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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Are Veterinarians Real Doctors?

Hard at work improving animal lives
 As a veterinarian, the worst question that I get is not “How do you deal with euthanasia?” or “Don’t you ever get tired of blood and guts?” or “How about those student loans?”  Honestly, the worst question I get is far worse, and actually all too common.  I can’t tell you the number of times that people have asked me “Why didn’t you just become a real doctor?” 

That question really just makes my blood boil.  I will tell you, I automatically have a problem with any person who asks me that question.  Why?  Because by asking that question, “Why didn’t you just become a real doctor?” that person has automatically devalued my degree, my livelihood, and most importantly, my passion.  I want to be a medical doctor for animals—I do not want to be a medical doctor for humans.  I don’t really understand why someone would want to ask me that question.  Frankly, it gets me pretty riled up.  I get angry, I get defensive, and I shut that person out. 

 The SAME thing happens when people who have never been on a farm, have never experienced the rewards of growing their own food, and have never realized the value that they receive at the grocery store, ask farmers why they choose to raise their crops or their livestock the way that they do, using the technologies that they have available.  It happens when they accuse farmers of raising crops that are “tainted” with GMOs, or when they accuse cattle, pork, or poultry producers of raising animals “inhumanely.”  When people cry out about the “florid, inhumane” conditions that farm animals live in, or the “unnatural, corrupted” crops that are grown, it makes those farmers’ blood boil as well.  When farmers hear such falsities, and such questions, they tend to react like any other person whose livelihood and passion are being questioned and put down—they get angry, they get defensive, and they shut down.  Sound familiar?
Being a farmer’s daughter from Kansas, I’ve lived my whole life answering questions like “Do you actually have running water in your house?” or “Do you still go to church in a horse and buggy?”  My family gets it--most of the time those questions are in jest, but we do get a bit defensive about things like that.  But when we really get defensive is when people are angered about our use of some of the most innovative technologies in the world (ahem, GMOs), but are still asking whether we have some of the same technologies that the ancient Romans had!  It’s a bit mind-boggling, to tell you the truth.

Any good farmer will be the first to tell you that the crops and animals they raise are safe, nutritious, and produced in a responsible manner.  They will tell you that they feed those products to their own children, and would be happy if you fed them to yours, as well.  However, they will not tell you these things if they feel like their whole lives are being threatened.  And that’s how many farmers feel right now.

Again, with this anger and defensiveness comes that urge to shut people out.  I will be the first to tell you, farmers can be some of the most defensive people out there.  It’s hard not to be when you feel your livelihood is being threatened.  However, if I’ve learned anything from my experience in being asked the “real doctor” question, it’s how to be gracious and accepting of it, and provide an answer that gives the inquirer the reply that they’re looking for, but also gives me the chance to enlighten them on important aspects of my job and maybe, for the future, let them know that the question is not necessarily appropriate when asked in that way.  Believe me, it’s taken a while for me to become accepting and gracious, but I believe that farmers are much more graceful and accepting than I will ever be, so it doesn’t take them long to come around. 

What I ask of the majority of consumers is that you take a step back before making accusations and asking some possibly offensive questions, and ask yourself, “If someone had no idea what I did in my job, and asked me why I was doing it wrong, what would I say?”  I think you would find that you’d be a little put-out and defensive, too.  But I think you would want to help that person see that you ARE doing a good job, and that you are proud of what you do, just like farmers are.  Consumers have a right to ask all the questions they want—they’re part of the food production process as well—however, I think if we all took a step back and thought about our approach, these conversations just might become a whole lot easier.


  1. Replies
    1. Commas? That's what you got from this? Maybe you need more schooling, Mr. Lake. Just a comma suggestion.

  2. Why do I need a stuck up eastern Kansan to tell me how to eat grain or let my dog die in my yard. I am so tired of being lectured by Tiffany Lee and my local doctor...who I have never gone to because he is a pederast. My dog will live and die as I see fit.

    1. How could you have been "lectured" by a doctor you have never gone to? Sounds like a lot of doctors have "lectured" you. If more than a few doctors have told you the same thing, Mr. Lake, you might want to listen. Comma count - a couple, not important.

  3. Dr. Lee - this article is thought-provoking, well written and deserves a comment and not just to refute Mr. Lake's unfortunate analysis of the same. I trust and respect your education, your training, your background and I am not alone. So many of us have pets - it's a 35 billion dollar business in America and growing each year. I consider my dog not just a pet, but a companion and very importantly - a security system as well - and there is no doubt that you would use every tool at your disposal to insure his health and well-being, if necessary. It is unfortunate and frankly ignorant to assume a vet is not a "real" doctor. The years of schooling and training necessary to achieve this degree are difficult and strenuous and I appreciate very much the effort it takes to garner the same. I do not know of one person who does not respect this degree, and I am old and know a lot of people. Thank you, Dr. Lee, for taking the time, making the effort, running the very hard race to become an amazing doctor. And sorry, Mr. Lake if Dr. Lee doesn't sugar coat things - she's a pretty straightforward person and I would much rather have it straight and to the point than dancing around the diagnosis and making it pretty. You keep on doing what you're doing, because all of us appreciate it. And don't bother sugar coating a diagnosis to save someone's hurt feeling, i know you would much rather save a creature's life, and that's the very bottom line. Hope there aren't too many commas here, because that's the important thing. Wait comma no it's not. Again, I thank you, Dr. Lee. And again, I am not alone.



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