Ethical Breeding: The Veterinarian’s Dilemma
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.