The Evolving Role of Veterinarians in Animal Welfare
As the global population continues to rise exponentially so is the demand for food. One critical aspect of meeting this demand is ensuring the health and well-being of livestock, which are essential sources of meat, dairy, and other animal-based products. This is where the evolving role of veterinarians appears crucial in improving the health of livestock, promoting sustainable farming practices, and addressing emerging challenges through extensive research and knowledge sharing. In this informative piece, we will explore the evolving role of veterinarians in ensuring food security and quality for the growing world population while enhancing the quality of life and health of livestock.
Veterinarians are at the forefront of disease prevention and control in livestock populations. By implementing comprehensive vaccination programs, and developing biosecurity protocols, vets are helping to prevent the outbreak of diseases that can lead to a global food crisis and disrupt commercial interests. Their role in the examination of farm animals with regular inspections of harvesting facilities and processing units in compliance with the food safety regulations, aid in creating a proper market for the purchase of animals and their products.
With the evolving role of veterinarians, livestock nutrition has gained a new dimension with the introduction of advanced feed formulations and supplements. Today, vets work closely with nutritionists to optimize feed efficiency by participating in extensive drug research and development to support various aspects of animal healthcare.
They now actively advocate for evidence-based treatments, implement disease prevention strategies, and educate farmers on the use of antibiotics and safer sustainable alternatives. By encouraging alternatives such as phytogenic feed additives, vaccination, improved hygiene, and enhanced biosecurity, veterinarians help reduce the reliance on antibiotics, safeguarding animal health and the effectiveness of these vital drugs.
Veterinarians: the primary Animal Welfare Stakeholder
Ensuring animal welfare is an integral part of the veterinarian’s role, which involves housing conditions, and handling practices of the livestock. Modern veterinary professionals play a pivotal role in providing guidance on enhancing animal comfort, minimizing stress, and alleviating pain or suffering. To ensure ethical treatment of the livestock, vets are promoting humane practices, and spreading awareness on the same to eradicate cruel practices prevailing across the global livestock industry.
Furthermore, the link between animal welfare and society has become more evident. Numerous research studies have highlighted the correlation between animals, humans, and the environment, emphasizing the collaboration between various interdisciplinary researches in veterinary science, human pharmacy, and environmental science. With time, veterinary professionals now play key roles in biomedical research, parasitology, pathology, research and formulation of medicines and feed additives, vaccines, and a host of other crucial roles pertaining to animal wellbeing.
The following table summarizes some of the main roles of veterinarians in animal welfare:
|Diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries in animals
|Providing vaccinations, parasite control, dental care, spay/neuter services, etc.
|Advising on appropriate diet and supplements for animals
|Addressing behavioural and mental health issues in animals
|Animal welfare education
|Educating animal owners, handlers, producers, students, and the public about animal welfare
|Animal welfare assessment
|Evaluating the welfare of animals in various settings
|Participating in the formulation of animal welfare standards and regulations
|Promoting humane and environmentally friendly methods of animal production
|Wildlife disease research
|Investigating diseases that affect wildlife populations
|Providing medical care to the wildlife and endangered species
|Animal cruelty prevention
|Reporting and intervening in cases of animal abuse or neglect
A Shift towards Contemporary Role of a Veterinarian
Veterinarians have always been thought of as professionals who are qualified to prevent, cure and alleviate pain and treat injuries in domestic animals. Nonetheless, their contemporary role encompasses much more than these conventional tasks.
For instance, in a growing economy like that of India, increasing buying power is driving the consumption of animal products which in turn is giving rise to the widespread adoption of the intensive farming methods employed to maximize production and profitability. However, this surge in production comes with overcrowding, constricted captivity and compromised hygiene system in animal rearing, which not only compromises the welfare of animals but also the health of the consumers due to the rapid spread of diseases. The evolving landscape demands that vets go beyond traditional boundaries and embrace a more contemporary role.
Vets are now tasked with addressing not only the physical health of animals but also their overall well-being, bridging the gap between animal welfare and society. It is now evident that vets are now the most important animal welfare stakeholder for their earned expertise and training over the years and for witnessing the paradigm shift in livestock farming.
Veterinarians also play a crucial role in livestock nutrition. Today, vets work closely with nutritionists to optimize feed efficiency by participating in extensive drug research and development to support various aspects of animal, human and economic welfare. Below mentioned are the evolving responsibilities that veterinarians are tasked with:
1. Embracing a Well-rounded Approach to Animal Welfare and Commercial Interests
Veterinarians are no longer limited to animal welfare which encompasses medical care, preventive measures, nutritional guidance, and overall well-being. Vets now play a key role as trainers and policymakers to guide and secure the commercial interests of our marginal livestock farmers and small to medium poultry businesses to a great extent.
2. Empowering food security, empowering lives!
The livestock and poultry industry is vulnerable to certain high-impact diseases, leading to morbidity and huge financial losses to the farmers and industry. This is where the evolving role of vets becomes prominent in minimizing risks with the introduction and implementation of the best practices to secure people’s livelihood while ensuring healthy and productive livestock.
It is because of the constant research and development in veterinary science, the world population is being fed with adequate daily protein that is majorly obtained from poultry eggs, meat, and dairy products.
3. Mitigating humanitarian and economic crises:
Vets nowadays are working for intergovernmental and non-governmental projects to address and curate solutions against deadly animal diseases like African swine fever, rabies, bovine pleuropneumonia, Rift Valley fever, and other concerning ailments. Besides, the vets are now actively involved in improving information systems, laboratory networks and quality control, risk management, and mitigating crisis that can impact both human and animal interests.
Veterinary professionals play a pivotal role in solving economic crises by promoting livestock health and introducing revolutionary feed additives to prevent disease outbreaks. Their expertise helps in minimizing economic losses by facilitating both livestock trade and expanding the market for veterinary pharmaceuticals.
The Way Forward
- The Ethical Waggle: As the role of vets evolves in animal welfare, they face complex ethical dilemmas. Balancing the well-being of animals by curbing controversial practices such as animal testing or breeding requires careful consideration. Veterinarians play a crucial role in advocating for ethical standards and ensuring that animals’ best interests are protected.
- Spearheading Market Model: Today’s vets understand the importance of treating illnesses and promoting the overall happiness and quality of life for animals. From creating enriching environments to encouraging positive human-animal interactions, vets are at the forefront of championing a higher standard of providing animal care by assisting research bodies in formulating medicines and feed additives to ensure optimal health for the animals.
With the onset of high-impact contagious livestock and poultry diseases, vets are now at the forefront of guiding poultry farmers and livestock owners on the best herd health management practices and addressing crucial issues like nutrition, environmental sanitation, and even post-mortem inspections. They are at the forefront of innovation in the animal husbandry industry while setting benchmarks for others to follow.
- Learning New Tricks: With the evolving role of vets, there is a need for continuous education and training to keep up with the latest advancements in animal care. Vets are embracing opportunities for professional development, attending conferences, and participating in specialized training programs. This commitment to ongoing education allows them to stay at the forefront ofveterinary medicine and provide the best animal care.
- Positive Progress: Vets actively contribute to scientific studies, exploring new treatment methods and advancing the understanding of animal behavior and health. By embracing research and innovation, they can offer cutting-edge treatments, preventive measures, and improved techniques for diagnosing and managing animal health Considering the questionable application of antibiotics, which is both costly and detrimental for both animal and human health, veterinary professionals are now investing considerable time and effort researching phytogenic as safer alternatives without any side effects.
As the role of veterinarians in animal welfare continues to evolve, they must navigate ethical dilemmas, advance their education and training, and embrace research and innovation. By striking a balance between animal welfare and controversial practices, advancing their knowledge and skills, and actively participating in research, veterinarians are shaping the future of animal health and welfare. Their dedication to navigating these challenges paves the way for a compassionate and progressive approach to veterinary medicine. Thereby, the role of veterinarians in animal welfare must be recognized in sustaining the bond between humans and animals.
Besides, to empower marginal farmers in securing their commercial interests, the role of vets has become more important than ever. Especially, in India, small and marginal livestock farmers and poultry owners are often deprived of the basic animal care measures and guide to mitigate an emergency. To eradicate this gap, farmers are now encouraged by the local government bodies to form guilds/local association that ties up with experienced vets for an interactive knowledge-sharing session. This is how vets are contributing to the promotion of the unorganized sector.
Thankfully, with the advent of digitization, renowned vets across the globe can connect virtually and share their expert insights and the latest happenings in the veterinary world to create awareness and implement the best practices.
It is a relationship that has endured countless twists and turns throughout the ages and will undoubtedly continue to grow as we advance. With a growing base of support and the unwavering commitment of vets to the welfare of animals, we can ensure a brighter future for all.
The role of veterinarians in ensuring sufficient feeding for the growing world population while improving the quality of life and health of livestock is crucial and evolving. Their expertise in disease prevention, animal nutrition, antibiotic stewardship, welfare assessment, and sustainable farming practices contribute to the overall goal of a sustainable and secure food supply. As the global population continues to rise, veterinarians will play an increasingly significant role in meeting the demands of a growing world while maintaining the highest standards of animal health, welfare, and food safety.