Why aren’t more veterinarians vegan?
In an ideal world, I would take the companion animals I live with to a vegan veterinarian. I would be able to trust that my animal friends would have their health looked after and their safety regarded by an individual who does not partake in speciesism, and who understands how intrinsically immoral it is to exploit and consume both the bodies and the products of other creatures. This mythical vet would consider Caleigh and Micah to be on the same level of respectability as the chickens who have their eggs stolen and the unwilling slaughtered pig. Unfortunately, these “unicorn” veterinarians are few and far between. Being a vet or a vet technician does not necessarily mean that they aren’t deeply speciesist, and sadly, many think it’s perfectly okay to help some while harming others.
It’s difficult to gauge how many vets are also vegans, and the lack of resources for vegan vets does lead me to believe that the vast majority of veterinarians attach to the status quo. After all, it is not a requirement at all for a veterinary student to be a vegan.. Promoting animal welfare over animal rights is a societal norm that is given new, glorious, and absolutely hideous life by non-vegan veterinarians. Hell, factory farms must provide veterinary care for sick animals (at least on paper) and so livestock veterinarians may find themselves directly complacent in animal abuse. Many veterinary jobs are entirely dependent on working hand in hand with unethical businesses such as animal agriculture, dog and cat breeding, and laboratory work.
Patty Khuly was all too gleeful on a piece for Pet MD where she described how perfectly happy she is to consume meat. “It’s often the case, after fielding the dreaded question, that I’m asked to explain why I can be so animal-centric in my everyday life and yet consume animal protein on a regular basis. And the answer isn’t simple, but here it is: Of course I love animals. And I most certainly understand that industrial animal agriculture, as it’s practiced in the US, is not necessarily so nice to the animals. And yet I still eat animal proteins in the form of eggs, dairy and meats.” Dr. Khuly, is it possible that the question is dreaded because you yourself know how incredibly cruel it is to kill animals for the pleasure of food? She launches into a few lofty thoughts about how she “does homework” to ensure she eats “humane,” and how this means she must sacrifice meat when dining out. Oh, horror of all horrors. I think Dr. Khuly is a perfect reflection of a typical American who is not a veterinarian, and proves there isn’t anything special about being a doctor for the dogs. Sure, she’s interested in welfare, as long as it means she can continue to consume dead flesh.
Celebrity veterinarian “Pete the Vet” justified animal consumption with some sickening ideas. Since animals have a smaller forebrain and “live in the moment” more so than humans, and “humane” slaughter is an option, it is perfectly justifiable to kill and eat animals. While he took part in “Veganuary” this year, Pete the Vet is not a vegan and shows no interest in maintaining a vegan lifestyle outside of the confines of the month-long project. He told Veganuary in an interview, “I think it is interesting that there are now at least three types of “vegans”: 1. Orthodox vegans – people who believe in animal rights. 2. Environmental vegans – people who are motivated by caring for our planet more than concern for animal sentience,” and, wait for it, friends, “Vaguely vegans/Reducetarians. People like myself who are motivated by animal welfare and who find it increasingly difficult to source animal products that are guaranteed not to support industrial scale factory farming.” Oh, for Pete’s sake. The last thing we need is that “third type” of “vegan.”
Vegan veterinarian Randall Cannon shared some thoughts with vegan blog Vegans Are Cool on why more vegan veterinarians don’t exist. “As with most people, veterinarians are able to wear blinders and ignore what they know goes on in the livestock industry,” he said, and described his experiences dining out with omnivorous vets. “I don’t mince words when I am at the table. I don’t accuse them of being bad people, but I do point out the hypocrisy of speciesism, that we work all day to treat dogs and cats, but could care less about the livestock…I almost always get asked the same stupid questions of protein, plant feelings, etc., but I bite my tongue and try to appeal to their hearts. I hope there will be a day when veterinarians take the lead on animal rights instead of defending the very institutions that indoctrinated us into the notion that is our right to use animals.”
It appears that there is no mass “official” movement of vegan veterinarians, or a handy network available as a client to locate vegan vets save for a few online resources on social media. The Veterinary Vegan Network exists on Facebook as a place for vegan vets to network, share information, and blog together, and operate from an abolitionist standpoint, rejecting all use of animals. With veganism growing as a movement, I would love to see stronger, more vocal numbers of veterinarians showing the world that there are animals to care about beyond the ones we choose for companionship.