Road dotted by challenges

Veterinarians have a great role in changing human society



This refers to the article entitled “Another University Needed” by Prof. Saleem Iqbal, Greater Kashmir, 02-05-2013. Supplementing the valid arguments put forth by Dr. Maroof Shah, I intend to highlight the crucial role to be played by the Veterinary profession in our changing human society.
The single characteristic that distinguishes veterinarians, in every role they play, is their unique relationship with animals, operating at the interface between society and animals. Concern for animals, their health and well-being and their interface with people, inserts veterinarians as critical component of public health and as essential health care providers to society locally, nationally and internationally. Livestock industry has an ultimate aim of contributing to food production. Not only milk, meat and eggs have acquired a definite place in human nutrition but draft power of ponies and bullocks which has a great importance in rural economy, has to be considered as an item under production. Global tranquillity requires emotional harmony and full stomachs. Companion and draft animals provide the harmonious relationships, and livestock and poultry provide the protein to prevent starvation. Therefore, the veterinary profession activates the tranquility components of world peace by supporting the human-animal bonding and companion and draft animal health and welfare; by combating emerging, exotic, and food borne diseases; and by promulgating livestock and poultry health and food safety.
In the past few decades we have witnessed profound changes in the human society and what surrounds and influences it. Population explosion, changes in lifestyle, major demographic, political, environmental, disease, technological, and economic influences, all forcing changes onto society. As we move towards a more globalised, sustainable world, the changes will continue and may even hasten in the foreseeable future. In this changing human society, a number of new challenges have surfaced for the veterinary profession.
 The earth has already started saying something with record heat, drought, storms and fire. Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20% of global methane emissions, which equates to approximately 3 to 5% of total greenhouse gas production- the main cause of global warming. Climate change represents a special “feedback loop”, in which livestock production both contributes to the problem and suffers from the consequences.
To meet the increased demand on livestock products, the World Bank has estimated that meat production should increase by 80% between 2000 and 2030. It is not only the quantity but also the quality of food that has to be ensured for the ever growing human population. Availability of “safe food” (devoid of infectious agents, drugs and chemicals) is now becoming an important issue of public health importance and can be achieved by implementing the “stable to table” or “farm to fork” concept.
The emergence of new diseases is occurring about every eight months and the threat of new zoonotic diseases is very real. Of the more than 1400 pathogens causing human disease, 800 have crossed the species barrier from animals. The speeds of global travel and of disease transmission are surpassing control measures. The rate of habitat change leads to unprecedented disease exposures. In the past 25 years, 38 new pathogens have emerged and 75% originated as animal diseases. Mad cow disease, chicken hemorrhagic fever disease, swine influenza, avian flu, raccoon fever and Ebola from rats are a few of the recent outbreaks encountered. The concept of “One World, One Health” has been put forward in the past few years as a new mantra for the health of life on this planet.  This interdisciplinary and more holistic concept will become more of a reality in coming years.
Issues related to animal welfare have started receiving attention thus reflecting a change in society’s way of thinking. There is an increasing concern as to how the livestock are raised and treated. The containment of the stray animal (like monkeys and dogs) overpopulation without addressing their welfare issues is currently becoming impossible.
Several wild life species have been declared as endangered. In Kashmir alone hangul, musk deer and markhur are some of the critically endangered ones. Among the domestic animals the number of the double humped camel of Ladakh has dwindled to around 150. More and more instances of man-animal conflict are witnessed every month. Many of the animals visiting human habitations, get injured and mutilated requiring due attention of veterinarians. The traditional practice of simply pushing the wild animal back into a reservoir without caring for its immediate health needs cannot be afforded now.
Advances in research have now made possible the production of new class of animals like clones, transgenic and genetically engineered disease resistant animals. High hopes are currently attached to these animals. Use of stem cells in therapeutics has been started in several species and efforts are on to produce and replace body organs. New problems and diseases unknown till date that may crop up in these modified animals will have to be diagnosed and managed efficiently.
Veterinary education is now universally accessible, and largely delivered through highly sophisticated distance learning technologies, with completely realistic, textured, 3-D holographic animal models. In several places, the traditional, locally based veterinary clinics are dramatically transformed to global offshore service providers. The animal lovers particularly the pet owners have started using “Google vet service” that have instant access to global remote diagnostics and tele-therapies from their home or farm computers.
It is eminently clear that the global societal environment is shifting and the environment of veterinary medicine is experiencing a profound change. To remain relevant, academic veterinary medicine must prepare veterinarians for what may come in the future, not for what can be seen now. Further, research in veterinary science transcends species boundaries and is critical to the protection of public health. Such research is crucial to the advancement of our understanding of and our response to impending risks. Giving due consideration to the future societal needs, many of the Indian states in tropical areas including Punjab, Haryana, U.P, Bengal, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have already established “Veterinary and Animal Science Universities”.
Temperate Kashmir with numerous specific and unique issues and challenges related to the animal kingdom genuinely deserves one such institution. Veterinary medicine is the only profession in the health and medical field, trained in comparative medicine. Establishment of an “Institute of Comparative Medicine” wherein in-depth study of human disease could be undertaken by comparison with the diseases of animals, depending largely on work with naturally occurring diseases of animals that are models for human diseases also needs due consideration. To safeguard the economy, public health, and food supply in our state, there must be recruitment of additional veterinarians in all the municipalities, wildlife department, food systems, biomedical research, diagnostic laboratories, epidemiology, ecosystem health, and food animal practice (Animal and Sheep Husbandry departments).
Every profession has its golden age when its work is recognized to be vital to society and how people view the world. Hundreds of years ago, astrology was one of the most important professions. Nowadays astrologers are still present but don't have a great impact on society. In the last century, the impact of engineers, doctors and technologists has been very great. Most recently, computer professionals have become extremely relevant. Now with globalization, it appears that it is the turn of the veterinary profession to be one of the most crucial to society. It is integral, and has so much that it can offer, to the well-being of our future society. Leadership, collaboration, and a shared-vision will determine its destiny.
(Author is Associate Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, SKUAST-K, Shuhama, Srinagar. Reach him at

Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 May 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 17 May 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 18 May 2013 00:00:00 IST

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