Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brett the Vet - Random Axe of Kindness

Recently two sisters from Gauteng visited Prince Albert. They stayed in the caravan park and met a delightful feral cat who befriended them. Two weeks later, as promised, they returned to collect her. Meanwhile she had given birth to three kittens, who all had a viral respiratory tract infection, endemic in the local feral cat population.

The women were prepared to nurse the kittens back to health and provide a home for them despite putting their own cats at risk of infection. This will also mean four less spays to be done here when the municipality introduce their TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program. Demonstrated to be the most effective way of stabilizing the number of feral cats in a given area.

A caring, young farmer rescued a herd of infant male calves at a seaside dairy from the fate of veal crates. The first unseen tragedy occurred earlier when one of their mothers, a cow who had already given birth to four calves, each forcibly removed from her shortly after birth every year, became impaled on a razor wire fence and bled to death while trying to get to her baby.

Although the calves were kept together and fed milk substitute, they soon contracted fatal infections because of the shock of separation and change. The calves were susceptible to disease because they did not remain with their mothers after birth for long enough to suckle. The first milk or colostrum contains antibodies that are absorbed through the stomach to constitute their natural immunity.

At the peak of local drought, on the hottest day in March a particularly bleak patch of earth was packed with ostriches baking in the sun. To cool them down, irrigation sprinklers had been assembled, and rotated, drenching the gasping, bedraggled birds. Saturated circles of previously parched ground covered with layers of accumulated faeces formed a putrid slime that squelched between their toes and caked feathers to their thighs as they waited for the sun to set.

It is commendable that the local municipality has agreed to expand the piece of land allocated to local small pig farmers on the outskirts of town. They have also provided a tap, bringing water to the area, as the new borehole still needs to be fitted with a solar pump. The farmers want to raise their standard of husbandry by supplying more space, adequate shade, a continuous supply of water, and improving security to prevent children, who have been stoning vulnerable piglets to death, from entering the area.

Signs of growing awareness about the sentience of animals also demonstrate the limitations of our understanding. True compassion evolves through empathy, curiosity, and striving to recognize and reduce the extent of the suffering we have imposed on our domestic animals.

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