Disposable Animal Surgeries At OSU Are Unnecessary

Essay, Research Paper

“Disposable” Animal Surgeries at OSU are Unnecessary

In recent months much attention has been drawn to a veterinary class offered by Oregon State University. Until last February, little thought had been given to the College of Veterinary Medicine, or CVM, since it was founded in 1979. VM 757, a small animal surgery class, teaches students to perform different types of surgeries on cats and dogs, experience that is helpful in obtaining a job upon graduation. The animals used in these experiments are purchased in large quantities from an animal dealer based in Arkansas.

Although this class adequately prepares students for the field, it contradicts the purpose of veterinary training, which is to save animal lives. Veterinary animal experimentation is wrong because it is denies animals their basic rights to life, it is traumatizing to veterinary students, and it is entirely unnecessary. Students at OSU should be required to participate in a four-year part time internship program at a local veterinary clinic. This would raise the quality and duration of student’s surgery experience as well as spare the lives of hundreds of animals.

Over winter term in 2000, approximately 80 dogs and cats were put to death by the VM 757 class (PETA 1). This practice is cruel and unethical because the animals used in the surgery were perfectly healthy. According to an article in the OSU Daily Barometer, “When the animals are brought over from the research lab, they are well fed and have healthy coats . . . they do not appear diseased or abused in any way” (Pils 7). If adopted, most of those animals could have lived full and healthy lives. Instead they were given quick and untimely deaths in the name of medicine. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, believes that animals should have the ” . . .right not to have pain unnecessarily inflicted on him or her (PETA 1).” Every organism should be allowed the freedom to live and die of its own momentum. OSU denied 80 animals the right to live last term when they practiced surgeries on and euthenized them.

Supporters of the class argue that more lives are saved than taken when you account for all of the animals OSU graduates have helped. But the skills they gained are minimal compared to the experience they would have gained by spending a few hours a week observing and assisting in surgeries at a veterinary hospital. The current program offers very short externships, which are only available at the University of Washington. This program is too far removed and not long enough. A part time internship over the course of their studies at the University would be valuable beyond measure, and would certainly provide more experience than a 10-week course taken one time in a four-year period.

Where as an internship could help VM students feel that they are helping animals, the small animal surgery class requires them to harm them. Putting animals to death in order to learn does not teach them to sustain life; it teaches how to kill. This is an extreme moral dilemma for most veterinary students, who go into the field because they care about animals. Countless students experience emotional trauma as a result of VM 757. Julie Kittams, a Veterinarian and OSU graduate says, “There are a lot of somber moments and tears often shed during this course” (Pils 4).

Despite the intense emotional pain they experience, some students believe the faculty’s argument that students are not competent to assist in surgeries without prior experience. “Surgery needs to be learned, to be perfected,” says Kelvin Koong, dean of veterinary medicine at OSU. He argues that several of the surgeries that students learn in this program can not be performed on cadavers or are too delicate to do without having practice. For example, operations on cornea of the eye are impossible to perform on a cadaver.

However, the live animal could just as easily be a pet brought into an established veterinary office where students are working. Internships would allow students to observe and assist in these types of surgeries on animals that need them. Just because a live animal is needed to learn this technique does not mean the animal must be purchased for and killed following the operation. Not only would the students learn how to perform the surgery, they would be required work with the knowledge that they were operating on someone’s beloved pet. Bedside manner and dealing with pet owners is not something that is handled in VM 757, where the cats and dogs are disposable.

Implementing an internship program just scratches the surface of the all the alternatives available. The Vegetarian Resource Network, the group who’s protests brought attention to the surgery class, advises that there are a large number of alternatives are available. They suggest that students work with local shelters to perform spaying and neutering, a service that would benefit the community by keeping stray populations low. Another alternative is that the students not take the class. According to Dr. Steve Williams, an OSU veterinary graduate, agrees with the program but believes that, “. . . if the student doesn’t take it for one reason or another, they can still be good veterinarians (Pils 4).” On a positive note, the VM 757 instructor told the Vegetarian Resource Network in an email that “. . . students are willing to explore some of the organization’s ideas. . .” (Pils 7).

In an article released by PETA in January, the University of California-Davis is used as an example of alternative veterinary learning. One of their programs involves treating animals owned by elderly and poor citizens at no cost. Nedium Buyukmichi, a professor at U.C. Davis, questions the “. . .questionable ethics of teaching students to become healers while simultaneously encouraging them to kill healthy animals” (Wood 1). Both PETA and Buyukmichi have encouraged OSU to follow suit and implement programs that are more humane and would benefit the community in the process.

The time has come for Oregon State University to teach students in methods consistent with the principles they are trying to teach them. The unnecessary deaths caused by the college of veterinary medicine could be vindicated by encouraging sending students into the community to help rather than to harm. If students are to graduate from OSU with a quality education and a variety of experiences, an internship program is essential.


PETA. “Stop Cruel Dog-Labs at Oregon State University.” Personal Correspondence. April 2000.PETA. “Frequently Asked Questions.” PETA Online. [Http://www.peta-online.org/faq/index.html].Pils, Schellene. “CVM Small Animal Surgery: Parts 1, 2 and 3.” Daily Barometer Online. [http://osu.orst.edu/Dept/Barometer/..eek6/fri/cvsmallanimalsurgery.html]. January 2000.Wood, Peter. “PETA Challenges College of Veterinary Medicine to Adopt 21st Century Cirriculum.” PETA Online. [http://www.peta-online.org/pn/100vetmed.html]. January 2000.


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