Rural veterinarians empathetic but compromised over animal welfare reporting - vet

Rural veterinarians empathetic but compromised over animal welfare reporting - vet
Photo credit: Getty

By Andrew McRae of RNZ

A vet, who is also a farmer, has come out in support of claims rural vets sometimes turn a blind eye to animal welfare issues because they are scared of how their community will react to it.

Animal welfare campaigner Angus Robson told RNZ on Thursday that rural vets are often compromised because reporting a farmer could affect their veterinary business.

Alison Dewes is a vet and farmer from Waikato and said vets played a major part in a rural community and this made it difficult to dob someone in.

"I have worked myself for 30 years in rural communities and I think as veterinarians they are particularly compromised if they have got to be seen to be responsible for notifying welfare issues."

She said vets were really part of any rural community.

"Their family, they will be linked through sports clubs and schools. Their kids will be close to all the rural children. A tight network through their children and partners."

She said animal welfare issues were often the tip of the iceberg of other stresses that might be happening on a farm.

Dr Dewes said while vets might be facing an economic conflict as well, it was the personal connections that made it very difficult for vets to report people in rural communities.

She said it placed vets under a lot of pressure.

"That's why a lot of vets feel empathetic towards what the cause of the problem is."

She said farming systems have been placed under such cumulative stressors that in some cases the system is slightly broken.

"We are starting to see more and more of these issues with animal welfare and where our system has become so intensified that we have almost become desensitised in the way we tolerate these things, like pregnant mothers giving birth in mud and turning a blind eye to it."

Dr Dewes said vets often worked with farmers on any problems but in some cases they were not even called out to them.

"So they might observe it, but they may not be involved in that farm, so then it becomes part of trying to get the community to work together to get to the source of the problem."

"That is why I don't think it should be the vet's responsibility to be the whistle-blower for these cases."