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Witnessing farm animal abuse during work experience
  1. Henrietta Lutter

Abstract

In the dilemma discussed in the July/August issue of In Practice, a school student had just gained a place in veterinary school. Before she goes, she does a six-week work placement on a local dairy farm. While there, she sees the farm manager strike a steer five times on its head. The steer collapses and the farm manager begs the student not to report it (IP, July/August 2017, vol 39, pp 342-343). Richard Brown says that the student has four options: to report the manager immediately; to tell the manager she won’t report, but then report once she has left the premises; tell the manager she will say nothing, but not return to the farm; or tell the manager she will say nothing and return the next day as normal. Brown thinks reporting the manager after the student has left is the best option, as there is no telling how the manager will react.

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IT was with a distinct pang of guilt I read the farm welfare scenario in last month’s In Practice. As a 2016 graduate, EMS is not too distant a memory. In particular, a second-year farm placement with a herdsman who was a qualified foot trimmer and certifiable animal abuser. His unorthodox methods of restraint, use of ‘thermocautery’ when paring ulcers, and methods of punishing heifers who didn’t work out their own way around the parlour first time (it involved swinging a metal pole at their metacarpal region) - as well as his shouting profanities at them - will haunt me forever. I didn’t stand up to him, as I believe he had previously been to prison for actual body harm and, in honesty, I was scared of him. I did discuss it with the herd manager; however, due to his foot trimming qualifications he was an asset to the farm and they would not take action. My one solace is that the farm has since closed and I hope he no longer works with animals. It really did make me think twice about human nature and I consider myself lucky to have avoided anything like it until that particular placement.

Everyday Ethics Poll

Last month’s poll asked:

A student sees a farm manager strike a steer on the head five times. The manager begs the student to keep quiet. What should they do?

33 respondents voted to report the farm manager immediately

15 voted to lie to the manager, saying they will not report them, but once in a safe location report him and provide a statement

2 voted to tell the manager they will say nothing, and then never go back to the farm

4 voted to tell the manager they will say nothing. Go back the next day as if nothing has happened

(54 respondents)

Vote for this month’s online poll at:

inpractice.bmj.com/content/current

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