How vets have moved the world to protect animals?

Working at World Animal Protection (formerly known as WSPA), has its educational benefits in that regular lunchtime seminars are put on for staff.  These talks involve presentations and discussions with experts in the field regarding animal welfare and projects around this subject.


One recent interesting topic covered World Animal Protection’s veterinary work around the world, and how this is absolutely key in ensuring animal welfare standards globally.


There has been some criticism that vets in general have sold out to animal welfare in support of high intensity Agriculture systems. With high profits in this area, some vets have leaned towards how to ensure maximum productivity for the benefit of people at the expense of animal welfare.  This poses a huge ethical dilemma between the oath they took when qualifying promising to uphold animal welfare, and a way to make money. 


D Broom said that an animal’s welfare is the state in which it is in in regards to its attempt to cope with its environment.  This means it ability to cope without human intervention and with access to natural resources. 


In 1780 Bentham was one of the first philosophers interested in animal rights by highlighting their ability to suffer as we humans do; bringing up the first ideas of Sentience.  By bringing up our tyranny over animals and their lack of rights, he focused on the fact that we as a more intelligent species do to have the right to harm another species.  This helped strengthen an entire career path of animal health and care which would eventually lead to the veterinary profession as we know it today.


Joe Anzuino from World Animal Protection enlightened us on a list of historic vets that have made a real difference to animal welfare, and the aim of the Education Team to promote this on #worldvetday.  Some of these most influential people are listed below:


–       Sung Yang, Ancient China – invented a good horse collar

–       Giovanni, M Lancisi, Italy – discovered link between mosquitos and malaria and protested the medieval approaches to containing rinderpest stating that it was better to kill infected indivdiuals instead of allowing disease to spread to allow for time to research a treatment

–       Claude Bourgela, France – he founded the very first vet school in the world in Lyon 1762

–       Walter Plowright, England – devoted career to eradicating rinderpest and created the vaccine TCRV in 1999

–       Professor John Gamgee, Hamburg – In 1863 Gamgee took the initiative to invite professors of veterinary medicine and veterinarians from all over Europe to a general meeting which was called the first International Veterinary Congress

–       Bob Beck, UK – taught his students about animal husbandry, and encouraged warm hands, speaking to them e.g. horse whisperer


Negative influence on veterinary development:

–       Genghis Khan – first use of bio warfare using plague victims

–       Gervase Markham – famous for nonsense treatments such as for treating tetanus you should sew pebbles in ears, and as a pregnancy test you put water in ears, and if mare shakes her head she is pregnant

–       John Clarke – 18th century – pushed for research, but was still promoting poor animal welfare methods such as *firing etc. which still goes on around the world to cure lameness (*firing can be hot or freeze firing, where the tendons or ligaments are shocked in order to accelerate the healing process of an injury, but if not done completely accurately it can cause more damage and severe discomfort to the animal.  No real evidence it works.)


Despite these innovations and developments in veterinary practice is it apparent that vets are not as financially rewarded for helping animals coping with environment, but in fact instead are financially rewarded by coming up  with ways of helping animals to live longer in poor environments.  The agricultural industry is a huge economic bank that has such a high influence on veterinary science and animal welfare today.  But it is the wider responsibility of the society to value animal welfare more substantially.


It has been considered that vet education and training actually desensitises people from feeling empathy for animal welfare, with the aim of not compromising animal science.  Problems can also arise when qualified vets will actually go away from working with animals hands on.  Empathy erosion in medical training is common around the world and some of World Animal Protection’s education work is specifically aimed at getting animal welfare into the curriculum.  Globally, and particularly in developing countries, it is common in the vet community that men dominate the sector, while often going from their veterinary qualification to factory work or a pharmaceutical career without having ever actually touched an animal.  But with rapid changes around the world it seems more and more women are going into veterinary care, which as a result has actually increased the levels of empathy in the industry. 


Most societies have history of developed techniques for animal welfare, but there is just a real lack of evidence/recording of vet science and traditions especially in Africa, whereas Europe is considerably more documented.  However the most influential factor in the development of veterinary history was the outbreak of rinderpest in the 1890s.  This epizootic virus was considered to be the most devastating epidemic to hit southern Africa in the late 19th Century, killing over 5.2 million cattle, and ultimately led to the starvation and death of 1/3 of Ethiopians and 2/3 of Maasai people in Tanzania.  As a result of this catastrophe the OIE was set up.  The World Organisation for Animal Health announced the free status of the last eight countries of rinderpest and confirmed its worldwide eradication in May and June 2011. 


Overall, this lecture was extremely enlightening and highlighted the issues of Animal Sentience and obvious empathy erosion in medical training.  However, it is also clear that charities like World Animal Protection are working towards using education as a way to bridge the gap between vets and animals welfare with the aims that one day it will be integrated fully into the curriculum.  To find out more check out Sentience Mosaic website here:


About wilsoemi

A 1st Class Biological Sciences graduate, with a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. Dedicated to nature and conservation, with over three years voluntary experience in environmental and conservation charities and NGO's. Currently working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and volunteering for London Wildlife Trust.
This entry was posted in Conservation & Research, Fresh Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s