Subject: Veterinarians are the custodians of animal welfare

Although destruction of rare antelope such as Situtunga is regrettable, the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) fully supports the actions of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to safeguard South African livestock and wildlife against the possible introduction of new diseases. The SAVA urges DAFF to institute a full enquiry, to prevent the recurrence of such an event.

On 05 August 2014 the NSPCA issued a media release under the heading “Veterinary ethics and animal suffering” in which certain sweeping allegations are made against the veterinary profession. The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) investigated the matter, and wishes to place on record some facts which were omitted in the NSPCA’s statement.

Destruction of animals for regulatory purposes is the responsibility of the state, and should be performed by state veterinarians. Three private veterinarians, who were informed that the animals had to be destroyed for regulatory purposes, refused to perform this function. The SAVA fully supports their right to do so. The statement by the NSPCA, “a number of wildlife veterinarians who were approached for assistance refused to euthanase the animals on ethical grounds” is therefore incorrect.

Euthanasia (mercy killing) on humanitarian grounds is a totally different matter than destruction of animals for regulatory purposes. The veterinarians involved did not inspect the animals themselves, but were informed that the animals had access to water and feed. A veterinarian has the right to inspect an animal in order to decide whether euthanasia is justified; a lay person cannot instruct a veterinarian to euthanase an animal. Veterinarians are the ultimate custodians of animal welfare.


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