Eth­i­cal Breed­ing: The Vet­eri­nar­ian’s Dilemma

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When I was a young vet­eri­nar­ian, per­for­mance horses were my pas­sion. I’d grown up in the show ring, and dreamed of be­ing the vet­eri­nar­ian who di­ag­nosed those hard-work­ing horses’ sound­ness prob­lems, pro­vided ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment, and sent them back to the ring.

By the time I be­came a mid-ca­reer vet­eri­nar­ian, I found my­self drawn to breed­ing work. After all, while a lame horse might get a “lit­tle bit better,” be­come “ser­vice­ably sound,” or re­quire “a lit­tle man­age­ment,” there’s just no such thing as “a lit­tle bit preg­nant.” Ei­ther your mare is in foal or she’s not. Black or white.

It’s true that a lot of breed­ing work is black and white, but I’ve dis­cov­ered the gray. Th­ese days I find my­self ask­ing not if I can get a mare preg­nant, but should I? If I have a client who wants to breed a mare with a po­ten­tially her­i­ta­ble prob­lem, or one who is ill equipped to raise a foal—should I do the work? Should I en­cour­age horse own­ers to pro­duce foals know­ing there’s a good chance those horses may be­come un­wanted? Just like you, when it comes time to make a de­ci­sion whether or not to breed a mare, those are the ques­tions I have to ask.

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