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Surviving the apocalypse

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‘Do you think that in thousands of years somebody’ll be digging up our rubbish tips?’, Sharon asked.

I shrugged. It was a quiet day at work, and Sharon had been watching Time Team. ‘Nah. I don’t think so’, I replied.

‘Why not?’

‘We’ll all have died from nuclear radiation or antibiotic-resistant infections by then.’

She gave me a strange look – ‘That’s cheerful.’

‘Realistic!’ I said, cheerfully. ‘With everything that’s happening, an apocalypse is bound to happen sooner or later.’

‘I think you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘But if it did, I reckon vets would be useful people to have around. Like in that show – The Walking Dead.’

As it was a quiet day at work our conversation inspired a discussion (some parts of it more serious than others) as to whether vets really would be more useful than the average stranger during a life-altering apocalyptic event. I think we would. Vets are practical people with transferable skills. We’re used to dealing with risk, solving problems and improvising solutions. Our profession involves keeping people calm and counselling them through difficult times, so we’d be good at helping people team up to survive. Furthermore, vets are accustomed to stressful situations, including lack of sleep and food (although the average vets’ preferred diet of half-eaten boxes of chocolates and biscuits would soon be in short supply).

In the short term, we’d have access to valuable resources –drugs, oxygen, bandage supplies and sutures. We have plenty of de-wormers should sanitation fail, and lots of disinfectant. Most clinics have kitchens and refrigerators. Some even have their own back-up generators.

It’s arguable that large animal vets would be more useful than small animal vets – after all, if people eat animals then it’s important to keep those animals healthy. That said, should all else fail, we all know that cat food contains more protein than dog food. And most small animal clinics have their own supply of vodka, kept on hand for treatment of feline antifreeze toxicity.

Should the situation deteriorate into the inevitable zombie apocalypse made popular by the media, with infected humans shambling through the streets, then vets have a working knowledge of anatomy. We have a high gag tolerance and we’re used to euthanasing creatures. Captive bolts would be most efficient at dispatching zombies while avoiding the gunshots that attract more zombies. It’s possible, although unlikely, that medical lasers have hitherto unknown zombie-killing properties.

More seriously, without electricity, fuel, transport trucks or clean water, there would be too many people fighting over too few supplies. Vets would be as vulnerable as anybody else. Would we survive? Debatable. Would we be useful? Absolutely.

We were still discussing the issue when the head nurse came in. ‘What are you talking about?’, she asked.

‘Whether vets would be more or less likely to survive the apocalypse,’ I told her.

She sniffed and pointed at the mess we’d left on the table.

‘Vets would be useful,’ she said. ‘But nurses would be better!’

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