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An anthropologist's voice in a veterinarian's noise: gearing up for new cultural realities

By K. Sterk, M. Brloznik

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Over the past three decades, the veterinary profession has faced a cultural shift towards postspeciesism that requires a reassessment of the foundations of the existing distinctions between human and non-human animals proclaimed by the speciesism paradigm, which represents institutionalized discrimination against species and recognizes only the subjectivity of humans. Based on ethnographic observations in anthropological fieldwork and using speciesism/postspeciesism distinction, we aimed to explain the main causes of small animal practitioners' work-related stress and apply humanistic knowledge to recommend ways to alleviate the negative effects of the work environment. The explanatory model of disease, illness, and sickness, the example of the concept of family, and the circumstances of the feminization of the veterinary profession are discussed to illustrate the divergence between speciesist naturalistic veterinary knowledge and the postspeciesist cultural framework and its consequences. By failing to accommodate the changing values towards animals and by failing to challenge the anthropocentric hierarchy of values, the speciesist rationale of the veterinary profession contributes to many of the problems faced by practicing veterinarians. The incorporation of a modern moral-philosophical mindset towards animals may not even be possible because veterinary science is subject to a paradigm that is irreversibly tied to institutional discrimination against species and defies reflection on veterinary science itself. However, the veterinary profession has a privileged position in establishing an alternative ontological thinking and an alternative conception of "animal life." Anthropological knowledge was applied to anticipate further intervention of social and cultural sciences in the problems of small animal practitioners. Rather than further diversifying and increasing expectations towards veterinarians by expecting them to acquire additional skills, we propose another practitioner who can support, mediate, and enhance veterinary performance - the cultural anthropologist. With their deep knowledge of cultural differences and social dynamics, they can collaborate with veterinarians to act as a liaison between cultures, paradigms, and species.

Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 10
Pages 11
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2023.1202606
Author Address [Sterk, Karmen] Univ Ljubljana, Fac Social Sci, Ljubljana, Slovenia. [Brloznik, Maja] Univ Ljubljana, Vet Fac, Small Anim Clin, Ljubljana, Slovenia.Sterk, K (corresponding author), Univ Ljubljana, Fac Social Sci, Ljubljana, Slovenia.Karmen.Sterk@fdv.uni-lj.si
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Anthropology
  3. Attitudes
  4. Companion
  5. Competence
  6. Education
  7. Euthanasia
  8. Improvement
  9. Knowledge
  10. Mental health and well-being
  11. open access
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. speciesism
  14. support
  15. Veterinary medicine
  16. Veterinary sciences
  1. open access