Veterinarian Perspectives On Cow Welfare
Living conditions for farmed animals have come under increasing scrutiny as the debate heats up over the concept of eating animals. One group of people with a direct role in how farmed animals are treated are veterinarians. They are in a unique position to give advice and guide farmers to provide better welfare conditions for the animals in their care. As such, veterinarians’ perspectives on animal welfare are important or advocates to understand.
Veterinarians are supposed to care for sick and injured animals, including playing an important role in mitigating pain. Growing awareness about “compassion fatigue,” however, suggests that we should also try to understand how to keep veterinarians sensitized and connected to their work without burning out. In many ways, farmed animal veterinarians have a more difficult job than companion animal veterinarians. Both are asked to address health and pain, but farmed animal veterinarians must also address “the animal’s ability to live a reasonably natural life.”
The purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine the attitudes of European cow veterinarians on various welfare issues “to describe their perceived challenges to resolving animal welfare issues and to identify their desired solutions to such problems.” The researchers conducted six focus groups, each lasting 75 minutes. The participating veterinarians came from a convenience sample drawn from attendees at a veterinary conference. The main result from these conversations is a list of logistical concerns and challenges: “animal welfare definition and assessment, economics, and farmer-, veterinarian-, and researcher-related challenges.”
The researchers found “considerable support for positive approaches to change.” These include reward-based approaches that motivate farmers to adhere to standards and a desire to be proactive rather than reactive to welfare problems, at both farm and industry levels. What does this study suggest for animal advocates? For those who are interested in welfare measures, the study shows that working with veterinarians and farmers can be fruitful and that veterinarians in the European Union are excited by the opportunities or improvement.