Upon learning of disturbing new footage showing cattle abused at a Portales, N.M., livestock auction, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has strongly condemned the cruelty and issued a call for stricter adherence to humane animal handling guidelines and standards.

According to a statement released by the AVMA, the organization labeled the abuse, which was shown in a video released publicly this week by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and which included cows being repeatedly shocked with electric prods and dragged by chains while alive, as “inhumane” and “unacceptable.”

The food animal production system failed these animals, says W. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “Everyone involved in animal agriculture, whether on farms or in processing facilities, shares an ethical responsibility to protect the health and welfare of animals used for food production.”

The video, taped in May 2008 at the Portales Livestock Auction in Portales, N.M., was shot by an HSUS undercover employee working on behalf of the organization.

On June 24, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer met with representatives of the animal agricultural industries and the HSUS. DeHaven applauds this meeting for its cooperative approach toward improved vigilance in ensuring the welfare of animals used for food production.

“In this situation, the AVMA’s job is to work with all stakeholders to make sure this kind of gross negligence and abuse does not happen again,” DeHaven says.

DeHaven cites the need for increased veterinary oversight throughout all stages of the food animal’s lifecycle. “There’s no doubt about it, there must be veterinarians—to protect animal welfare and animal and public health—at every step on the road from farm to fork,” DeHaven notes, reiterating the AVMA’s congressional advocacy to grow the number of food animal veterinarians.

Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division, emphasized the organization’s zero-tolerance approach toward animal cruelty.

“We have worked hard, and will continue to do so, to get our policies fully integrated throughout the industry,” Golab says. “Those policies clearly state that anyone who deals with animals has an obligation to stop—and prevent—this type of cruelty.”

American Veterinary Medical Association