One of the great things about being on the AASV staff is the challenge associated with educating others about what we do and why we do it the way we do – advocacy. It is part of our job to be that voice for swine veterinarians to others within the veterinary profession, the animal-agriculture industry, legislators, regulators, producers, and consumers. It’s a diverse audience and a multifaceted message on a wide variety of topics. It is obvious that we can’t do this job alone. We rely on each AASV member to help carry the message to this broad audience. Each of you advocates for our profession every day. Let’s take a look at the various levels of formal and informal advocacy in which many of you participate.
Well over 200 of you currently volunteer your time and knowledge to actively participate in the activities of your association by serving as elected leaders or AASV committee members. The AASV staff relies on the executive committee and the board of directors for direction on policy issues and guidance on topical issues affecting swine veterinary medicine. The staff and board, in turn, look to our issue-based committees for input on the impact issues may have on the broader membership.
In addition to participation in internal activities of AASV, many of you also share our message with veterinary colleagues through your involvement with AVMA. We have very active participation within the AVMA House of Delegates and on every committee, council, and task force on which we are eligible to serve. As the veterinary profession becomes more diverse, fewer veterinarians are involved in food-animal medicine. It is important that we increase our efforts to educate our colleagues regarding the legislative, regulatory, and practice activities that impact swine veterinary medicine. While we may not always agree with some opinions expressed within our profession, we must maintain our voice as a constituent organization within AVMA and continue to build our relationships with allied organizations. I encourage you to become a member of AVMA to support our relevance within the association.
Reaching out to legislators and regulators is a vital advocacy role that benefits from everyone’s participation. This interaction takes most of us out of our comfort zone and forces us to try to impress on someone, who may have little knowledge of what we do, the potential impact of what they do. You often find yourself condensing a complex topic into its very basic essence to impart the justification for your position on the issue. This experience can be both fascinating and frustrating. This is why our participation in coalitions of allied groups is so important. The goal is to have as many people preaching the same message as many times as possible. That’s where you come in. Elected officials in particular respond to one-on-one input from their constituents. Take the opportunity when it presents itself to meet with your legislators and express your viewpoints, especially concerning the personal or professional impact a certain law or regulation will have on you. Trust me, if you’re not telling them your story, someone else is – and you might not like their version. Over two dozen of you have participated in the Swine Veterinarians Advocacy Training Program offered by the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, DC. The AVMA offers similar training and access opportunities. Take the time to visit your elected officials when they are in your district or if you’re visiting Washington or your state capital.
Advocacy efforts are important even within the “barnyard.” For too long, agriculture has functioned as distinct entities going about our business of producing the safest, most wholesome, least expensive food in the world. We have become so good at it that we are now an extremely small percentage of the workforce in most of the world. The voices of radical anti-agriculture groups have become loud and well-financed compared to those of food producers and livestock veterinarians. In an attempt to consolidate our message, coalitions of allied groups have formed to try to understand the commonalities of what we do and how we each might better carry the message of animal agriculture. Many of our members participate, either on staff or in volunteer roles, in the activities of these allied groups, including NPB, NPPC, AVMA, US Animal Health Association, and National Institute for Animal Agriculture, just to name a few. These individuals are instrumental in promoting the issues of animal agriculture to influence public policy, regulations, legislation, agency funding, research direction, market access, and animal health and welfare.
And, let’s not forget all of you working in academia and research. You are advocates for our profession as you interact with students, colleagues, and the research community. It is your job to find students with an aptitude and desire to contribute to our profession and to provide us with the science we need to continue advancing animal health and welfare. Both are becoming increasingly difficult with decreasing budgets and increasing costs. Our student members are also visible advocates for swine veterinary medicine. You are an invaluable educational asset among your classmates in the effort to raise the awareness of all veterinarians about the challenges facing our food-animal colleagues.
Lastly, it goes without saying that our practitioner members are the face of our profession to the public at large and the producers we work with. Your activities on a daily basis form the backbone of swine veterinary medicine and make you the most visible advocates for what we do. Your dedication to animal health, welfare, food safety, and public health, and your desire to practice progressive, high-quality veterinary medicine, are the cornerstone of our advocacy efforts.
So, who advocates for swine veterinary medicine? We all do. Those of us whose job it is to advocate on a daily basis thank you for your support, direction, and willingness to actively participate when called upon to do so. I encourage each of you to get involved in protecting and promoting our chosen profession. If you are looking for ways to become more actively involved, don’t hesitate to contact us.
-- Harry Snelson, DVM
AASV Director of Communications