Veganism and the Veterinary Profession: An Incongruous Union? The Experiences of Vegan Veterinary Professionals Working in Small Animal Veterinary Practice in England

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between veganism and the veterinary
profession. Veganism is a politically motivated, ethically underpinned identity and
practice that involves a commitment to eschewing animal exploitation and the
avoidance of contributing to unnecessary animal suffering. The western veterinary
profession practices and promotes animal welfare, yet through its relationship to
the state and its pivotal role in public health, it is enmeshed with systemic
nonhuman animal use within the vast Animal-Industrial Complex (AIC). Thus,
despite veganism and the veterinary profession each seeming to be dedicated to
maximising animals’ wellbeing while reducing animal harm, they appear to be at
odds. To explore if and how vegan veterinary professionals (VVPs) encounter and
negotiate the apparent irreconcilability between veganism and veterinary practice
in the small animal veterinary setting, this research adopted a qualitative,
interview-based methodology. Twenty interviews conducted with veterinary
surgeons and registered veterinary nurses throughout England identified
numerous aspects of their professional role that they find challenging, foremost in
relation to humans’ power over other animals, the consumption of nonhuman
animals, and paradoxical cultural attitudes towards other animals. Ensuingly,
VVPs employ various strategies to negotiate their discomfort with certain aspects
of their professional role. Small animal veterinary practice is a specific social site
where many of the paradoxical ways in which humans relate to other animals
comes into view. Adopting a ‘vegan lens’ facilitates a critique of the veterinary
profession as a microcosm of wider western ‘meat culture’ and invites a
questioning of many socio-cultural paradoxes involving humans’ relations with
other animals. This research contributes to empirical studies on the veterinary
profession, animal welfare and veterinary ethics. It also contributes to empirical
research on the subject of veganism within vegan studies and, notably, within
critical animal studies through examination and interrogation of the veterinary
profession’s enmeshment with the AIC. In light of key findings, recommendations
are made for reform of veterinary practice.
Date of Award17 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorRICHARD TWINE (Director of Studies) & CLAIRE PARKINSON (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Veganism
  • Veterinary Profession
  • Critical Animal Studies
  • Anthropocentrism
  • Speciesism
  • Carnism
  • Animal-Industrial Complex
  • Human-animal relations

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