“The value of the veterinary profession to society must be conveyed in an impressionable and viable image of the profession,” says Roger Mahr, AVMA president. “The diversity of the profession must be described to include food animal or rural practice, food safety, food security, public health, comparative or biomedical research, academia, government service and industry.”

We know that society already has a positive view of veterinarians, but I think sometimes we forget what a noble, credible profession food animal medicine is. I asked some of my beef and dairy veterinary friends to give me a quote on why they believe food animal veterinarians are credible both to their clients and society. Here’s what they say:

  • The Veterinarians’ Oath charges each of us to care for animals while also protecting the public’s health. We can only do so by remaining independent and nonbiased to all concerned, including producers and consumers.
  • I would suspect our credibility follows in line with the high level of integrity, responsibility and work ethic we have. 
  • Veterinarians start with a good baseline credibility due to reputation of the profession, yet in client relationships, the level of credibility is based on deposits we make in the client relationship, including transparency, honesty, integrity and professionalism. As with any relationship, our net deposits have to be greater than withdrawals. As a profession we have done a good job by working in areas of food safety, quality and efficient production leading to ample food supply at reasonable prices.
  • The vast majority of us are concerned about the safety and wholesomeness of red meat because we want to do what we can to insure the integrity and continued existence of the food animal industry, so we advise our clients on the proper care and husbandry of their animals.
  • I think we are viewed as having the best interest of the animal at the forefront. If that perception is destroyed, then we slide right down with politicians and used-car dealers. 
  • Food animal practitioners stand everything to gain and nothing to lose with the continued success of an operation.

Mahr told me that the image of veterinary medicine and its value to society will ultimately determine the profession’s status, authority, influence and relevance, not only nationally, but throughout the world. “Veterinarians are well-placed to serve in an advisory capacity to both consumers and producers. Veterinarians are important allies in defending practices that are scientifically sound, whether the questions are related to food safety concerns or animal care. At the same time, veterinarians should feel confident to recommend change when practices cannot be scientifically substantiated or when data exists to suggest that a given practice is not in the best interest of animal welfare or food safety.”

A National Academy of Sciences study titled Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases clearly articulated that the continuing convergence and the interrelationship of animal health, human health and environmental health is the new reality and that the “one medicine” concept should be embraced. “I believe the veterinary profession has the opportunity and obligation to take the lead in carrying this ‘one health, one medicine’ concept forward,” said Mahr. “Food animal veterinary medicine will be an integral part of this initiative.”