Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Aren't All Vets Ethical?"

A veterinarian director at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was recently suspended after deliberately leaking information involving an impending animal cruelty investigation. She initially denied tipping off the industry vet at a Butterball turkey facility and then confessed to doing so. The animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals had recently submitted undercover video footage of turkeys in poor condition at the Butterball facility being beaten, thrown and kicked.

You can read more about it here.

I'm writing about this case for two reasons. First is to illustrate the answer to a question I'm often asked, which is: "Aren't all vets ethical?" The answer, unfortunately, is no. Secondly, I'm noting how the public is appalled by "beating, kicking, throwing" kinds of abuses. It gives animal advocates cause to continue raising awareness about the more accepted, patronized industry practice of breeding animals into lifelong intensive confinement...because this is also a form of animal abuse.

Logically speaking, is this kind of system (which culminates in turkey deaths between 4-8 months of age) likely to result in any profound emotional respect for the animals being handled? What would happen if people researched turkey production while eating a turkey sandwich and gasping at the horrible "beating, kicking and throwing" abuses of turkeys? It's a sad question, but would we humans rather be kicked in the stomach a few times or spend 8 months confined to a cage that didn't allow for movement? Sad, yes, but I'm sure you see my point.

Anyway, back to the veterinarian. Of course there are unethical and dishonest actions being committed in every profession, but agricultural veterinary medicine has a way of repeatedly presenting a face to the public that it is primarily concerned with animal welfare. In actuality, animal welfare reform that interferes with economics is rarely welcomed in food animal medicine.

Fortunately, the Mercy for Animals investigation did result in North Carolina state authorities charging five Butterball employees with misdemeanor and felony animal cruelty charges. The veterinarian plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges.

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