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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Business as Usual: State Veterinarian Defends Animal Abuse

Imagine this. Imagine you always wanted to be a pediatrician. Not for prestige, not for money, not because your parents were pediatricians, but because you adored kids and wanted to help them. You had a knack for interacting with children in a way that made them comfortable and non-threatened, even when they were sick or injured. Imagine you understood children's needs and fears intuitively. Imagine you cared deeply about their well-being, and resolved to become the best pediatrician on Earth.

Now imagine that in medical school, the professors and the profession were trying to teach you that in general, children deserve the same level of care, the same high-quality medicine, the same bedside manner, and the same regard for their feelings. Except a certain large population of children. These children, you're told, will never come to your doctor's office or a hospital. That's because they've been selected to live their whole lives, from birth to death, locked in cages, in a sweat shop. 

Society wants you to go to them, inspect them, and ensure they look healthy enough to keep working and eventually reproducing (new child workers must be created to replace the worn-out child workers, who are killed). But the children are never let out of their cages, and it is not uncommon for them to rock back and forth incessantly, as though they're insane. They're bored, they're frustrated, they often lie in their own waste, they're taken away from their mothers as babies, and the whole building that crowds them reeks of their waste. The children are viewed as product-making machines rather sentient and emotional. For that reason, it is all too easy for their overseers to physically abuse them. But even if the overseers don't inflict outright abuse, the sweat shop environment and restriction on the children's natural interests is so obviously violating that the forced existence in itself is abuse.

Next imagine that social workers who recognize and confront the horror of the situation begin saying that the child sweat shop system is deranged, and that we as a society are morally wrong to be exploiting the innocent, let alone for the unnecessary products the children are making. Imagine that the medical profession, despite its longstanding awareness of child sweat shops, refused to condemn the concept on ethical grounds. The medical profession never recommends the sweat shop system be abolished, because it is being paid quite nicely for its inspections and on-site medicating of the children. Also, most of the doctors buy the products made by the children and believe their lives would be deprived without them.

The social workers are outraged, while the doctors claim the social workers have no business being involved because they have no medical training. Eventually the social workers begin secretly recording and video-documenting various sweat shops and exposing them to the public, hoping that someone will care. It happens over and over and over again. The sweat shop owners claim every single instance of outright abuse caught on tape is an anomaly. Most significantly, they claim the forced existence of the children is approved by the medical community. This is their easy out, because the medical profession is highly respected for taking such good care of all the "other" children - the ones who live in homes with their families and visit the doctor regularly. The majority of people who respect the medical profession have no idea what goes on in child sweat shops, even though they buy the children's products and thereby fund the sweat shops.

Eventually, with enough videos, newspaper articles and campaigns by the social workers, people start gradually losing respect for the medical profession and wondering why it condones something so unethical. After one particular sweat shop video, where a sick child is stunned and then thrown alive into a trash bin, the sweat shop owner in question disposes of that child, cleans up the facility a bit, and invites the state doctor to inspect it. After watching the video where the child is beaten and thrown alive into a trash can, after viewing a child with blood dripping from its mouth and several others with open, festering skin sores, the doctor states,

"But if the personnel are trained according to the requirements of the company and behave according to the way they are trained, it will significantly reduce what is a relatively minor problem as far as I can tell at this point."
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This all happened, of course, exactly as stated, except that the children are pigs, the sweat shops are factory farms, the medical profession is the veterinary profession, and the horrified pediatrician is me. Click here  to read the pigs' story.

The state veterinarian defended the indefensible. He said, "I don't think there's a perfect way to do this. In anything that is under scrutiny, whether you're talking about a barbershop or an animal farm, what you observe the day you're there may not be typical." 

Next time you enter a barbershop or salon, expect to see an employee throwing a living thing into a dumpster. Expect to see massive suffering and exploitation of the defenseless. Then expect that an inspector and the authorities will refer to this as a "minor problem."

Right.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

*It Happened in the Hospital* Part 2

What better way to start the New Year than to learn a few things you didn't already know?!

*I recently saw a Pug for its annual exam. It that had the worst generalized Malassezia dermatitis, probably in the history of the world. It was a walking, snorting little train wreck, rubbing and scratching its greasy, yeasty skin all over everything. Puggy emanated yeast vapors. On last year's record, I had diagnosed it with, wouldn't you know it, "the worst generalized Malassezia dermatitis, probably in the history of the world." I didn't actually write that. It would have been unprofessional. However, the condition had been noted and was still raging a year later. I once again begged the little old lady client and her little old man husband to bathe this creature regularly with antifungal shampoo, which she already had at home from last year. I told her the dog's condition was like having Athlete's Foot - on your feet, your ears, your face, your stomach and a whole lot of other places that aren't feet. To this she replied, "I don't want to bathe him because my daughter's dog recently passed away from having too many baths."  
What you've learned: Oral ketoconazole, despite being a heavy-duty drug that can damage the liver, is actually safer than baths.*

*I told a client that the long-term prognosis for his dog with liver disease was guarded, and that the dog could die from it. At that moment the client said he had a very important question for me. He then asked, "How much would you guys charge to stuff him?" Virology, pathology, taxidermy - I'm pretty sure we took all those classes in vet school, didn't we?  
What you've learned: Crematoriums are not necessarily sufficient, particularly if you practice in rural America.*

*A few days before Christmas, I was in the middle of telling a client that her dog had dental tartar and gingivitis. Her daughter, who was about 8 years old, interjected in a very adult-ish tone, "What should we be doing to help her with her gingerbread-itis?"  
What you've learned: Holiday foods can contribute to canine dental disease.*

*Two months after an itchy dog was treated with steroids and antibiotics, the client called to ask for a refill. Seeing in the record that a food trial had been strongly recommended, the receptionist asked him if he'd switched foods yet. To this, he replied, "I'm in the process of thinking about it."
What you've learned: a handy response to use next time your car is 4000 miles overdue for an oil change and you still don't feel like getting it changed. Mechanic: "Would you like us to change your oil?" You: "Not today, actually. I'm in the process of thinking about it."*

Until next time...please keep doing your best to discourage irresponsible dog breeders from drilling more holes in the side of the boat.