You are hereEthical Guiding Principles for Veterinary Behaviour with Respect to the Welfare and Protection of Animals (1998)
Ethical Guiding Principles for Veterinary Behaviour with Respect to the Welfare and Protection of Animals (1998)
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Ethical Guiding Principles for Veterinary Behaviour with Respect to the Welfare and Protection of Animals
CODEX VETERINARIUS (Tierärztliche Vereinigung für Tierschutz e.V. / Germany)
Ethical guiding principles for veterinary behaviour with respect to the welfareand protection of animals (Edition from 1st June 1998)
The veterinary profession regulation describes veterinary surgeons as being the appointed protectors of animals. In accordance with this principle, the "VeterinaryAssociation for the Protection of Animals" has put together some guidelinesto assist members of the veterinary profession in their work with respect tothe welfare and protection of animals. This issue of the CODEX VETERINARIUS isnot a description of the present situation. It is rather meant to be a guidefor the future, to be understood as a self-binding commitment. All members ofthe veterinary profession must, due to their specific knowledge, be committedto improve and enhance the protection of animals. When in doubt they should decidein favour of the animal, which, however, does not imply a higher ranking of animals.Veterinary surgeons should not assist in intensifying the productive use of animalsout of purely economical interests, without taking on the ethical responsibilityfor the animal as a living creature, capable of suffering. The "VeterinaryAssociation for the Protection of Animals" calls upon all veterinary surgeonsto adopt the hereby described principles.
Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals
On behalf of the working group "Ethics"
Dr. Sabine Burgermeister
On behalf of the board
Dr. Karl Fikuart
Veterinary surgeons have a particular ethical responsibility for animals as living beings able to suffer. Veterinary action for the welfare and protection of animals is guided by the principle of respect for life and the awareness that the animal has a dignity which is to be respected. Therefore protection and care for an animal can not be dependent on its economical value.
In situations of diverting interests between moral obligations and economical pressure it is essential to consider carefully the respect for life against the productive use of life in all its forms of existence.
The ethical concept of justice for human beings as well as for animals requires that equal entities , according to their equality, are to be valued and treated equally, and unequal entities according to their unequality are to be valued and treated differently (Principle of Equality *).
Considering carefully the opposing interests and needs, the interests of the human being should not automatically be considered to be more important than those of the animal.
Prior to any interference with the physical and psychological integrity of the animal the veterinary surgeon has to question herself/himself to which extent her/his intervention is morally justified. When in doubt veterinary surgeons should let themselves be guided by the principle:
In dubio pro animale!
* see GLOSSARY
Animals used in agriculture and livestock production*
Due to national and international competition massive economical pressure exists in the keeping of productive animals. Veterinarians cannot ignore the consequences of this situation. The use of animals by man is not, in principle, be questioned. The limits, however, must be introduced where use is only possible under conditions causing pain, suffering, physical harm* or unnecessary fear*. Already the impairment of well-being can only ethically be justified when the achieved benefits bear an adequate relation to the level of impairment
The production of food-stuffs from animals is morally not justifiable if animals are afflicted with pain, suffering, physical harm or unnecessary fear in the course of breeding, keeping, feeding of growth-stimulating agents or shipping methods. Therefore veterinary surgeons should*
- use their influence to ensure that keeping systems and keeping environment are adapted to the requirements of animals,
- not support breeding objectives and not operate on animals to adapt the animal to special keeping systems,
- deny support to breeding objectives and ways of use wherein only one gender can or shall be used, which unavoidably leads to the extinction of the other gender,
- not support breeding efforts and biotechnical measures which could lead to situations where certain stages of life can only be mastered with the help of man,
- refuse the breeding and keeping of animals for the production of luxury goods and gourmet delicacies as well as the keeping of exotic animals for production insofar as this is linked with pain, suffering, physical harm, unnecessary fear or even minor affliction of well-being.
Small animals and pets *
Due to their professional knowledge and a confidential relationship with animal owners, veterinarians are in a position to advise them on the keeping and care of their animals. A great variety of different species are kept as pets, among them those usually at home in the wild. This makes it all the more compulsory for veterinarians to comply with their duty to continuously update their knowledge. With regard to small animal breeding, again methods causing suffering can not be used. This is especially the case when breeding methods are applied purely for aesthetically reasons and which cause the animal pain, suffering or physical harm .Therefore veterinarians should
- use every contact to work on improvements. They have a duty to inform about the particular needs of the animal and the specific behaviour as well as about forms of keeping according to their nature, needs and behaviour,
- where possible, already advise and inform in advance about the choice of animal,
- make sure that only animals are kept for which the owner is able to cope with their specific needs. This is all the more necessary when an animal usually at home in the wild is to be obtained,
- largely encourage the purchase of home bred animals emphasizing the enormous stress and losses in the course of catching and shipping wild animals,
- recognize abuses in breeding and animal trading and see to it that these are eliminated,
- consider above all the well-being of the animal prior to each decision about treatment or euthanasia. A continuation of suffering as well as the ending of life, solely at the owners request , is not to be accepted under any circumstances.
Animals in sports*
Without the application of force animals are only able to move according to their species. Animals can only be used for sportive activities under conditions set up by man. Animals are not to be harmed or should not suffer from unnecessary fear. They are not be exposed to avoidable pain. The dignity of the animal should in no way be violated. An animal is not an apparatus for sports! Even if it is unable or no longer able to fulfil the required performance, it is and remains the partner of man. For their performance animal should receive special care from man. Therefore veterinarians should
- use their influence to ensure that animals perform willingly and not under unnecessary pressure,
- be concerned that animals are trained cautiously, carefully and continuously and that sufficient time for recuperation is given,
- see to it that animals are not humiliated as "sporting equipment".
Animals for experimental tests*
Until now scientific testing experiments with animals for the preservation of health for humans and animals as well as in basic scientific research can not or can only to a limited extent be replaced by alternative methods. As long as these experiments are regarded necessary by the majority of society and alternative methods are not available, the co-operation of veterinarians is necessary and regarded as ethically justifiable. As the appointed protectors of animals, they have a special responsibility for their well-being. Out of this responsibility they are committed to use all their influence to ensure that animals are only used in testing experiments if the inflicted stress is justifiable by the expected gains or enhanced scientific knowledge.
The guideline for a stress-gain-analysis should be: The higher the amount of stress for the animal, the more necessary the experimental test has to be in the interest of other lives. This careful consideration applies also to the production and preservation of transgenic animals.
Installations in veterinary medicine should be an example as far as the protection of animals is concerned. These principles apply in analogy also for animals used in the course of education, specialization and post-graduate studies, as well as for organ donation. Therefore veterinarians should
- give up heavily stressing experiments, above all in fundamental scientific research,
- put an end to stressing experiments in due course by painless euthanasia, so that the animal is spared heavy suffering,
- use their influence to ensure that the least harmful method is applied while conducting experimental tests,
- furthermore ensure with their competence that alternative methods in the form of replacement, reduction and refinement ( "3 R" ) are applied. In order to reduce stress for the individual animal, it can be necessary to raise the overall number of animals in a testing experiment,
- use their influence that all animals for experimental tests are kept in compliance with their needs as a species and their specific behaviour. Exceptions can only be tolerated insofar as the use of the animal for experimental testing or the test itself would be at risk.
Animals in shows and exhibitions*
It is questionable whether man has the right to keep animals in zoological gardens, game reserves or similar installations, in animal shows and circuses, to exhibit them or present them for entertainment. These animals are forced to live in a man-made environment to which they can only adapt themselves to a certain extent. Principally it is not ethically justifiable to catch animals and remove them from their natural habitat, only too often with heavy losses.
Breeding with regard to the preservation of a species, teaching objectives or scientific research, can serve as justification for the keeping of wildlife inside the above mentioned installations. By being aware of this situation veterinarians have an explicit duty
- to use their influence to ensure the highest possible well-being of the animals, keeping them under conditions that are as close as possible to the demands of the species and their behaviour,
- to refuse animals shows which only aim at economical profit or which limit the freedom of movement and social contacts as well as contacts to humans contrary to their needs.
Killing of animals*
Animals are fellow creatures and have a fundamental right * to live. Therefore the killing of an animal always demands a justifiable reason. *
Veterinarians must kill animals either while practicing veterinary medicine or in abattoirs or while conducting experimental tests or at controlling outbreaks of epidemic diseases.
The killing of animals by veterinarians is only in the following cases compliant with the ethical code of their profession:
- in veterinary practice: because of pain and/or suffering without any hope for relief or recover; in other cases where animals are spared from obvious suffering,
- in the slaughtering procedure: if one can be certain that this is performed without avoidable pain, suffering and/or unnecessary fear,
- in experimental tests: if tests are finished in due time by painless euthanasia to ensure that the animal is spared from severe suffering; because the giving away into private ownership after finishing the test is not possible,
- in controlling epidemic diseases:- if the killing has to be conducted on a legal basis. Even in those cases they have to be aware that stress is as minimal as possible. Through education and prophylactic measures they must contribute to creating conditions that will make killings unnecessary.
- in other cases while exercising their professional and legal duties: if the fundamental right of the animal to live is suspended by a justifiable reason.
Animals, used professionally
These are not only animals in agricultural production, but also all animals which are kept for an economical profit.
The dignity of an animal derives from its characteristic individual value. This is independent of the profit value. The dignity of man commits him to respect the dignity of the animal. The reduction of the animal to its purely productive or prestige value or some forms of exhibiting and ridiculing are examples for a violation of the dignity of an animal. Above all it obviously cannot be allowed for genetic procedures to be conducted to raise the productive value of the animal without sufficiently respecting the characteristic individual value of animals and their species. (Lit.: Teutsch, G.M.: "Die Würde der Kreatur": Erläuterungen zu einem neuen Verfassungsbegriff am Beispiel des Tieres; Verlag Paul Haupt, Bern, 1995)
According to the German Law for the Protection of Animals fear is subsumed under suffering. Daily experience however proves that it is useful to introduce the definition of fear separately (check: Swiss Law for the Protection of Animals) to draw attention to this form of suffering, especially in the case of unnecessary fear.
Harm is the consequence of a violation of the physical and psychological integrity of an individual. It is expressing itself and is to be differentiated in its noxious interference of natural functions or the possibilities of development with regard to its duration, severity and reversibility. The most conceivable harm is death.
Coupled with certain interests of man are also interests of other creatures with sensitivity in accordance with their stage of evolution. Their interests have to be respected. Many examples for this are known in ethology, for instance the individual well-being.
Principle of Equality, The
Equal, according to its equality, is to be valued and treated equally, unequal, according to its unequality differently. Unequality in one field does not justify an unequal treatment in another field. The principle of equality, applied to animals, means that animals and men are to be treated equally with regard to characteristics in which they are equal. That means, e.g., that painful surgery, whether on a human being or an animal, has to be performed under general anaesthesia. Accordingly the principle of equality demands that unequal is treated differently in conformity with its unequality. Clothing is a simple example: An animal is protected by the special texture of its skin, while a human being needs clothing for protection. (Lit.: Teutsch, G. M., Mensch und Tier, Lexikon der Tierschutzethik, Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987)
In the (German) "Law for the Protection of Animals" the idea of the "reasonable motive" is applied. In ethical philosophy the frequently made attempt to demonstrate justification through a "reasonable motive" in a consistent definition has, according to Lorz, not lead to an applicable legal result. Not every reasonable motive is, ethically at the time a justifiable motive. In this Codex Veterinarius, the more binding conception of a justifiable reason was chosen with purpose. In Criminal Law justifiable reasons are those which exclude the illegality of a punishable action, e.g. self-defence. (Lit.: Lorz, A.: Tierschutzgesetz - Kommentar, 4. Aufl.; Verlag C.H. Beck, München, 1992)
Requirements / Need
The concept of the German Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals in order to comply with requirements and avoiding harm derives from the assumption that self-construction, self-conservation and reproduction are fundamental phenomena of life. Thus requirements are created. Requirements can be further divided into requirements for food, internal and external stimulants and social contacts. All creatures must have the opportunity to meet with their requirements (requirement covering behaviour). Furthermore they must be able to guard themselves from harm (harm avoiding behaviour). From the ethological point of view need is a feeling of deprivation which leads to an effort to put an end to the deficiency (covering of requirements). Requirements and needs are to be equally considered. (Lit.: Deutsche Tierärztliche Wochenschrift 48, 269-280, 1993)
This is a fundamental right which can only be limited, violated or suspended after taking into consideration a strict evaluation of interests. For instance the "fundamental" right to live can only be taken from an animal with a justifiable reason. This includes, e.g., slaughtering, putting an end to incurable suffering or pain, but also undeniably necessary in pest control and epidemic control.
meaning here: you must if you can.
Small animals, pets
Animals kept by private persons in their private walks of life which, with overwhelming majority, are not used for professional purposes.