Jan 12, 2009

Animal Agriculture Needs Livestock Veterinarians

There's been a shortage of "food" animal veterinarians... It's a problem that the livestock industries have been trying to combat for years. This growing trend has spurred individual states to dedicate funds meant to encourage more interest in the field of "food"-animal science. And even at the national level, Congress recently passed legislation that will provide $1.5 billion in competitive grants for increasing veterinary school infrastructure.

A young man asked me what I thought about his decision to become a veterinarian - and if I thought "food" animal "science" was a worthy field.
Well, you can imagine how pleased I was to help guide his decisions. I had to ask him "why would anyone wish to be a "livestock" vet" anyway? One has to travel to remote places, handle potentially dangerous large animals under questionable conditions... They must risk exposure to an array of deadly zoonotic pathogens, viruses and diseases. Manure lagoons and rotting carcasses would be encountered daily.
Livestock vets must frequently enter enclosed buildings saturated with urine/feces/vomit smells... They must witness and inspect caged creatures with little room to even move around. All for the sake of keeping an animal, an animal "unit", a herd, barn, or warehouse full of beings "healthy" enough to make it to be slaughtered in the end. It sounds very disgusting and depressing to me... I told him being a vet for animal agriculture sounded like a nasty job and it pays little in comparison. Much better to be an independent domestic, small animal "pet" vet. You could open your own practice. You get to wear nice clothes, work in comfortable surroundings in close proximity to all the conveniences. It's more sanitary and physically safer. It's much more pleasant to work with other happy people in a luxurious, climate controlled building. Your patients are truly loved and cared for. Your patients aren't "production commodities" destined for the slaughterhouse in the near future. You are actually saving lives to live. Not saving lives to just to kill. Really, being a "livestock" vet sounds like slumming it to me... I think he was grateful for this information and for the Vegan literature he also received. Ain't life grand? http://www.cattlenetwork.com/Content.asp?ContentID=271542


Anonymous said...

It would be a great position for undercover work and being able to educate the public on farming, though. People are often more likely to listen to a doctor than a "crazy vegan" like myself.

Bea Elliott said...

I never thought of it that way - Infiltrating (under-cover) as a vet. I don't know how many people raising "food" animals for a profit would listen though... It would be nice to convince them to grow veggies instead.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe he should become a livestock veterinarian if he wants to be in a position to help those animals. Besides, there are places beyond factory farms. I currently work in smaller, New England farms.. where the farmers notice their animals and call a vet when it has a problem, not just for the sake of the signature. I watch those farmers struggle to keep their farm afloat and at the same time care for animals. I've eaten one of the university's cows in the knowledge that livestock veterinarians cared for him and that he spent his life on pasture, chasing after the smaller steers and receiving regular vaccinations (which, while he might not have enjoyed them, improved his life). Take a moment to actually research what you are protesting. There are different ways to farm. YES, factory farms are horrible. I am divided between a wish to never enter one of those and the sense that, if I can improve those animals, I should. Veterinarians are in the position to push legislature through via research. Maybe that student will now spend his life trimming poodles' nails instead of joining an effort to reform our food system. I care about animals and I am not vegan. Instead, I support farms where they are cared for properly, farms I have visited myself. If people do not support those places, then the factory farms will continue to be the norm.

Bea Elliott said...

90% of all meat people eat comes from those factory farms you say you detest. I understand you're in favor of the small "family farm" - I'm curious though... how you think the world will be fed a meat based diet without factory farms? The one (free range) university cow you ate - it's body might feed 50 people for a week? (maybe?) - I think the economics alone of what you're speaking of would put "meat" on the extreme luxury end of food. Making a hambruger 20 or 30 dollars... this is just not sustainable for 6.7 billion people.

Furthermore, you say "I care about animals and am not vegan". This is a contradiction in terms. You cannot "care" about animals while you consume them. It's called cognitive dissonance:
n. Psychology.
A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one's beliefs and one's actions, such as opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat.

In other words... you are in denial. You cannot possibly have empathy with an animal if you intend to consume him.

The disconnect is indoctrinated in us from the moment we're taught what to think by our parents and our culture. It takes some thinking it through - But if killing animals for "meat" is not "necessary" to live (which it clearly is not) - if one still eats meat (animal products)that is a "choice" to kill the animal for such. Therefore, this "choice" negates any claim you can possibly have to say you "care" about animals.

I'm sorry if this reality bursts your bubble of wanting to see yourself as a compassionate and humane person. We all wish to veiw ourselves this way - as this is also what we are taught to do. We are set-up from the time we're children to have this conflict... It takes some work to think it through... but once you do - it can lead to a path of empowerment and enlightenment. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that you only see your own path. I regularly eat our university cows. We raise a group of steers, allow them to grow for two years, and then slaughter them. I have no internal conflict conflict... I do use my mind to think, and I realize, as perhaps you have not, that there will always be less educated or less caring people who will eat no matter where it comes from. Thus, I am working to change the system. Hopefully, if enough licensed veterinarians stand up for the animals in factory farms, we can have legislature to protect those animals. This would tend to cause one to think that perhaps I am on the path to empowerment and enlightenment, since I am not hiding in the self righteousness of not killing animals and thus ignoring a problem which is bigger than just my own life.
I generally respect vegans for their choices; diet is your own personal choice and you have chosen to make a sacrifice for something you believe. However, do not imply that I am not thinking, or need enlightenment.
I am compassionate in going into places where animals suffer and trying to help them. It is more humane than running away and avoiding the problem entirely.In this way I "care" about the animals in a way which you do not.
I recently talked to another student, who has chosen not to go to vet school so she can become an activist against factory farms. We both agreed that veganism, or even vegetarianism, will never become a worldwide practice. People naturally eat meat. We do not have the systems of hindgut fermenters, ruminants, or modified ruminants, digestive system made for the sole digestion of cellulose and other plant materials. Out of curiosity...is it a similar crime for other animals to kill animals, such as hawks? Or bobcats?
You mention that raising animals the way I want to would make hamburgers $20 or $30, which is not sustainable... I believe you meant unaffordable.. isn't that what you would want, if you want people to stop eating meat?
One last note... why not eat eggs? Despite rumors circulating that this involves killing a chick... these eggs are unfertilized and thus will never hatch. It is difficult to make a chick without the presence of a rooster. If I go to a free range chicken farm, where the rooster is separated from the laying hens, and pick up one of the eggs which the hen naturally lays, is there any harm done?

Bea Elliott said...

Hello Anonymous... It's true that I might only see my own path... as do you. The difference between us however, is that my path does not cause violence or harm to another, as does yours in eating the "university cows". Yes, I do realize there will probably always be "less educated" people who will continue to eat animals no matter what... If I join them, will that make the situtation any better? But I do have to disagree that a vegan diet is a "sacrifice"... that's like saying not keying a car is a "sacrifice" - Doing the moral thing, is not an "effort".

You say you go into places where animals suffer and try to help them... You help end their "suffering" until they can be killed - is this correct? And they would not be in this position of "suffering" to begin with if they were not there to be killed to begin with. Your logic is similar to one who would place a dog in a burning building - then fret and worry about... how to "save" him. HINT: don't put the dog in the burning building to begin with. :)

I don't know why you believe that veganism or vegetarianism will never become a world wide practice. It may not be this way for a hundred years or more... but of all new products on the food market - the largest sector of growth is within vegetarian options - And that's a good sign. Furthermore, 200 years they said (legalized) slavery would NEVER be abolished, and that women would NEVER be allowed to vote. I use the word "never" with a bit more objectivity... And here again I must ask, even if the world "never" becomes totally vegetarian or vegan - does this mean that any efforts others make in this direction is wrong? I like the idea of saving 100 or so animals a year... I'm certainly healthier for it and I need not grapple with cognitive dissonance.

Besides all this - I'm quite certain that with all the issues regarding zootonic pathenogens and ecological disaster, we are an intelligent enough species to set another course. Who knows - perhaps the projected market dates for "vat meat" will actually occur in the next decade. Then what reason would be left to kill animals for "food"?

You choose to call yourself compassionate - indeed we all wish to see ourselves this way. We are indoctrinated to believe that we are such. Yet the dictionary defines "compassion" as: "The humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it." Clearly if one feels "compassion" for an animal - choosing to not eat their tasty flesh is a great first step in that direction. You are obviously enchanted with the notion of "happy meat". That's a nice feeling that the animals go so willingly to their death for your pleasure. Are the animals not confined by force? Artificially inseminated by force? Injected with pharmacuticals by force? Castrated and mutilated by force? Yet - you see them as being well treated... even as their throats are slit for your dinning pleasure? I understand the need and desire for such a fantasy but - it is just that... a myth.

In regards to the way you wish animals to be raised "free range" - I did mean that it is both unsustainable and unaffordable. Are you not aware that as it is now - deforestation is rampant to provide grazing land for cattle?
It takes 55 Square Feet of tropical rain forest to produce a 4 ounce hamburger.
Each pound of beef requires 11 pounds of grain to produce.
A meat-eater, over the course of one year, will require 3.25 acres of land to produce the feed stock to feed the cattle to produce their meat.
A vegetarian only requires 1/2 acre of land per year to produce their food.

This is with 6.7 billion people... how do you suppose we will manage to feed the world a "meat based diet" when we reach 10 billion? The earth is not getting any larger - land/water is getting scarce. I'm not a mathematician but the numbers are clear to project - Animal agriculture is not sustainable. But then again, guess we could just add another billion or two to the numbers who are now starving... I suppose then the rest could live "high on the food chain" and continue consuming animals. Clearly though... the phrase "live simply so that others may simply live" applies here. We have the food... the grain - the plant based nourishment... it's the fair distribution that is lacking.

Regarding eggs... "Despite rumors circulating that this involves killing a chick" - of course this happens as routine in commercial egg farms, where day old male chicks are macerated by the billions... But in the circumstance you're referring to - "free range" - I'd have to ask the following: Where did the hens come from? Where they "bred" for this purpose? In which case the males were probably "disposed" of - yes?... Also, when these hens are no longer "productive" what happens to them? Does the farmer continue feeding her just because she is sweet and loveable? Does the farmer leave her in a cage with several other females and a rooster - so that he can make more chicks to have more eggs? And now a question for you... Do you realize: a chicken egg average a cholesterol level of 548mg and 3.3gms saturated fat? And they really are nearly void of any nutritional value...

And finally regarding your comment that we "naturally eat meat"... Man has always been an opportunistic omnivore - Whatever was available was what we could/did eat. But as far as our bodies are concerned we no longer are 0 blood type beings. Homo sapiens has evolved from the oldest blood type, type O (as basically meat-eaters) to the most recent blood type, type A-B. In between, when humans invented agriculture, their blood type evolved to type A and then, with the advent of dairy, type B came in.

Also, the small canine teeth (cuspids) we have are similarly just left-overs. We now have much large molars compared to other animals, like lions, that are definitely meat-eaters. Our molars are designed for grinding grain and nuts and the large broad teeth in front are designed for biting apples and fruits. Thus the canines are evolving out, and the other teeth evolving in, as we make our transition away from meat-eating and our former carnivore status and into some other status.

The intestines of modern-day Homo sapiens are no longer ideal for digesting meat, as they are so long (almost 28 feet), the meat often putrefies by the time it gets to the end. On the other hand, wolves (that never developed agriculture) still have relatively short intestines for processing meat. The putrefied meat that sits in our mid-sections causes colon cancer. Studies have shown that populations with high meat intake have high rates of colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It is rare (although not impossible) to encounter an "obese" vegetarian. It is no coincidence that as countries that have increased their meat consumption - their health has been negatively affected.

"...is it a similar crime for other animals to kill animals, such as hawks? Or bobcats? " Two part answer: Do they have the free will do do otherwise... meaning is it their "choice" to go to the grocery store and by veggies instead? (no)... And can they live without this food that they are killing? Could they live on tomatoes? or corn? or beans? (no)...

It is no "crime" for other animals to kill animals to live. Only those who have a choice are guilty in this. And most of the time - it is because they have not thought things through... Our culture, traditions and economics go along way to ensure that the illusion continues.

But world... be warned - there are legions in the making who intend to reveal the naked emperor every chance they get.

Anonymous said...

It takes 55 Square Feet of tropical rain forest to produce a 4 ounce hamburger.

....cows do not typically graze in rain forest.. the wet ground conditions would make them prone to hoof rot (caused by bacteria that proliferate in warm, moist conditions).

The nutrition of eggs is highly debatable.. since that is the same material which is used to nurture and raise a chick, there is a decent amount of protein at the very least.. however, the matter of cholesterol, etc, has been debated for decades and since I am not a nutritionist, I would rather not debate that point. Sometimes recognizing limits of your knowledge is intelligence in itself..

To the burning building.. is it compassion to avoid a dog in a burning building because you did not choose to put him there? Do you think those animals are not killed because you did not personally consume them this year?

Back to my original question... what should be done with those livestock?

Bea Elliott said...

Hello again:
A Smithsonian study estimates that the necessity for more grazing land means that every minute of every day, a land area equivalent to seven football fields is destroyed in the Amazon basin.

"For each hamburger that originated from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of forest have been destroyed. And its not just the rainforest. In the United States, more than 260 million acres of forest have been clear-cut for animal agriculture."

Please argue with the Smithsonian on this:

I believe that buying products is "voting" with my dollars. It says I approve and support how/where that commodity came from. I certainly do not "vote" for animal agriculture. Of course animals are still killed even though I do not eat them... less though - It's estimated a vegan (or vegetarian) saves approximately 100 lives a year. Throughout my life that's thousand's of animals - which makes me a very "wealthy" person in the end...

Also, when demand decreases an industry makes less of that "product". Hence these are animals who will never be born and thus will never have to suffer. By leaving animals off my plate I am not ignoring that billions still suffer anyway. I cannot eat in the negative to aliviate their situation.

The meat industry will not disappear overnight. It will be a gradual lessening over time. Decades - perhaps centuries. If animal agriculture just began now by ceasing to artificially inseminate animals... within a few years, (with consumers that still insist on meat) - these animals would meet the end they were destined for...

If tommorrow, (magically) everyone became a vegetarian - we could spend the billions of dollars we invest in breeding and killing them into just allowing them to naturally live out their lives. Many could go to sanctuaries... Or into home where people would not exploit them for their flesh. People "rescue" animals all the time.

Without more being made to "replace" them - within a decade the "problem" would be solved.

The largest issues surrounding animal agriculture reflect our problems with "pet animals" - irresponsible over-breeding.

And because I'm thinking a step ahead - I assume your next concern might be that these animals would then go "extinct"... And I see absolutely no harm in this. These farmed animals were bred by man anyway... To have domesticated animals go extinct is no problem at all.