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Ethics and welfare
Coping with the conflicts associated with ending an animal's life

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‘JUST as one is pretty unlikely to find a veterinarian who accepts no reason to end an animal's life, you are equally unlikely to find one who never suffers conflict’. So said Patricia Morris, assistant professor of sociology at Drury University in the USA, while presenting the results of her research into the emotional and ethical conflicts associated with euthanasing companion animals during the Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Veterinary Association's spring conference. The meeting, entitled ‘Animal futures: perspectives from ethics, law and social science’, was held at Nottingham veterinary school in March. It brought together veterinary clinicians and researchers, as well as social scientists, ethicists and philosophers, to discuss ethical issues and dilemmas in veterinary medicine today. The focus was on companion animals, with talks on pet obesity, animal shelters and blood and organ donation.

Presenting the findings of her ethnographic study on euthanasia in small animal practice, Professor Morris explained that by ‘embedding’ herself into the working lives of recently graduated vets in New York, she had been able to draw detailed conclusions about how they responded to, and coped with, the need to end the lives of some of their …

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