The VEG VETS – Vegan and Vegetarian Veterinarians Association – is an initiative to create the first network of vegan, vegetarian and veggie-friendly veterinarians in Brazil. Brazil is the top country in terms of the number of veterinarians graduating each year and exhibits increasing number of people that considered themselves vegetarians. We are committed to raising awareness and supporting students and professional veterinarians who are vegan, vegetarian, and veggie-friendly through information sharing and discussions about relevant science-based content, exposing the contradictions of veterinary practice, as well as building their capacity to spread the word and generate impact in their communities. Our main goals are to show that it is possible to be vegan and veterinarian while practicing medicine, connect with a network of veterinarians who are vegetarian, vegan, or veg-friendly; produce and publish science-based content highlighting the intersection between veterinary medicine, animal rights, and veganism, using a soft and accessible approach that is also suitable for people who are non-veterinarians; inspire veterinary students and veterinarians to question and oppose the animal exploitation model that is taught as the norm in most universities, and help them to never feel alone in their questioning/objections.
Most people choose veterinary medicine as a career because they want to help and take care of animals. However, the practice and the culture of veterinary medicine contains an alarming contradiction in treatments among different animals. During college, students are taught to exploit farmed animals as efficiently as possible, aiming to increase profits for animal agriculture, while providing the best care possible for pets as sentient individuals. In addition, the “silent curriculum” that underlies veterinary education leads students to become desensitized and start perceiving all animals as learning objects and educational tools. During our path through veterinary science, graduate school, and academia, we experienced this desensitization effect towards animals, but we only noticed its impact about 12 years after graduating from veterinary school, when we became vegan. Brazil has the largest number of veterinary schools in the world; with more than 360 schools, that’s 10 times as many as the United States. We want students to have the support and information that we didn’t have when we went through school. The number of vegan and vegetarian students in veterinary schools is increasing in Brazil, and there is a need to explore the ethical dilemmas related to veterinary education and profession.
This initial seed grant confidence that our project is important, and showed us how many veterinarians also care about these issues. It’s been very rewarding to see the community growing and the types of conversations people are having. With the TPP funding, we were able to organize a meeting to promote our initiative, VEG VETS, in one of the largest Universities of Latin America: Universidade de São Paulo. This event was held at Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária where participants talked about the dilemmas of being vegan and veterinarian and how veganism can help with environmental conservation. It was the first time that this subject was mentioned and discussed in the academic environment of the Veterinary Medical Schools of Brazil. In addition, we created a Facebook Page with about 1,000 likes and an Instagram profile with more 2,000 followers. In January of 2019, we launched our website.
We are wanting to give more seminars in Veterinary Schools around Brazil to raise awareness about the differences between treatment options offered to pets and farm animals. As soon as we created our Facebook page and Instagram profile, we received numerous messages from veterinary students and professionals who shared their concerns and their feelings of being alone. Most of the students asked us to visit their college to talk about how they can integrate veganism and activism into veterinary medicine. For this purpose, we will need to sustain our virtual work through social media and travel to give talks in different locations in Brazil. We are also planning to organize our second annual meeting in São Paulo with Brazilians and international speakers.