I recently came upon a 2007 article on the role of “On Call” vets at big Racing events – there as a liaison to the media, to communicate and explain injuries to horses during races. As this was published by dvm360, a vet magazine, the article was mostly about that profession and the standards they supposedly aspire to. But a couple of quotes from Dr. Larry Bramlage, the “On Call” vet present when George Washington broke down and was euthanized at the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, caught my eye.
The magazine led in with this: “Desensitizing the public to the injury was one of Bramlage’s and McIlwraith’s objectives in describing to reporters what was taking place.” Then Bramlage:
“If you give them the information and the prognosis, they don’t leave the telecast with those vivid pictures as they did at the 1990 Breeders’ Cup where there was no one officially to talk about the injuries or the horses. All they could do was show the pictures over and over…”
“Our whole job is to have people leave the telecast remembering it for the races, not the injuries. I think we accomplished that. The right information puts people’s minds at ease and sometimes even if the news is bad, they can feel bad but don’t continue to agonize over it.”
Imagine that. One of the vet’s primary objectives – or, even, “whole job” – is to “desensitize the public” after a horse is killed; to make sure “[fans] don’t leave the telecast with those vivid pictures”; “to have people remembering the races, not the injuries”; to “put people’s minds at ease.” No “agonizing” over dead horses here.
What a twisted, sordid state of affairs. Veterinarians, men and women whose actions are supposed to be wholly informed by care and compassion for their voiceless, vulnerable patients, are, by “desensitizing the public,” actively aiding and abetting an industry that maims and destroys said patients as a matter of course; by glossing the ugliness, they are helping to guarantee that Racing’s (inherent) abuse and cruelty continues ad infinitum. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised, for this is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s first principle on animal welfare:
“The responsible use of animals for human purposes, such as companionship, food, fiber, recreation, work, education, exhibition, and research conducted for the benefit of both humans and animals, is consistent with the Veterinarian’s Oath.”
Exploit away. For shame.