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A world without animals


Laboratory animals on which we still depend are as removed from us as are our food animals. Watchdogs and guard dogs are outdated anachronisms. Horses have become an expensive hobby. We still keep pets, but have you noticed how many hospitals, apartments, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities forbid them? Does the problem of unwanted pets in humane shelters say nothing to us? Is the sale of pet rocks really a joke?

Just thinking this way makes me very uncomfortable. Could our thoughtlessness, our ingenious technological skill and our selfishness produce such a nightmare – a world without animals? It is already possible in the city to live your entire life without seeing anything except the English sparrow and the squirrel, and without sensing the near invisible companionship of the rats and mice.

For the most part, zoos and preserves are no real help and no real antidote. We may be moving toward a world with fewer and fewer species of life; a world in which all claims fall before the claims of human beings, whose tendency toward arrogance and selfishness will then be unchecked. A world in which we become less humane and perhaps even less human because we have left behind or alienated ourselves from our civilizing companions.

Perhaps you doctors of veterinary medicine, who stand at the interface of animals and humans, cannot stop this trend. I charge you to be very cautious in your careers lest you foster it. Do all in your power to bring us closer to an appreciation of what naturalist and educator Joseph Wood Krutch called "The great chain of life." Remind us, not of our mastery, but of our interdependence. Ask us, once in a while, to consider the possibility that maybe there is no life on other planets around other suns, and that maybe life on the planet Earth is all the life there is in the entire universe.

In any event, help us to learn that we are stewards and not greedy inheritors. Show us how to become caretakers like you, rather than careless destroyers.

Take your pledge to first do no harm as a sacred promise. To the best of your ability, strive to treat your patients as you would want to be treated. Generally, strive to be positive and of good cheer. But, when you find yourself unable to take away the sorrow and heartbreak of others, always remember that you can help them endure it. Also, remember that the best defense against misrepresentation is fine conduct. Seek and cherish those precious triumphs of saving a life that make a life of demanding and sometimes difficult service all worthwhile.

Above all, value all life as precious, you who know life more broadly than any other profession. Never lend your talents to the service of death. By your actions, profess your calling boldly. As of today, we look to you for knowledge, wisdom, understanding and guidance. And where we may move to our own potential great harm, we depend on you to help us.

Congratulations on your splendid achievement. I salute you, your families and your friends, including your animal friends. For our sake, stand boldly for all of life!"

— On June 5, 1976, Dr. Brantner delivered this address to the graduating class of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Carl A. Osborne DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM
Dr. Osborne, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is professor of medicine in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota.

Author's note: The original manuscript of this address was given to Dr. Osborne by Dr. Brantner to share with others. Dr. Brantner died in February 1987. Dr. Osborne modified and edited portions of the address, but used discretion not to change the theme.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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