If you are reading this blog, you no doubt know at least a few veterinarians (or hey, maybe you are a veterinarian!), so do a quick mental survey and ask yourself: do you know anybody — anybody — who pursued the profession out of a desire to “butcher” or “mutilate” animals? Think hard now! OK, didn’t think so. As with any profession, veterinarians differ in skill, experience, and temperament, but you are going to be extremely hard-pressed to find one who doesn’t care deeply about healing animals and improving their quality of life.
The simple fact of the matter is, if somebody is willing to commit the kind of time and energy it takes to become a veterinarian, they probably like animals. This doesn’t stop detractors from assuming bad intentions or cruelty on the part of veterinarians, or even smearing their reputation, however: according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 20% of AVMA members report that they have been cyberbullied or received false reviews.
Cyberbullying and false claims doesn’t merely harm on a professional level, they are psychologically damaging, and in at least one tragic instance, harassment was a contributing factor in a veterinarian’s suicide. This is a lot more serious than a snarky Yelp review. So to address this growing issue, the AVMA has responded by launching a new hotline and reputation management service to help veterinarians fight back against cyberbullying.
Having worked for more than a quarter century educating the public on the difference between animal rights and animal welfare, having exposed deceit and hypocrisy on the part of animal extremists, it’s safe to say we know a little something about how nasty and personal things can become in the world of animal ethics. It remains to be seen how effective these programs will be at protecting veterinarians from abuse and false reviews, but addressing the issue itself is essential, and we hope the AVMA is successful.
We asked NAIA board member Arnold Goldman, DVM, MPH, his thoughts on these new programs, and he was decidedly enthusiastic in his response:
As veterinarians serve animal owners and their animals in the public square, they are just as vulnerable to malicious behavior by those with an agenda, as is anyone else. While thoughtful people may disagree on what constitutes good public policy, or proper animal care, no one should be subject to personal attacks online or otherwise. Unfortunately there are those in our society who may act thoughtlessly or unkindly towards those they may disagree with, or those who they feel may have wronged them. In today’s digital world, cyber-bullying is a favored tactic for those individuals. I am proud that the AVMA, my national professional society, has been and continues to be a leader in providing its members, my colleagues, with the resources necessary to protect themselves from unfair and unkind online attacks. As such, AVMA provides its members a hotline as well as on demand reputation management counseling. For this reason, and so many others, every veterinarian should be a member of AVMA. AVMA stands up for the veterinary profession.