“The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) believes that whether or not to consume animals, and animal products such as milk and eggs, is a personal and private determination that must be left to each individual. However, the ASPCA firmly believes that animals who are bred, raised and killed or harvested for human consumption, like all animals, are entitled to protection from distress and suffering during their lives and at the time of their deaths.” (from the ASPCA web site)

Well, I suppose that’s something. Unlike radical vegetarian PETA and some other animal rights groups, the ASPCA does not tell people not to eat meat, milk or eggs. However, its distaste for animal agriculture is thinly veiled. In September, the ASPCA announced a new link on its web site www.aspca.org/farmanimals. Its press release said the new web section is “…aimed at raising awareness about the issues that affect farm animals. This new content will focus on the organization’s history of farm animal protection, what goes on at factory farms and how one can become a compassionate consumer.”

If you can get past the factory farming buzzwords, ASPCA will kindly tell you how to combat industrialized farming and where to go for your food (thereby becoming a compassionate consumer). Of course in their opinion, only local small farms humanely treat and raise their animals. 

So where do you fit in? Are you a “compassionate veterinarian”? If you took the Veterinarian’s Oath, you solemnly swore to use your scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge, and promised to practice your profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

Do you feel you are able to do that on both small and large farms? I’ve beenon ranches, dairies and feedlots of all sizes with many of you and have witnessed that compassion — of both the veterinarian and the producer/employee — time and time again. Maybe the industry needs to start using some of these same terms the activists are using.

I believe bovine veterinarians are extremely compassionate. I’ve watched you scratch a dairy cow behind the ears, run a gentle hand over a calf’s head and even pat a good-natured bull much like we’d all unconsciously drop our hand to the ears of a dog standing beside us. Someone without compassion for animals doesn’t do that.

Next time someone asks you about “factory farms” and inhumane treatment of animals, take a positive approach and let them know how producers and their veterinarians care about the animals in their charge. Let’s turn the phrase around so that consumers equate food animals with “compassionate producers,” no matter where they are raised.