Hominum animalumque saluti About the professional responsibilities of veterinarians
Herten, F.J.W.C. van
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Public expectations of the veterinary profession are shifting. Besides their concern for animal health, nowadays veterinarians are supposed to look after animal welfare and public health as well. In this thesis I will examine how the veterinary profession should respond to these changing and expanding demands of society and how the corresponding professional responsibilities can be determined. I will argue that to retain the mandate of society veterinarians will have to meet these expectations. Actually, to be a modern veterinary professional one has to be able to play all these different roles at the same time. A complicating factor is that all these professional responsibilities of veterinarians can easily conflict. As I will explain by introducing two actual cases, veterinarians are for instance often expected to give public health interests priority above animal welfare. This causes moral dilemmas for veterinarians who have a moral obligation towards the animals under their care as well. I will explore a relational ethical perspective to address this issue. In my opinion the relation of a veterinarian with the animals under his care matters morally. From this I deduce that the priority of public health is not absolute. It is a matter of proportionality. Human interests must be convincing enough to justify the harm to animals Besides this, I will demonstrate that with regard to responsibility conflicts of veterinarians we have created our own moral dilemmas. Especially the conflict between public health and animal welfare is generally caused by the way we treat our animals. In that case, pointing at the resulting animal suffering is not enough. To truly solve these dilemmas the context must be changed. In this respect, the responsibility of individual veterinarians is limited, inter alia due to legal boundaries and the impossibilities of the present structure of animal husbandry. I believe it is a collective and substantive responsibility of the veterinary profession as a whole to raise the necessary public debate to resolve this problem.