Some serious good news for animals this holiday season: we’ve made a little bit of progress on behalf of animals in the United States. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) last week announced the addition of the words “animal welfare” in the oath taken by new veterinarian graduates.
The concept of animal welfare is not new, but recognition by an organization that represents U.S. veterinarians is a huge step forward for animals. The revised oath is as follows with the additions in italics:
“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”
Animal welfare can be defined as not just the physical but the mental well-being of non-humans. Concern for a creature’s psychological well-being implies recognition that an animal is a sentient being with feelings of pain, pleasure, joy, sadness, fear — all emotions. Before the 19th century, the idea of animals having emotions wasn’t considered very much.
The semantics may seem minor but the implication is major. AVMA Executive Board Chair, John R. Brooks issued a statement. “The message is we as the AVMA and veterinarians in general do recognize that protecting animal well-being is what we’re all about,” Brooks says.
From today forward
Dr. J. Bruce Nixon, chairman-elect of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Commission said “From today forward, every graduate entering our profession will swear an oath not only to protect animal health but also welfare; to not only relieve animal suffering but to prevent it. That’s a powerful statement defining ourselves and our responsibilities, not a vague symbol.”
Change is an inevitable part of human existence. While it often comes at a pace slightly faster than the state of inertia, the revised oath is a beginning for animal welfare advocates.