Over the last 2 years that we have been rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming farm animals, we have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some incredible vets. Clinics who have treated all of our fostered animals with compassion and kindness and cried with us when we have had to make the painful decision to put an animal to sleep. However, this unfortunately has not always been our experience when dealing with vets.
The public perception of veterinarians is one of animal advocacy and welfare, but it is important to remember that there is an ingrained speciesist attitude in the veterinary industry.
Speciesism is inherent in our society; we are all taught from a very young age to perceive differences between a dog bred for companionship and a cow bred for food. As a result, we learn to ignore our own conscience and to stop seeing the cruelty in our choices, instead accepting them as part of life. It is easier to turn a blind eye because we benefit from the exploitation of animals for food, cosmetic products, entertainment, or clothes. Unfortunately, today farm animals are still seen as a commodity and not as companions like domestic animals, which can have a harmful impact on the type of vet care available to them. Vets are no less immune to the deep-rooted conditioning we’ve all grown up with.
Unfortunately, veterinary degrees further reinforce this attitude by encouraging future vets to view farm animals through the eyes of the farming industry. The agricultural industry’s main focus is on the economic value of an animal, and how its health impacts production. Completely void of compassion and detached from seeing animals as capable of feeling fear or pain. This is reflected in state-based animal welfare legislation that excludes certain animals from anti-cruelty protections if they are classified as livestock or farm animals, or any animals that are used for research purposes.
These ‘laws’ allow farmers to conduct painful surgical mutilations on animals, completely disregarding their welfare. It is important to understand that vets treat animals on farms where this is common practice, and are therefore influenced by the way farmers treat and talk about their farmed animals. So, it is easy to see how vets can become desensitised to ethically questionable standard industry practices, such as performing procedures without pain relief (e.g banding, dehorning or tail docking).
This desensitisation or detachment is evident when vets refer to our fostered animals as ‘it’ instead of by their names. This sends us a clear message about how they view and value farm animals, which often reflects the type of care farm animals end up receiving from vets. Basic treatment that is available to domestic pets is not accessible to farmed animals because there is ‘no market’ for vets to offer these services. Farmers may not insist on the best vet care available and adequate pain relief but ‘Til The Cows Come Home does!
We are here to change the way people see farm animals and remind them that they deserve the same vet care afforded to domestic pets. The grief we feel for the loss of our fostered animals is just as valid as the grief felt for a cat or dog. In time and through the work that we are seeing with charities like us, there is hope that all animals will be recognised and treated as equals.
We welcome the day that farm animals are treated with the same compassion as pets, and are not just viewed as a commodity.
Article written by Phoebe Wisken