Veterinary Obligations to the Animal Kingdom

Veterinary Obligations to the Animal Kingdom
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  • 0:01 Our Obligation to the…
  • 0:43 Ethics vs. Laws
  • 1:50 Public Expectations of…
  • 3:29 What This Means to the…
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will cover some of the concepts related to the veterinary profession's ethical duties in the face of animal abuse and animal suffering and their obligations to animals and society.

Our Obligation to the Animal Kingdom

This lesson is not going to be a debate about animal rights or animal welfare. It is going to be about the fundamental obligations you, as a veterinary professional, owe to yourself, society, and animals in the veterinary profession. And while what we discuss in this lesson will inevitably intertwine itself with law, animal rights, and animal welfare debates, we'll try to steer clear of those details.

Let's go over some of the reasons we have an obligation to the animal kingdom, an ethical obligation to look over it with great care, and how that's woven in with the needs, trials, and tribulations of humans, as well.

Ethics vs. Laws

There is more than one way to define ethics. But we'll stick to ethics as being a set of rules and standards that govern proper conduct, based on what is considered to be morally good or bad.

When a person does something unethical, that doesn't mean that they are doing something illegal. Laws are sometimes a reflection of ethics and of how much deviation a society is willing to tolerate from ethical standards. And thus, ethical standards tend to have much higher standards than many laws, with little room for deviation from what's considered ethical behavior vs. unethical behavior.

As a member of the medical profession, you are intrinsically expected by the public to adhere to the highest level of ethics, regardless of how much leeway the law actually gives. Hard work, honesty, compassion, skill, and knowledge are just some of the things the public expects from the veterinary field. It is also perhaps why, in many opinion polls, veterinarians are near the very top of the most trustworthy and ethical professions, often outranking other medical professions.

Public Expectation of Animal Ethics

More so than many other people, Americans also demand that animals be treated with the highest ethical standards. To many in this country, animals are part of the family and are considered to be on equal footing with the 'ultimate' animal, Homo sapiens.

For some people in this country, our obligation to animals should run deeper; some believe that pets should be outlawed because it's a form of imprisonment. But, in general, most people in this country will agree that animals can and should be used for our benefit and even pleasure as pets, so long as it's done in humane ways. Humane means a manner of action that causes the least possible harm to an animal.

To that end, the U.S. has outlawed many barbaric acts, including dog fighting and the slaughtering of animals for sport. We have instituted strict legal and ethical standards on how we can treat animals used for medical testing that benefits humans and other animals.

In this country, we react strongly when we hear someone has breached such laws and ethical standards, such as when professional athletes are found to engage in dog fighting or an animal research facility keeps their animals in inhumane conditions. Repercussions are usually severe and swift because of our strong obligation to treat animals that are benefiting us with high ethical standards.

I tell you all of this for a reason. You, as a veterinary professional, will be held to higher standards than an athlete when it comes to ethical behavior with animals, because the public expects much more.

What This Means to the Veterinary World

Let's see how this relates to things you'll encounter in veterinary medicine and how it also touches on humans.

Firstly, if an animal we're treating has a disease that can seriously affect human health, we may not only have to treat or put down the animal but also report such a disease to a government agency in order to protect society.

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