Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hard week, relaxing weekend

I am slowly recovering from my caffeine-soaked crazy exam week, which I have declared over despite the fact that I have another exam on Monday (bah, what's one more?). The week was a chorus of "Why are we doing this again?" from the sophomore class. But, prospective students are in town, and seeing the anxiety and excitement of pre-vets heading for their interviews has helped restore my desire to be in vet school. Besides, this was supposed to be the worst week of the worst semester in vet school, which means it's all downhill from here... right?

MVMA had some great stuff this year. I spent Thursday afternoon listening to talks about rabbit dentistry (they are like just like horses!) and comparative neutering techniques for exotic species (note to self: marsupials are supposed to have a forked penis! Do not remove it or try and suture the ends together.). The speaker runs an exotics-only practice in Indiana that takes students for clinical rotations, so her practice is officially the first on my list of places to call once we get to schedule rotations for fourth year.

On Friday, I spent the day listening to Dr. Bernie Rollin, one of the best-known veterinary and animal ethicists in the world. I'm not sure what I expected him to look or sound like, but I certainly wasn't expecting a massive bearded weight-lifting motorcycle-riding Jewish New Yorker-turned-Colorado-ranch-owner. He started his talk with a statement that he doesn't care who he offends, because if you're offended that means he made you think. He then proceeded to say things that would have offended someone in most categories of society, including choosing me as an example of a young person who, since I was raised in a technology-laden society, has no idea how to read, write, research, use a library, or think on my own. Thankfully he was colorful and interesting enough to pull off most of his offensive statements as part of a larger ethical discussion (and he's right, you think a lot more about something that offends you than something you agree with).

He spoke about how veterinary medicine, as profession, fits in to the ethics of how society views and treats animals. He made the point that society no longer sees the industrial version of food animal production as ethical (both for animal welfare and environmentally). Society wants to see a return to animal husbandry (animal production with good care as the ultimate goal- think 4H and FFA) and away from animal science (animal production based on an industrial model, where minimizing cost and maximizing output is the ultimate goal). Rollin's main point was that, as the societal ethic shifts, we will need leadership to make changes happen. Will that leader be PETA, or veterinarians? Right now the AVMA is lagging behind, refusing to take positions on even the worst of animal production practices (i.e. foie gras). Rollin pushed us to make the AVMA a true reflection of the veterinary ethic in order to allow vets to lead the change toward more ethical farming. If PETA becomes the leader of the changing social ethic, it will be a bit like putting them in charge of adopting out homeless pets. We won't have more ethical farms, we'll have no farms at all.

Anyway, he certainly ruffled some feathers, but I think that was his point. After all, if you aren't offended, you haven't really been forced to think, right?

... but I really can read, write, research, use a library, and think on my own ;)

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