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Meet Dr Delavan, the future Vegan Vet

Happily Heifer After is an approved placement for Veterinary students at the University of Queensland. Janelle, spent 2 weeks here with us at our new Sanctuary, and we asked her to share a bit about herself and her experience with us.

Written by: Janelle Delavan

About me

Vegans are a rare breed, and vegan veterinarians are even rarer. I’m Janelle (aka the future ‘Dr Delavan’), a vegan vet student, currently in my third year at the University of Queensland. I am happiest being in nature, with animals, far away from the city bustle. Therefore, one of my happy places is Happily Heifer After Sanctuary! I was fortunate enough to spend 2 weeks of my winter holidays at the Glenwood Sanctuary, as part of my pre-clinical placement.

I have been vegan and studying to become a veterinarian for 8 years now, during which time I have been privileged to volunteer at several animal sanctuaries, as well as being involved in animal rights activism. I have also personally rescued and fostered many animals. When I’m not with animals, you’ll find me exploring the outdoors in my ex-postie van with my fiancé, dancing on ice, or nestled inside playing games.

Why I wanted to be a vet

Vet school is hard, not just academically but ethically. I have wanted to give up numerous times, but my resolve is strong; I know that there are so many animals in need of my help, and I can’t imagine a life where I do anything but save them. Over and over again I have lost animal friends due to being unable to find a vet willing to help, so I decided there was no choice but for me to do it myself. I am passionate about helping animals that are often overlooked, including certain wildlife species and farmed animals such as chickens, cows and pigs. The same care just isn’t available for these species as there is for dogs and cats. And when expertise isn’t the issue, finances often is, especially for charities. My dream is to be able to help any sick or injured animal, regardless of their species or financial situation.

My time at HHA

I wanted to go to Happily Heifer After because I knew they could teach me a great deal about farmed animals and how to keep them healthy and happy. Vet school tends to focus on “herd health” for farmed animals, and only takes an individual approach when it comes to ‘companion animals’. Therefore sanctuaries can provide an invaluable experience to all veterinary students, as we can get real first hand experience on providing individualised care to animals not traditionally treated in this way.

When my placement began, Happily Heifer After was still in the process of moving properties, so my first week was a lot of loading and unloading trailers, fencing, catching animals when fences failed, fixing holes so that animals wouldn’t escape again, organising and setting up the new forever home! But every day there was always animals to be fed, stories to be told and lessons to be learnt. Notably, I learnt that goats are incredibly intelligent and as a result can be incredibly difficult to keep safe (I’m looking at you Charlie and Geoffrey!)

In my second week, there was still so much to do, and my bond with the animals was growing stronger by the hour, leaving the vulnerability to heartbreak real. On the Wednesday we suddenly lost a sweet hen to reproductive issues, an all too common occurrence in ex-battery and layer hens. There was nothing that could be done to save her, but I promised her at the end that I would find a way one day to help all of the other chickens doomed to that same fate. The day before that, Shawn the rooster was rescued after being dumped at the old sanctuary, it was wonderful to see him safe and also important to see how to treat bad bumblefoot (the poor guy had lost most of his foot pads to infection). Mack the goat was wobbly and neurological, and through different trials by the end of the two weeks we finally seemed to have helped him stabilise and feel safe on his feet again.

I couldn’t name one favourite animal, but I did become quite fond of Teddy the cow, Timmy the pony, Mack and Mater the goats, Shawn and Billy the roosters, Pea and Lou the chickens and of course Michelle and Brenten the humans. I reluctantly left them all, heading back to the real world and my endless hours of studying, but happy in the knowledge that one day I will be able to return as a doctor and have the skills to help all the current and future residents when they need it most.

Why you think vegan vets are important

Vegan vets are incredibly important, as they are more able to treat each of their patients equally, regardless of species. I like to say “Real doctors don’t eat their patients.” Being vegan is a natural evolution of being an animal lover, a trait that you would hope most veterinarians would possess. But it is currently very hard to make it through vet school as a vegan, as we have to learn in depth about the industries that are killing the animals we so dearly love. Times are changing however, and the school has been incredibly helpful and understanding, trying to help ease the burden on my soul as much as they reasonably can. It is my hope, vegan or not, that all vets will start to see each patient as an individual, rather than as a product or one of a larger group, and as a result quality of care and therefore quality of life for these animals will increase. Veterinarians have such power to speak up for animals and I hope we can develop as a profession and one day speciesism in veterinary medicine will be as unacceptable as racism is in human medicine.

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