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SAVE ONE, KILL THE OTHER: Why aren’t more veterinarians Vegan?

There is the pressing question as to whether veterinarians have a professional responsibility to be vegan, if they have sworn to protect animals.

KAREN ASP: Veterinarians work tirelessly to save the lives of animals, the majority working with companion animals. Day in and day out, they spend long hours caring for cats and dogs, other companion animals, too, often going to heroic measures to save them.

They have, after all, taken an oath created by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Part of it states: “Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”

Yet for many veterinarians, their food choices do not reflect that oath, even though it does not specify companion animals. While they may not be consuming cats and dogs, they are most likely consuming other species like cows, chickens, and pigs. The irony, of course, is that these animals have the same wants and needs as the patients they treated that day. Call it speciesism, the mistaken belief that some species are more important than others, at its finest.

Of course, speciesism is a societal issue, but when those who believe that eating some animals but saving others is okay are the ones who have pledged to protect animals, the disconnect is mind-boggling, and it is an issue vegan veterinary professionals are becoming more vocal about…

Veterinarians are no different than other individuals in that they grow up in a world and probably households where eating meat is normal… Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, M.S., founder of Plant-Powered Dog and a vegan canine nutritionist in Delray Beach, Fla…. When they enter veterinary school, those notions are often reinforced. “There is a certain culture that exists in veterinary schools,” says Ernie Ward, D.V.M., a plant-based veterinarian in Calabash, N.C., and author of The Clean Pet Food Revolution. “Although many will deny this, it is a speciest approach”…

Ward describes how animals like cats, dogs, birds, and horses are categorized as near-human, which means they are regarded as having feelings and being able to feel pain. “From day one of veterinary school, you’re taught to treat these animals like they’re little humans,” he says. Not so for other animals… In many schools, when veterinary students do their large animal rotation, learning about animals in the food production chain, the views shift.

“The language changes and you’re discouraged from saying things like ‘this animal is suffering’,” he says, adding that peer pressure also makes it difficult to speak up. “Although these animals are just as brilliant and loving as companion animals, veterinary students are asked to blind themselves to their suffering and emotional needs”…

Some change is underfoot, though, as more veterinary schools are introducing animal welfare and ethics into their curriculum, some even offering classes in these topics… Yet classes do not have animal rights guest speakers or lectures dedicated to veganism, something DeZara does not believe veterinary schools bear a responsibility to teach. “Being a vegan or meat-eater does not make you a better veterinarian,” she says. But she does believe animal welfare, which dovetails with animal rights, should be an integral part of the education, which can then help veterinarians decide whether a plant-based diet is best for them…

Her classes explore major philosophies relating to the ethical treatment of animals, and veganism and speciesism are part of that discussion. Yet rather than teaching students to take a specific stance, she encourages them to examine issues objectively… These topics also challenge what many of the veterinary teaching staff have been taught, and many staff members become defensive when their long-held beliefs are questioned…

While it is important to examine the role a veterinarians’ education may play in shaping his or her philosophies, there is an even more pressing question and that is whether veterinarians have a professional responsibility to be vegan. If they have sworn to protect animals, should they be eating animals when statistics show that 97 to 99 percent of the meat in the U.S. diet comes from factory farms where animals endure a lifetime of suffering?…

For some, the cognitive dissonance and disassociation is alarming, which is why Laverdure-Dunetz recently penned an open letter to veterinarians, asking them why they are not vegan. “I wanted to remind them of what I consider are their obligations not just to companion animals but all the animals they swore to protect,” she says…

“It is our moral and professional responsibility to speak for all animals,” he says, adding that he has had veterinarians call him a quack because he is challenging the notion of killing animals for food. “These animals deserve to be treated compassionately and humanely, something most of the world agrees with, and in being better stewards of animal welfare, veterinarians should only condone the humane treatment of animals.” says Ward. SOURCE…

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