December 14, 2017


In October of 1967, a talented artist by the name of Arlo Guthrie released a ballad entitled “Alice’s Restaurant”. The song was a protest against the unjust war in Vietnam and the enforced drafting of our young men to fight and die in Vietnam. I would never pretend to be as talented a song writer as Arlo Guthrie, but I am as passionate about my cause and have written this as a power point slide that I intend to present every time I am invited to speak on a topic:

As a veterinarian, I will not support the statement “no antibiotics ever” or organic production as it exists in the United States today. Whether we want to admit it or not, animals do get sick. The responsibility of a veterinarian is to treat the animals in a timely manner with the best that veterinary medicine can offer and in this way to minimize their pain and suffering. Strict rules to prevent contamination of meat with chemical residues, including antibiotics, have been in place for a long time and are being strictly adhered to. As a veterinarian, I do fully support minimizing the use of antibiotics, especially those considered important in human medicine. Important in being successful in this endeavor is providing the best husbandry for all animals every day.

I guess I have given up on my naïve notion that the American Veterinary Medical Association or the American Association of Avian Pathologists would stand up and take the lead in defending our obligations as veterinarians and the rights of the animals we are supposed to be responsible for defending.
But I do cling to one hope – one verse in Arlo’s song says that if one person stands up they may think he is really sick. But if three people
do it they may think it is an organization. And can you imagine if 50 people a day walk in and sing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant they may think it’s a movement. If every veterinarian who is tired of being pushed around and told how he or she can practice their profession would stand up and show this slide I just believe we could start a movement.
Postscript: I recently presented this slide during a talk I did in Iowa. At the end of the talk this big guy came up and hugged me. He told me his wife asked him to do that for her because he had sent her a photograph of the slide. He was told to tell me that she loved me and finally someone was speaking up for the animals and the poor growers who are having to watch their animals die and no one will do anything to help them. Think about it.

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Robert L. Owen, V.M.D., Ph.D.

Director of Technical Service

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