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Veterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters To The Editor

Posted: 04-04-10


Veterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters to the EditorVeterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters to the EditorVeterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters to the EditorVeterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters to the Editor Veterinary Practice News April 2010 Letters to the Editor

An Economic Issue


I am a retired veterinarian who began my career as a mixed practitioner. I enjoyed the article “Food Animal Vets Dispute Abuse Charges” [February 2010].

Because of my livestock farming background, I retain interest in farm animal health and try to keep abreast of the issues confronting those farmers. We veterinarians, as people with some expertise in animal care, need to become proactive in supporting the people who grow and raise the food we eat. 

I cannot remember seeing any farm livestock owner or worker abuse animals in my presence. Not everyone had the nicest facilities, but they all provided shelter of some type and were aware of the need for decent nourishment.

It was both a humane issue and an economic issue when it came to the creature care. If that animal or bird is not healthy, or if it is not getting a proper diet, it will not be profitable for farmers.

Veterinarians can do much to educate the nonfarm clientele about livestock farms, and it would be well for the veterinary colleges to arm students with information to combat the negative publicity generated by certain agenda-oriented groups and the media. I used to think the humane associations were doing such good work for animal welfare, but my opinion has changed 180 degrees. I have to agree that some have an anti-livestock farmer agenda. I don’t include local humane groups in this opinion.

This subject needs to be aired, and we veterinarians need to be able to talk about it practically.

Wesley T. Osthus, DVM
Clinton, Ill.

Herd Health Mentality


I was deeply concerned by the article “Food Animal Vets Dispute Abuse Charges.” The article’s apparent underlying theme was to defend the conditions of our farm animals instead of responding to the exhaustive work done by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups.

It is not hard to understand the priorities of our farm animal producers and veterinarians when responses to statements about improving animal welfare and the legislative campaigns that may ensue would be “detrimental to Ohio’s agriculture-dominated economy,” “virtually annihilate producers’ and farmers’ financial ability to operate” or “aren’t logical for the industry.”

It is no secret that the herd health mentality does not allow for proper care of the individual animal. Additionally, most of the “science-based” production practices being implemented are not to improve housing conditions or allow farm animals to act out their normal behaviors, but to improve efficiency.

Finally, the claim that these conditions are not abusive is false, as living in a confined space without the ability to move or engage in natural behavior is inherently abusive. Abuse does not have to come in the form of physical violence.

Not only did this article imply that special-interest groups such as HSUS use negative media to propagate the image of a few poorly run farms, it insulted the intelligence of the reader, such as the quote by Rodney Baker, DVM, that pigs and poultry were moved indoors to take better care of them. The real reason for bringing animals indoors was based on efficiency and profit. For example, the use of artificial, near continuous lighting with broiler chickens hastens growth. Additionally, housing sows indoors fattens them faster and lowers birth production costs. The conditions of these indoor facilities (tightly confined spaces) do not improve animal welfare but instead causes great physical and mental stress. 

The claim that the majority of farms are family owned is disingenuous at best. Even if a farm is family owned, it is almost certainly adhering to the production demands of a corporation. Over 99 percent of the meat produced in the U.S. comes from factory farms, where the only priorities are efficiency and profit, not animal welfare. As advocates for animal welfare, veterinarians need to stop answering to corporate demands and pay attention to the suffering that our farm animals are experiencing. To see an example of how profitable and humane farming can be implemented, I encourage everyone to look into Polyface Farms (PolyfaceFarms.com).

Laura Zehnder Jones, DVM
Oreland, Pa.

Read a response to Dr. Jones' letter from several large animal veterinarians.


Lack of Commitment


Thank you, Dr. Patty Khuly, for the well-written Reality Check column on the difficulties facing veterinary school graduates [“It’s Time to Cure What Ails New Grads,” February 2010].

As a mentor, the practice owner is faced with the reality that very few new grads desire to be practice owners and thus are not very bonded to the practice. In most cases, the new graduate is not profitable for the practice for some period of time while being mentored. Unfortunately, it’s a common situation for the mentor to invest time and money in new grads, only to have them leave for reasons not connected to the practice.
Mick Helton, DVM

The Ark Veterinary Clinic
Eugene, Ore.

Get Real, Dr. Khuly


Reality Check columnist Patty Khuly has an MBA and should have been able to calculate the cost benefit of a veterinary education before she enrolled [“We All Have Stake in Next Generation,” January 2010].

Her debt is her problem. If her passion is veterinary care, she should suck it up and realize she made a bad business decision.

Her clients have their own problems. Hers are immaterial to them. They want her to do her job, and the rest of the profession would like the same. Do your job and quit complaining, Dr. Khuly!

And about mentoring: Is the new veterinary education so woeful that graduates are incapable of practicing? Why have generations of veterinary graduates been able to immediately take on the responsibility of practice upon graduation while this new generation feels it needs to be mentored in order to function?

At the risk of being politically incorrect (which I don’t mind being), maybe this is a gender problem that needs to be openly addressed. What has happened to the clinical years of vet school or vet school attendees that makes graduates feel so professionally inadequate?

Grow up, graduates. You are adults! Get malpractice insurance, be a student of practice, learn from your mistakes, learn to communicate with humans instead of hiding behind animals and accept the fact that you made a bad business decision to “follow your passion.”

American pet owners hate the corporate model and want veterinarians to whom they can relate. Opportunities for practitioners with customer-service skills abound. New graduates like Dr. Khuly could be pulling down six-figure salaries if they quit whining about debt and mentorship and contacted us old farts who are desperate to pass our practices on to the next generation of eager entrepreneurs.

And don’t talk to me about raising kids and quality time. Older veterinarians have raised two generations of children who are successful college graduates and have maintained great family relations while operating veterinary practices six days a week.

Again, Dr. Khuly and her colleagues are not children; they are adult veterinarians who made a business decision. Be members of a profession, not childish wards expecting the profession to ensure your success.

Ken Tudor, DVM
UC Davis Class of 1983
Alta Loma, Calif.

Hunting vs. Killing


The Bond and Beyond columnist Alice Villalobos’ comments on the plight of South African wildlife begs clarification ["Dilemmas for a New Decade,” January 2010].

“Hunting and killing” deserve separate sentences. Private game reserves have not “emerged”; they were established many decades ago by the first conservationists: hunters, primarily British. Without these brave, dedicated and self-financed visionaries, there would be no game reserves and no animals to occupy them.

“Killing” implies an unregulated activity with little inherent value, save for short-term subsistence or greed, and perhaps includes poaching.
“Hunting” is a legal, highly regulated activity that is a proven wildlife management tool and provides significant financial support for the reserves.

Ecotourism needs a few decades to match hunters and our dedicated conservation organizations for results in the wildlife arena. The real threats to wildlife around the globe are poverty, ignorance and politics, not hunting.

W.L. Connelly, DVM
Kingman, Ariz.

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