The Case of the Missing Vets

Who is affected
How we are affected

The Victims

How we are affected
This is probably what you have been waiting to hear the whole time you have been looking at this web site. As we learned in "Who is affected", everybody in the U.S. as well as in some other countries that we export products to is affected by the shortage. But how are you affected?

Food cost
The shortage of large animal vets could cause food prices to shoot through the roof. We could lose a lot of meat due to diseases. This will make meat less available and more expensive.

Food diseases
One of the most surprising things that could happen is a disease outbreak in meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products. Rural veterinarians help to spot diseases before meat is sold to the public and can cause any damage. Everybody knows that meat must be cooked and handled properly before being served to eliminate diseases such as salmonella, trichinosis, and E. coli. But some diseases in meat and animal products cannot be eliminated by just handling them properly and must be eliminated before the product is sold. These diseases include mad cow disease.

Large animal veterinarians are actually very important. All food safety depends upon inspection by large animal veterinarians, both government inspectors and the local farm vets. In 2005, 21 billion food animals were produced worldwide, so having large animal vets around to inspect them is a very big deal. The demand for food animal vets is estimated to increase 50% by the year 2020.  In the U.S. alone, there are currently 1100 food animal vets, mostly employed by F.S.I.S. (Food Safety and Inspection Service). Their main jobs are:
  • ensure sanitation standards
  • prevent hazards from entering food supply
  • watch for disease
  • monitor for disabled animals
  • look for signs of contamination

Public Health
Human is linked to animal health.  Large animal vets help control zoonotic diseases (diseases passed from animal to human or human to animal).  About 75% of newly identified diseases in the past 10 years were zoonotic.  Many could spread over long distances to become global problems.
Here is a chain of people that could get a sickness from a diseased animal:
    Animal ----> farmer/rancher ----> community of farmers/ranchers ----> general public

Some of the zoonotic diseases that could spread this way are:

Animal Health
Large animal veterinarians protect animals from diseases such as the ones listed below:

Environmental damage
Vets identify and prevent contaminants and pollutants from entering lakes, rivers and streams.  They monitor changes in fish populations and research diseases affecting aquatic animals. Large animal veterinarians keep the water supply in check. Saving the Earth will be harder without them.

Disaster Preparedness
Here are some of the things that vets do to provide aid during disasters such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and oil spills:
  • Treat injured or diseased animals
  • Look for disease outbreaks
  • Assure quality of food and water
  • Decontaminate animals
  • Treat search and rescue dogs
  • Euthanasia
  • Aid in capture, clean up and release of affected wildlife

Bioterrorism is using biological agents to terrorize people or animals. Most biological weapons are zoonotic (spread from animals to people).  Large animal veterinarians are the first line of defense against bioterrorism and food disease (this would be a good thing to remember).  Without large animal vets, bioterrorism will be harder to spot.  Currently there are not enough vets who can train others in the topics of food security, recognition of sabotage, and emergency response to disease outbreaks.