How to treat a hamster

The other week I developed Man Flu. I was quite buoyed when I announced it to the family at the dinner table and they were all brimming with remarkable sympathy. Then I realised that their sympathy was aimed at themselves, who would apparently now face a week of hell.

No matter. Being young and virile I shrugged it off after only a short week of intensive care and heroic battle and in such a fashion that nobody would have ever guessed I was ill. I struggled manfully to work each day and did all the househusband work expected of us these days whilst our wives are preoccupied with their coffee cards.

Then, I had a weekend on call. I’m not sure if it was the drama of the inevitable dropkicks (“My neighbour’s dog is barking, can you come out?”); or, as one of my colleagues lovingly said, “the stress of you donning overalls,” – but I had a sort of Man Flu relapse. Continue reading How to treat a hamster

Kiwi Post: Lean food production

I was presenting at a meeting the other day. And it seemed to go quite well. I was pontificating on the usual: something vaguely technical with sideswipes at all and sundry. At the end of it, after the questions and polite thanks, we headed off for the tea and biscuits, when a rather daunting lady made a beeline for me.

I could sense trouble, but she disarmed me straight away by telling me what a good presentation it had been and how persuasive my argument was. Then she said, casually, “all a load of bull, but persuasive nevertheless.” So I was intrigued, and mildly concerned. Would she have some esoteric technical argument to negate me? Had I upset MPI with mention of our biosecurity mismanagement? Continue reading Kiwi Post: Lean food production

Eagle Post: too many vets?

Thomas Donnelly, BVSc DipVP DipACLAM reports from the US.

You may have seen the US Veterinary Workforce Study published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently, or read the reports in Veterinary Record (May 2013, Vol 172, Issue 18) that suggest the supply of veterinarians in the USA may be exceeding demand for their services. Although specific to the US, as concerns are also being expressed about a likely oversupply of vets in Australia, the findings are of great interest.

The findings support a February 24 story in the New York Times entitled “High debt and falling demand trap new vets.” The story described a 30-year old vet, Hayley Schafer working in Gilbert, Arizona with $312,000 owing in student loans and depicts a profession bogged down by exorbitant educational costs, a looming oversupply of practitioners and the public’s declining demand for pet health care. Comments on Veterinary Information Network (VIN) reached fever pitch garnering more than 400 posts. Specifically, the results suggest that approximately 12.5 per cent of veterinary services in the US went unused in 2012 and that demand for veterinary services was sufficient to employ only 78,950 of the 90,200 vets currently working in clinical and non-clinical settings. The AVMA further suggested that excess capacity is likely to persist for the near future, even if US veterinary colleges were to limit expansion in enrolment. The study predicts the excess capacity will range from 11-14 per cent annually until 2025. Overcapacity is greatest in equine practice (23 per cent), followed by small animal (18 per cent), food animal (15 per cent) and mixed practice (13 per cent).

Many US veterinarians are already angry with the AVMA for recently accrediting Ross University in the Caribbean, which graduates over 300 veterinarians per year, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. At present, there are 28 AVMA accredited schools in the US and 11 in other countries (including three in Australia and one in New Zealand). Another two new veterinary schools – Midwestern University in Arizona and Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee – remain on track to open in 2014. Continue reading Eagle Post: too many vets?

Pigeon Post: Ian Neville writes from the UK

The trend toward corporate veterinary practice ownership has been accelerating noticeably in recent years. Ten years ago it was estimated that around only 3 per cent of UK practices were owned by corporate companies, by last year that had risen to 10 per cent. In April this year a takeover merged two of the largest veterinary joint venture partnership (JVP) groups under a single management team.

Pets At Home is a nationwide retail chain of 345 stores selling pet foods and products, accessories, insurance and small pets employing 6,250 staff. Eighty six of the stores have grooming parlours and 116 house branches of Companion Care veterinary surgeries employing a further 1,200 people. The subject of the takeover, Vets 4 Pets, is another substantial JVP company with 93 practices spread across the UK. Both groups were formed in 2001, but their merger creates a single and formidable buying, discounting, advertising, training and management capability that independent, established practitioners and new start-up hopefuls will probably find very difficult to compete with. It also significantly reduces competition between veterinary JVP groups, with possible adverse impacts on job opportunities and conditions. Combined sales for both groups in the year to March 2013 amounted to £100 million (A$ 158 million). Pets At Home plan to retain both veterinary group ‘brand’ identities but continue to expand their operations and open more new franchised clinics.  Continue reading Pigeon Post: Ian Neville writes from the UK

Eagle Post

On one covert video, farm workers illegally burn the ankles of Tennessee walking horses with chemicals. Another captures workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air. Moreover, at one of the country’s largest egg suppliers, a video shows hens caged alongside rotting bird corpses, while workers burn and snap off the beaks of young chicks.

Each video – all shot in the last two years by undercover animal rights activists — drew a swift response. Federal prosecutors in Tennessee charged the horse trainer and other workers, who have pleaded guilty, with violating the federal US Horse Protection Act. Local authorities in Wyoming charged nine farm employees with cruelty to animals. In addition, the egg supplier, which operates in Iowa and other states, lost one of its biggest customers, McDonald’s, which said the video played a part in its decision.

However, a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.

Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers that in the past have included such things as “stand your ground” gun laws and tighter voter identification rules. Continue reading Eagle Post