Saving vultures at the cost of livestock?

The painful ailments are very frequently attended by the veterinarians
File Photo
File Photo

Prof. Mujeeb Fazili

The news regarding imposition of ban on manufacture and use of two pain relieving drugs in livestock to tackle the vulture crisis was carried by many national newspapers ahead of the Central Govt. Notification S.O. 3448(E) dated 31st July, 2023. As a student of the veterinary sciences, I consider the decision a short term and insufficient measure that may give rise to bigger crisis affecting primarily livestock but having ramifications to human population as well.

"Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself" - Schweitzer.

Just like humans, the animal vertebrates and even several invertebrates are bestowed with similar nociceptive mechanism and the pain phenomenon. An important welfare issue, the pain affects not only the quality of life but also at times may be intolerable leading to grave outcomes. Production losses from the livestock and the farmer’s returns decline considerably. In the food animal practice, the painful ailments are very frequently attended by the veterinarians. Ignorance of our farmers regarding animal welfare and health together with the casual approach of other stakeholders adds to the miserable conditions of the livestock. The pain detection threshold is approximately the same in humans and animals and in delayed cases the severity of pain gets augmented through a mechanism called peripheral & central sensitization.

The animals can't communicate the way humans do and the livestock species being prey animals have learnt to hide the pain. Thus its assessment in animals is a challenge. However good farmers and the real veterinarians on careful examination can identify the pain related alterations in animal behaviour and physiology.

Many sequential events of nociception and components of pain have been elucidated in the recent past. Simultaneously several pain relieving (analgesic) drugs were developed for its successful and timely management. Five such general classes of drugs (Opioids, Ketamine, NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs, Local Anaesthetics & Alpha-2 adrenergics) exist today. For general clinical practice, the NSAIDs due to their several advantages and benefits, availability and feasibility, have become the most frequently used drugs worldwide. Although possessing multiple properties; analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and anti-endotoxemic, yet the NSAIDs are not free from side effects. Indiscriminate use may result in kidney and liver damage, stomach ulceration and the blood clotting may be hampered. Among several NSAIDs currently available, the subgroup called selective preferential Cox-2 that includes meloxicam, ketoprofen, carprofen and etodolac are comparatively safer and therefore preferable for use in veterinary patients.

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