Traversing the moral distress minefield

Dr Noel was in a spot of bother. On the consulting table was a 3 year old black, heavily pregnant German Shepherd bitch. Her puppies had died inside her and she had a purulent vaginal discharge. Despite being flat and weak, the dog’s character was revealed in her effort to wag her tail at the anxious vet.

The vet’s anxiety was caused by the dog’s owner, a puppy-farm breeder, who was at this moment insisting that he euthanise the dog. Dr Noel explained to the breeder that Valentine – Valentine was the name the breeder had given the dog – could probably be saved if she was speyed without delay. She could then lead a normal life, albeit not one in which she had two or more litters year after year.

But the breeder would have none of it. Couldn’t Dr Noel see, he argued, Continue reading Traversing the moral distress minefield

Vet ethics: A quick whip around the racecourse

Melbourne’s Spring racing has again raised the question of the use of whips as performance aids in thoroughbreds. Jockey Zac Purton was fined $3000 over his “excessive” whipping of Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti. For the same ride, Purton collected $87,500 prize money.

Let’s begin an ethical investigation of this issue by imagining the following scenario. Suppose . . . → Read More: Vet ethics: A quick whip around the racecourse

Vet ethics: Animal protection in Singapore and Malaysia

Those who have travelled through neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia may have paused more than once to consider the status of animal protection in those nations. Perhaps such a thought has arisen while wandering in a market place, or in view of grazing cattle, or when learning about the perilous state of wildlife in once luxuriant Malay rain forests.

Evidently, the seismic changes in animal welfare law and attitude have been most prominent in the West. Nonetheless, South East Asia has not been completely cut off from certain changes and influences, and Malaysia and Singapore are recipients of parts of the British legal tradition.

As someone who loves to travel in that region and who is also a veterinarian, I was interested to read of late an article in the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies about animal law in Singapore and Malaysia. Continue reading Vet ethics: Animal protection in Singapore and Malaysia

Committee contemplation

When should we advise euthanasia for a terminally ill animal rather than palliative care? Should we reduce or waive the fee to save the life of an ill patient? Would it be a good idea to insist that patients who need surgical correction for significant hereditary problems also be desexed to prevent genetic transmission? Might we refer people for grief counselling when they appear to be having trouble coping? In this day and age, should we be killing healthy, non-dangerous animals simply because the animal’s owner requests it?

Ethical questions like these crop up in ordinary veterinary clinics and hospitals. Vets and nurses handle these questions in, as it were, an informal manner – sometimes by consulting their consciences and occasionally also by discussing them with friends and colleagues. As we know, however, vets/nurses often lack time to discuss these issues. Very often, they will not have received much formal education in bioethics or animal ethics. Continue reading Committee contemplation

Vet Ethics: Ag-gag laws – the good, the bad and the indifferent

The so-called “ag-gag” legislation is a hot topic in some animal farming and animal activist and circles. Recently passed in several States, ag-gag laws criminalize aspects of undercover filming or photographing in factory farms, puppy-mills, and other animal-producing facilities in the USA. This anti-whistleblower legislation arrives at a time when other whistleblowers, and their revelations on a wide range of matters, have generated worldwide interest. Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and WikiLeaks are some of the more famous (or infamous) examples.

The ag-gag laws were passed after shocking footage of animal cruelty in American facilities – not dissimilar to the footage Australians saw in 2011 of the live export trade – emerged into the public domain. In one instance, video was taken of sick cattle in a California beef factory being pushed with forklifts, kicked, hosed, and electric prodded. Apart from the confronting cruelty, the footage caused a sensation because meat from the ill cattle went to school cafeterias, prompting the largest meat recall in US history.

Another public revelation involved footage of turkeys at Butterball farm in North Carolina being beaten with metal bars and dying from festering wounds. This video was taken by an activist from Mercy For Animals who was employed at the turkey farm. There are, of course, many other instances of animal abuse and suffering that have been uncovered, often by people working undercover at the facilities.

Ag gag laws aim to make this kind of activity illegal. Continue reading Vet Ethics: Ag-gag laws – the good, the bad and the indifferent