeley, CA. have initiated a program of opposing ventilation shut down (VSD) with or without heat or carbon dioxide as a means of mass depopulation of caged flocks infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza. Carbon dioxide foam was used for floor-housed flocks

 Based on her social media posts Dr. Heath is virulently opposed to VSD and her writing suggests a streak of zealotry.  She has connections to Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and advocates a brand of militant veganism with implicit condemnation of intensive livestock production.

Protests against the AVMA policy on euthanasia that recognizes VSD as an extreme last resort approach to mass depopulation has resulted in resolutions to the AVMA. This is an acceptable approach but a demonstration at the home of Dr. Janet Dolin, Executive Director of the Association, is decidedly unprofessional and a distortion of First-amendment rights.


The threat of militant demonstrations has resulted in the Executive of the American Veterinary Medical Association to advise attendees at the AVMA convention to avoid confrontation, to refrain from public statements and to remove ID badges outside the convention hotel.


Regrettably direct opposition to Dr. Heath and her compatriots will only embolden her and provide the means to generate wider publicity for their cause.  Unfortunately, extreme vegans and even those opposed to intensive livestock production fail to recognize the need to depopulate flocks that have become infected with avian influenza.  If nothing were to be done, up to 99 percent of a flock would inevitably die but over a period of time.  Allowing infected flocks to proliferate and release virus will only prolong outbreaks and result in higher cost to producers, the public sector and consumers.


As veterinarians we recognize the need for euthanasia of flocks that are in any event doomed to prevent further dissemination of the disease. Characteristically opponents of VSD can offer no practical alternative to depopulate flocks more quickly or humanely. If HPAI becomes endemic or even seasonally endemic as a result of sequential introduction and spread of virus by migratory and even domestic birds, prevention based on a combination of immunization and biosecurity will be required to maintain commercial poultry production at an economically acceptable level.


To this end a conference in Paris attended by leading experts on avian influenza, immunology and epidemiology will consider scientific and regulatory aspects of infection with an emphasis on vaccines and their trade implications.


It is hoped that any protests directed against VSD at the AVMA Convention will be muted and conducted in a civilized manner. Violence will only polarize the profession and will be counterproductive to the opponents of the procedure sanctioned as a last resort.