It has taken sixteen years for the veterinary profession to make a stand over ear cropping.
The UK Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition announced recently that they are supporting the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and leading animal charities to close all the legal loopholes in the law that allow ear cropped dogs to be imported into the country thus circumventing the ban on ear cropping in the UK.
The loopholes are threefold. It is not illegal to sell, import or take a dog abroad to have their ears cropped which has been the ludicrous situation since the Animal Welfare Act 2004 came into being. The BVA wants UK vets to report any incidents of ear cropping that turn up at their surgeries which should have been happening anyway.
The veterinary profession are only taking more interest because of all the campaigning by animal charities and the present level of public opinion has given them the confidence to do so. They have had sixteen years to point out the shortcomings of the law regarding ear cropping and take a lead on the issue but have kept in the background.
Vets need to speak out about animal welfare problems.
The veterinary profession themselves have pointed out that they should not sit on the fence over welfare issues or wait until public opinion reaches a point which forces them to live up to their supposed animal welfare credentials. But they continue not to heed their own advice. To quote the BVA Animal Welfare Strategy of 2016:
“If we do not speak out about systemic animal welfare problems or if we only do so reactively once a critical mass of favourable public opinion has been achieved, then this can lead to accusations of weak morality and, worse, complicity in animal welfare problems. There are risks if veterinary professionals are not seen to be advocates for animal interests when the rest of society is increasingly willing to be”.
The moral and ethical conundrum of certain procedures carried out by vets have dogged the profession for decades. A US study way back in 1989 (Herzog) questioned veterinary students on various moral, ethical and welfare issues which they had encountered during training which they felt worried or stressed about and amongst the most prominent were ear cropping, tail docking, de-flighting birds and declawing cats.
There is yet another petition.
It is difficult to gauge how concerned the public are. There was an online petition last year aimed at stopping the import of cropped dogs but this failed to get half of the 100,000 signatures required. There is now a new petition with BVA backing which seems to be faring better which runs until the 24 August 2021. Paradoxically there is also a competing petition to re-legalise cropping to benefit all the dogs that are presently unprofessionally cropped and save them suffering. Sensibly it has not attracted much support so far.
Although everyone is fixated on ear cropping at the moment, tail docking appears to also be on the increase and must have been spotted by UK vets so perhaps they could take a lead on this issue as well?