As a reprieve from the pandemic, politics, and the busy holiday season, I would like to offer a glimpse into the world of saving animals from a vegan veterinarian’s perspective. At the age of 30, I had an early midlife crisis while working as an investment banker in New York City. Fortunately, I found a way to help animals by switching careers and becoming a veterinarian. After seven years of studying and a one-year internship, my dream came true!
Little did I know at the time that I would learn some of the ugliest secrets about animal abuse and exploitation in vet school. The more I learned, the more I thought there would be a huge vegetarian club by the time the semester was over. Au contraire! I was not loved by the professors I questioned about teaching techniques that seemed redundant and murderous.
Why demonstrate the effects of an old, proven drug by making students inject it into a terrified living rabbit? Why couldn’t we learn how to do surgeries on ethically sourced cadavers, instead of using healthy animals acquired from shelters and killing them afterward? Why were most of my classmates more uncomfortable with my questions than with the disturbing answers? Good news: I stopped the rabbit experiments and started the school’s largest alternative surgery program but didn’t make a lot of friends.
Vet school encourages dissociation of the animals we treat from those used for food and experimentation, just as supermarkets carefully package pain and suffering to make them look palatable. Our job as animal advocates is to bust those myths. How can we meet people where they are and make them receptive to hearing and accepting these truths?
A great place to get people thinking about their food choices is the grocery store. I’m often asked about my all-vegan purchases when I’m in the checkout line, and I will go into tantalizing detail about these foods, hoping more than just the cashier is listening. As for the disconnect in people’s minds between dogs and cows and other animals used for food, I have tried to build a bridge that connects these species at a heart level in my new book, If You’ve Ever Loved a Dog: Love Stories From the Front Lines.
If the pitter-patter of four furry feet makes your heart skip a beat, this book will resonate with you. These true stories will transport you into a world in which hopes and dreams are fulfilled, medical miracles are possible, challenging surgeries are performed, and individuals are willing to go to the ends of the Earth in their quest to save these animals. Pick it up through Amazon today and enjoy a front-row seat on a roller-coaster ride through the trials and tribulations of life in the trenches, while rekindling that joyous, cozy feeling of loving a dog.
Dr. Vera Heidolph is protected by the love and silliness of her beloved Coco, a 13-year-old rescued Boston terrier (pictured above). They live in San Diego and enjoy traveling, running, swimming, knitting, and walking near the ocean while searching for dolphins and whales. In 2010, Dr. Heidolph participated in the PETA Pack with a group of runners who completed the Oakland Half Marathon and collected donations to support PETA’s vital work for animals.