A new book released this month is challenging the role of veterinarians -- usually thought of as champions of animal welfare -- as accomplices to animal abuses. The book, titled "Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat," accuses livestock vets of a failure to uphold animal welfare standards inside many industrial slaughterhouses.
Written by former WSPA director Philip Lymbery and Political Editor of the Sunday Times Isabel Oakeshott, the book examines cruelties within the industrial livestock system and how vets have failed to stop them. Lymberry, who calls agriculture vets "the high priests of the livestock industry," says that these veterinarians see farmers as their clients, and fail to report animal welfare violations at the risk of upsetting their bosses.
"Vets have become complicit in supporting a system that is inherently bad for animal welfare," Lymbery told the Guardian. "These systems include the mass production of broiler chickens, caged production of eggs, the large-scale permanent housing of dairy cows (so-called mega dairies) and highly intensive pig production where mothering pigs are kept in confinement where they can't turn around for weeks at a time."
Lymberry added that antibiotic use is one of them main issues -- instead of advocating for a more sustainable system of production, he says, vets simply prescribe more antibiotics to avoid disease in livestock.
The Guardian's Lucy Siegle caught up with one of these vets, Jean Claude Latife, who worked as a supervisor in a slaughterhouse where the practice of stunning livestock before they were killed was routine. Latife's role was to stop the production line when he saw violations -- a job that was detested by the workers, who were paid based on number of kills. Latife said that he quit after he was threatened with a knife by two of the employees for stopping the production line.
Five years after his ordeal Latife, now a veterinary advisor outside the UK, is still angry and thinks vets here should stand up and be counted. "We need to correct things; we need a revolution in the profession and strong action. Even vets who are in charge of controlling the legislation are under so much pressure that they are complicit rather than speaking out."
Lymberry added that most people are unaware of vets' compromised role in industrial meat production, saying, "The general public looks on vets as custodians of animal welfare. They would be intensely disappointed in a profession that accepts and works in and with industrialized systems without criticism."