Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why and How

I had decided that a career in veterinary medicine could be very satisfying to me, and I started to explore everything that would mean, the work itself, what was necessary to enter the profession, everything I could. It became very clear very quickly that veterinarians, n the whole specialize. Broadly, specialties fall into the major categories of small animal (principally common companion animals such as cats, dogs, lagomorphs, etc.), large animal (live stock, etc.) and exotics (zoo animals and I think wild animals may fall into this area as well), and epidemiology. Sub specialties are also common either focusing on a particular field of medicine as human medical doctors do (vision, dentistry, cardiology, neurology, etc.) or specific animal species (Horses, Cats and Dogs are probably the most common focus species, but really any animal family or species could be a specialty).

It did not take very long for me to decide what I wanted to focus on: Large animal medicine with a specialty in sheep and/or goats. Practically, it makes sense to me to go into large animal medicine. There are more small animal vets these days than anything else. Exotics is (based on what an acquaintance who IS an Exotic Specialist has told me) a field that attracts steady attention and excitement from prospective practitioners, to enough of a degree that work as an exotic animal specialist (especially working with zoos) remains competitive despite a high washout rate (students who usually shift focus to small/companion animals) when the intimidation on the breadth and potential danger of working with these non-domesticated animals sets in. Epidemiology is an important field that is growing and that I am interested in, but it isn't my highest interest. Large animal specialization is a field that is in decline. A lot of potential veterinarians just don't have the interest in the animals, or the willingness to live in a rural setting. The population of existing vets for large domesticated animals is aging, too. The thing is the need is definitely there for large animal vets. Truly devoted vegans aside, even many vegetarians will engage in the use of animal byproducts (wool, leather, dairy, honey, etc.) and the broader part of most major cultures in existence today is dependent to some degree or another, though they may not think about it, on livestock for a portion of their diet, clothing, medicine and other commodities. I am neither vegetarian or vegan myself. I doubt I ever will be (though I've had some great vegan and vegetarian meals over the years). I do think that livestock farming could stand some major reform; I am principally opposed to factory farms or hormone induced stock animal enhancement. That said, people are going to continue using animal products for a long time. I would like to be involved in making the lives of those animals as pleasant as possible while I can. I bet this might sound pretty delusional to some people, but I think that it is equally delusional to believe that there will be a worldwide transition to orthodox vegan culture in my lifetime.

Pragmatism aside, I think there is a part of me that holds this interest out of a romanticism and my faith. The romanticism is probably largely founded on the fact that my maternal grandfather, a man I unfortunately did not really know, though I closely resemble him, by all accounts, was a rural veterinarian in western Iowa. There is something about living in a less urban (and especially non-suburban, ugh, suburbs, that's a different conversation though) environment that I find appealing. The relative solitude and quiet would not be unwelcome to introverts like me and Kristin (my wife). I enjoy city life well enough, and the ideal, would be to find a community where suburban sprawl was limited to the point that I could live in a city and practice in easily accessible rural communities. As for faith, as a Baha'i (again, a conversation for a different time) I believe that the work we do, our contribution to society at large is a form of service both to our community, the citizenry of the world, and to God to the degree that service carried out in the spirit of steadfast devotion to God is a form of worship. Furthermore to this, one should endeavor that their work, their service to the community, the world at large and to God, should be that through which they can contribute most greatly to the sustenance and spiritual maturation of humanity. I believe that working with agricultural animals is something that I will do very well and that in fulfilling this role I will be engaging in service to society by helping to keep people fed (and clothed), and the other creatures that share the world with us healthy. Being a professional of this sort will also improve my opportunities for mobility allowing Kristin and I more freedom to relocate should we wish to.

Speaking of relocating that's part of why sheep/goats are my animals of choice to specialize in caring for. New Zealand. There are other parts of the world I could move to as well where sheep are important livestock, but it is very true that in New Zealand sheep outnumber people. From what I've researched about Kiwi Country suburban sprawl is not much of an issue there either, so I could live in Wellington or Auckland or some place, still practice medicine and be in one of the most beautiful climates on earth. Also, sheep and goats are especially versatile animals. It isn't just meat. Both also provide dairy and their fur (goats less so, but still), wool, can regularly be harvested for use in textile production. Raising them, especially in an organic and free range environment, also requires far fewer resources and space than husbandry of cattle or swine. Definitely my favorite domesticated agricultural animals. All this said, I would like to care for other animals as well, I love cats especially for example, but sheep and goats are where it is at for me.

This is subject matter I will doubtless come back to again with some regularity and in greater detail, but I feel this is a good start for the topics. Next time I post I will probably try to talk about what I've done so far to work towards my goal of being a veterinarian. Cheers.

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