Kind words from long ago

Kind words from long ago

May 06, 2008

While perusing J.F. Smithcors' history book The Veterinarian in America: 1625-1975—yes, this is what some journalists do for fun—I came across particularly inspiring and progressive quotes from doctors about people's responsibility to animals. We all know that the bond between 21st-century Americans and their pets is stronger than ever. But it turns out that a century and a half before this, compassion started on farms and urban streets of horse-drawn carriages and wild pigs, and in slaughterhouses and medical and scientific laboratories. You probably know this, but it never hurts to be reminded of your ancestors' good work. In his book, Smithcors quotes George Dadd, MD, VS (Veterinary Science). Dadd seaks eloquently of people's responsibility to the "brute" in 1850:

"The object of the veterinary art is not only congenial with human medicine, but the very same paths that lead to a knowledge of the diseases of man lead also to a knowledge of those of brutes. Our domestic animals deserve consideration at our hands. We have tried all manner of experiments on them for the benefit of science; and science and scientific men should do something to repay the debt, by alleviating their sufferings and improving their condition."

Dr. Dadd later argues for the establishment of veterinary schools, where the scientific study of animals would benefit humanity as well as the animal kingdom. Dr. Dadd's personal entreaty had a precedent in a speech presented at The Agricultural Society of Philadelphia in 1805. Benjamin Rush, MD, spoke to a crowd of students about the importance of studying animal medicine. And he concluded with a sentiment similar to Dadd's. We owe these animals more, he said.

"I have endeavored to become the organ of speech for the dumb, and a suppliant for creatures that are unable to plead for themselves. Permit me to recommend the subject [of veterinary medicine] to your attention in your future studies ... Take care of the health of domestic animals."

Some of those students answered the call, studying cattle and horses in a time before attention was paid to the cats and dogs in their midst. Today, you answer the call. You are the advocates of animals today, forever arguing for the best medical treatment of every horse, cat, dog, and guinea pig in your care. Countless veterinarians have told me they do what they do because they want to be the advocate for the animal. I see this same love for animals reflected in each and every veterinarian I speak to. Clearly, the call that came from American horse doctors in the 1600s still resonates today. And every one of you shares a long and proud history of loving the world by loving its mute members: animals.