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Why aren’t more veterinarians vegan?

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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.

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0 Comments
  • Mahalet M

    “Oh for Pete’s sake”
    I died of laughter.

  • Ty Savoy

    Yepp. I spent 2 years in a Vet Tech program at an Ag College in Nova Scotia. Out of 15 students in the program, me and 2 others identified as vegetarian/vegan. And about 2 others were almost there. But… initiating a conversation about animal rights….. nope. It was not possible. Just go along with the hypocrisy… don’t think too much about it….This was 20 years ago. I spent 6 weeks as part of the program among Vet Students at a Veterinary College. I sensed there quite a few of the vet students were pretty close to being animal rights minded. But it was like…. shhhhhh.. U can’t talk like that here. Verboten. Forbidden. Treasonous.

  • Lindsay

    Thank you for sharing this important piece. Justification is an easy concept to fall into when the only reason one eats animals is for palate pleasure. I found a veg vet to take my dogs to through a recommendation, but I have a friend who is struggling as the only vegan vet student in her program. It’s all screwed up. We don’t need animal products to be healthy and eating animals/their milks/eggs is a direct link to violence. If you love animals, don’t eat em 😉 It’s actually pretty simple, we’ve just been conditioned to think otherwise.

    • Ty Savoy

      You said it.

    • Amy May

      Lindsay, I echo your concerns. I’m starting a veterinary association to support vet students such as your friend who is struggling. If you would like to reach out and connect further on this issue, please send me a message to veganvet@gmail.com.

  • vegan truth seeker

    in general humans are hypocrites, plain and simple, and non-vegan vets couldn’t care less about animals… they only care about profit!

    go to non-vegan vets and ask them to help some stray animal you’ve found, tell them you don’t have money to pay for the treatment and see what they’ll tell you…

    animal medicine, just like human medicine is nothing but a business and in most countries you either have money and get treatment for humans and non-humans or you’re doomed!

    what an ugly, cruel, ‘cold’ planet we live in!

    I just loath this planet 🙁

    • Neil

      Yeah because someone that eats meat which is a completely natural thing for a human to do. That must mean that they dont infact care for the animals they have spent years learning about to be able to take care of. You are a moron

      • vegan truth seeker

        you prove my point by insulting me without even presenting valid arguments…

        eating meat is a natural thing for humans!?
        that’s why we have long intestines and teeth designed to chew like herbivores as opposed to real carnivores…

        I could waste my time educating you but I just recommend:
        – that you go to you tube and type “earthlings documentary”, “101 reasons to become vegan”, “gary the best vegan speech ever”;
        – then try to watch “cowspiracy” and “forks over knives”.

        non-vegan vets care about profit!
        they ‘care’ about the animals their clients bring to be treated in exchange for money!
        if they truly cared about animals they would be vegan, they would treat stray animals for free and they would allow people who can’t afford to pay for the treatment of their ‘pets’ to pay in instalments.

        but then again I’m a moron, what do I know!?

    • vegan truth seeker

      Non vegan vets don’t care about animals? Tell that to my vet who is out at 3 am delivering calves you asshole. If you loathe the planet, then remove yourself from it. Loser.

  • Ellen

    My avian veterinarian is as compassionate and dedicated as any I have ever seen. He’s been caring for my birds for more than 20 years. He treats other “exotics” as well as dogs and cats. Yet he is not even a vegetarian. And when I intentionally wear my vegan tee-shirts to my appointments, he doesn’t ask any questions, and doesn’t make any comments. I don’t think it’s because he feels guilty. It saddens me deeply that he is such a hypocrite.

    • louie

      I was just wondering, why do you think it’s OK to keep birds?

      • Ellen

        I don’t think it’s okay to keep birds. But that “enlightenment” only penetrated my thick skull a few years ago. If I had to do it over again, I would not have birds. It would kill me but I would not have birds. Having written that, I must care for the birds who are with me to the best of my ability.

  • michael92064

    I dated a Veterinarian for a brief while. She said she was mostly vegetarian in school and fell away from it as she got busy and found it restricting. Keep in my mind her family raised cattle.

  • Melissa Resnick

    I’m a veterinarian and I’m vegan. Why aren’t more veterinarians vegan? That’s a good question. Probably the same reason more people in general aren’t vegan. We are raised knowing that we keep some animals as pets (dogs, cats, horses), eat some (cows, pigs, chickens), and revere others (whales, elephants). This makes it the norm for us to love some animals and eat others. And for vets to see some animals as patients and some animals as dinner. It’s uncomfortable to recognize the speciesism and cognitive dissonance inherent in our profession.
    As a vet, I’ve worked to reduce suffering in companion, lab, food, and shelter animals. But it took me years to question the necessity of this animal use. If you’re an animal lover who hates to see animals suffer unnecessarily, then it makes no sense to eat them. It’s well established that a vegan diet is healthy, so the suffering of food animals just because someone likes the taste of animal products, is truly unnecessary. If, for example, sow gestation crates bother you, why petition for better housing when you could simply not eat pork?
    Outside of my profession, many people assume that most vets are vegan, or at least vegetarian. Within my profession, it’s not uncommon to be teased (even if it’s good natured) for being vegan. I’m always happy when I find other vegans within my profession and was excited when I discovered the Veterinary Vegan Network on facebook. It seems everyone is talking about veganism these days-environmentalists, physicians, dietitians, animal rights advocates, chefs, celebrities…it’s time for veterinarians to talk about veganism.

  • Veterinary Vegan Network

    This is a great piece. Thank you for mentioning our Veterinary Vegan Network page!

    We would argue that most of those in the veterinary profession are not vegan because they are as entrenched in the animal welfare paradigm as everyone else, perhaps even more so. Animal welfare is the idea that animals are things for us to use, that they should be treated well while alive but that killing them is not harmful because animals don’t have an interest in continuing to live. Animal welfare focuses on the treatment of animals, while animal rights/abolition rejects all forms of animal use and exploitation. Welfarism is inherently speciesist and what vets are trained and work within.

    Most people can avoid thinking about the injustice of their animal use for something as frivolous as palate pleasure because of this welfarist paradigm; slaughter houses are out of sight and consciences can be eased through ‘humane’ labels on meat, dairy, eggs, etc. Those who go through veterinary training are more confronted with the realities of our unjust treatment and use of animals, meaning the speciesism inherent in welfarist thinking becomes more apparent. To overcome the resulting cognitive dissonance it is likely that most become more, not less, entrenched in the welfarist paradigm to justify their continued use (though some do become vegan due to these experiences). This means those in the veterinary profession may be even harder to convince of the vegan argument than the average person. Unfortunately, veterinarians are seen as authorities in animal welfare. Those in the profession need to be leading by example in overcoming speciesism. We need to stop looking for the right way to do the wrong thing. Overcoming a belief system ingrained in us takes honest self-reflection and critical thinking.

    Through establishing our Veterinary Vegan Network page we have been happy to find a small but significant number (and growing!) in the profession who have seen through the moral inconsistencies and speciesism of the welfarist paradigm, reject all animal use and are vegan. We hope many more find the moral courage to do the same.

  • I think one reason that the veterinary profession attracts far fewer vegans and vegetarians than you’d expect is that the job is actually extremely unfriendly to people who support animal rights. Consider this: vets are constantly asked to euthanize healthy animals and deal w/selfish pet “owners” who demand their animals be declawed, voice boxes removed, etc. They can refuse, of course, but they still have to face dog breeders who refuse to spay and neuter &cases of terrible abuse and neglect. Large animal vets have it even worse. It seems like it would be pretty depressing work.

  • AlienDan

    Carnism

  • Cory Allen

    Hey everyone. Is anyone here a vegan vet? I’m taking my pre-reqs for veterinary medicine and I was wondering if anyone could share some of their experiences, specifically with dissection? I’m a little worried about this. I love animals. I want to be a vet to SAVE lives, not dissect a dead body. I realize it’s necessary, but where did these animals come from? How much dissection is really required? The thought of tearing apart the body of an animal that was once thriving gives me the creeps. Surely, I understand I will be the only one in the entire program even considering the ethical ramifications of dissection. Therefore, I except support to be minimal, if not completely nonexistent. Any thoughts?

  • Jangmi

    Stop forcing carnivores to eat carbs. If you can’t feed your cat a carnivorous diet GET A RABBIT!!

  • Marcus Riedner

    I would guess a solid foundation in biology, evolutionary adaptation, biochemistry, and physiology explains why so few vets are vegans. Perhaps the opposite question should be asked as well: why are so few vegans becoming vets?

    One would think that compassion for the animalia kingdom would push vegans to take steps beyond fundamentalist orthorexia nervosa. I know few vegans who move into long term animal care to rescue livestock. I know few who take up the vocation of farming, and struggling to grow food for themselves and others in a way that maximize compassion to the animal kingdom. Few vegans seem to engage beyond the level of petty bickering.

    Perhaps that is more telling than asking why those who work with animals as a livelihood are not becoming vegans.

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