Dr. Michael W. Fox

Principles Of Veterinary Bioethics

Vegetarianism: A Bioethical Imperative
Dr. Fox on the Tonight Show
In Memoriam_Feral Cat Mark Twain
DVD Links
Releasing Cats To Live Outdoors
Outdoor Cats, Wildlife And Human Health
Cat and Dog Nutrition--the Thiamine Issue
Cat Food Recipe
Cat Tail Deemed To Be Good Vaccination Spot
Cat Behavior
Cat Vaccination Protocols
Declawing Cats
Feline Stomatitis Complex
Cat Litter Box Issues
Introducing A New Cat
Introducing A Dog Into Cat's Home
Choosing To Live With A Dog
Dog Vaccination Protocols
Dog Mutilations
Dog Food Recipe
Dental Problems In Companion Animals
Dog Food and Feeding Issues
Dr. Fox's Good Medicine Juice
The Truth About Manfactured Dog and Cat Food
Companion Animals Harmed By Pesticides
Dominance-based Dog Training
Dr. Fox and the Super Dog Project
Guide to Congenital & Heritable Disorders in Dogs
Dogwise E-Books
Concerning Outdoor Chaining/Tethering Of Dogs
Dogs In Shelters
Dr. Fox's Good Dog Cookie Recipe
Don't Clone Your Dog Or Cat!
The Pros and Cons of Neutering Your Dog
Recovering Canine Health And The Natural Dog
Animal Vaccination Concerns
Care For Dogs and Cats With Renal Failure
Urinary Tract Stones
Green Pet Care
Puppy and Kitten Breeding Mills
Pure Water for Cats and Dogs--and All
Dental Problems In Companion Animals
Chemical-related Human Diseases In Companion Animals
From Mineral Oil & Multiple Sclerosis to Plastics, Nanoparticles
Companion Animal Care
Companion Animals and Flea and Tick Treatments
Behavioral Problems and Drug Solutions: A Last Resort
Preventing Fleas
Domestication and Diet
Lyme Disease and Wildlife Management
Disease and Animal Rights
GMOs and Pet Food
Journal of AVMA and GMOs
Indoor and Outdoor Poison Hazards for Pets
Carrageenan In Pet Foods
Cats, Dogs and Cadmium
Fluoride In Pet Food - A Serious Health Risk?
Best Manufactured Pet Foods
Pet Food Letters
Nutrigenomics and the Pet Food Revolution
The Ethics of Krill Oil and Protein Supplements
Animal-Insensitivity Syndrome
Wolves and Human Well-being
Wolf-Dog Hybrids
Crying Wolf Too Much
Betrayal of Wolves and Public Trust
The 'One Medicine'
Pet Health Insurance
The Veterinary Profession
  Pharmaceutical Cruelty In Animal Farms: Consumer Beware
Pig Parts For People
Conflicts Of Interest In The Veterinary Profession
Bioethics: Its Scope And Purpose
The Bioethics And Politics Of Manufactured Pet Foods
Animal Rights, Human Rights And Wrongs
The Future of the Veterinary Profession
Holistic Veterinary Medicine
Veterinary Ethics and Economics
Veterinary Bioethics and Animal Welfare
Principles Of Veterinary Bioethics
What Price Our Animal Relationships?
Changing Diets for Health's and Earth's Sake
Wildlife Conservation
Wildlife Reseach Needs Ethical Boundaries
Wildlife Management Practices
How Animals Suffer Around the World
Feeling for Animals and Animal Liberation
Animal Altruism and Abilty To Empathize
What Makes Animals Happy?
The Empathosphere: Animal Prescience, And Remote Sensing
Mental Effects on Physical Health: The Mind-Body Connection
Animal Spirits
Light Of Compassion
Religion, Science and Animal Rights
Animal Suffering And The God Question
Healing Animals & The Vision of One Health
Islam And Animals
Panentheism: The Spirituality Of Compassion
One Earth, One Health
Why We All Must Care For Animals and the Environment
Quality Of Life In Animals
Healing Agriculture's Broken Connections
Mammon Vs. Civil Society
Justice For All Beings And The End Of Terrorism
Universal Bill Of Rights For Animals And Nature
Science Writers' and Reporters' Political Agendas
Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness
Michael W. Fox Resume'
Dr. Fox Biographical Interview
Interview: History of Animal Welfare Science
Curriculum Vitae
Books By Dr. Fox
Dr. Fox Lectures, Seminars and Workshops
My Life For The Animals
To Kiss Salamanders and Stones


The term bioethics was first used in 1971 by physician

V. R. Potter1 to link biological science with

ethics and to demonstrate how bioethics can serve as a

bridge linking disciplines such as medicine and ecology.

He was concerned that medical ethics was too narrow

in scope to deal with the complex, multidisciplinary

health issues facing the medical profession.

Bioethics has applications in many fields of human

activity, from agriculture to conservation, and from

community planning to public education.2 Veterinary

medical ethics deals with professional standards of

practice, business, and behavior and addresses the welfare

of animals, as defined by law, from the perspectives

of economics and scientific objectivity.

Veterinary bioethics has a broader scope than veterinary

medical ethics, being applied to evaluating the

treatment and care of animals, in setting optimal welfare

standards, and in determining what is best for animals

from the perspectives of medicine (disease prevention

and treatment) and ethology (behavioral and

related physiologic, psychologic, and environmental


Veterinary bioethics therefore serves as an ethical

compass for the use of animals in society where

humaneness has inherent moral value in the currency

of any civil society. It is based on the absolute and universal

ethic of compassion and the principle of ahimsa,

avoidance of harm or injury. The primary areas of veterinary

bioethical application are the following: animal

health and well-being; environmental health and quality

as they relate to how animals are housed and husbanded

and how animals impact the environment4; and

human interests (financial, emotional, and public

health) and responsibilities under the local, national,

and international laws, statutes, and conventions as

they pertain to the preceding areas. Bioethics also considers

the consequences of various initiatives, new

products, treatments, husbandry systems, and animal

uses; this consequentialist perspective provides the

prescience that is so often lacking in simplistic costrisk-

benefit determinations.

Advocacy for the abolition of all forms of animal

cruelty and inadequate care resulting in physical harm,

psychologic distress, and suffering can be facilitated by

putting bioethics into practice. Veterinary medical

ethics essentially mandates that the best scientific

knowledge and medical and surgical expertise be provided

to animals on their owner’s request and payment

for professional services. Veterinary bioethics has a different,

but not necessarily conflicting, mandate to evaluate

the client’s request in terms of the patient’s best

interests, when the client’s request may prolong the

animal’s suffering and the alternative of euthanasia

should be considered and when the client is unable or

unwilling to remove the animal from conditions where

stress, distress, injury, and suffering are likely to recur,

such as with most intensive systems of commercial animal

production. In the latter such instances, veterinary

medical ethics cannot effectively address these concerns

by only focusing on the best medical and scientific

approach to disease prevention and stress reduction,

especially when costs of treating animals on an

individual basis are prohibitive. Veterinary bioethics

provides a more holistic approach to this dilemma.2

The veterinary profession may or may not appear

to be unconcerned or pandering to vested interests

when bioethical considerations are not part of the decision-

making process for how animals should be treated

and disease and suffering prevented. Examples of

where the application of veterinary bioethics is called

for include nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials and

other production-enhancing drugs; the use of analgesics

to enable lame horses to be raced; and new

developments such as organ transplants for companion

animals, animal cloning, and the creation of transgenic


Veterinarians are first and foremost practical professionals,

applying the ideals as well as the science

and art of healing to their animal patients. Unlike

physicians, however, their idealism and healing practices

are profoundly influenced by two factors: the

nature of the bond between the animal and the primary

caregiver or owner and the value of the animal,

inferred by financial, emotional, and other investments.

This means that because all animals are not valued

and, therefore, not treated equally, veterinary services

and clients’ demands and expectations will vary

considerably. Hence, the best interests of animals may

not be served with any consistency by the veterinary

profession because of the inherent inconsistencies in

human-animal relationships. This is beyond the

purview of conventional veterinary medical ethics that

has, historically, been more service oriented than animal

centered. Such inconsistencies do not necessarily

mean that the central ideal of veterinary bioethics,

which is humane treatment, cannot be applied consistently

to all categories of animal valuation and use so

Principles of veterinary bioethics

Michael W. Fox, B Vet Med, PhD, DSc

From the Fox’s Pen Inc, 5913 Grass Lake Terr, Minneapolis, MN


JAVMA, Vol 229, No. 5, September 1, 2006 Views: Commentary 667

that all animals are given equally fair consideration and

are treated humanely.

Thus, regardless of the economic limitations on

the kinds and quality of service that veterinarians

provide to their animal patients and clients, the ideal

of preventing and alleviating animals’ physical pain

and psychologic suffering (that drew most caring

individuals into the profession in the first place)

does not have to be sacrificed. On the contrary, it is

part of the service and duty of the veterinary profession,

which can be allied with other disciplines such

as animal welfare science; law; ethology; and environmental,

public health, and wildlife conservation


As a service profession to the animal industries

(such as livestock, aquaculture, horse racing, and circus

entertainment), organized veterinary medicine is

beginning to help in the adoption of various welfare

standards and also in bringing in some of the aforementioned

disciplines when appropriate. This is a necessary

evolution of interdisciplinary collaboration

because of the demands and challenges of maximizing

animals’ utility while meeting the ethical and social

responsibilities of optimizing animal health, welfare,

and overall well-being. Such evolution means applying,

where relevant, the bioethical perspective of social

progress as the sum of human, animal, and environmental

health and well-being. Examples include finding

alternatives to the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials,

anabolic steroids, and other drugs, especially

parasiticides, in food animal production that can have

adverse environmental and public health consequences;

developing more humane methods of animal

husbandry, transportation, and slaughter; adopting

better systems of animal waste management; implementing

more sustainable agricultural practices; and

improving food safety, quality, and security.

Likewise, in the wake of substantial progress in

preventive medicine, veterinarians in companion animal

practice are addressing the dynamics of the

human-animal bond that now demand more emphasis

on client education, wellness examinations, and treatment

and prevention of behavioral and emotional

problems. Issues like routinely docking dogs’ tails and

declawing cats are concerns that call for bioethical

review rather than better analgesics. Close review of

many scenarios and case histories in veterinary practice

clearly demonstrates the relevance of bioethics in

addressing moral dilemmas and client or owner


The basic bioethical principles of optimal animal

care, humane husbandry, and animal welfare are

included in the four pillars of holistic preventive medicine

for domestic animals and captive wildlife, namely

right breeding (to avoid inherited disorders); right

nutrition; provision of the right environment; and the

right understanding of animals’ physical, sociobehavioral,

and emotional needs. It is ethically consistent to

regard these four principles of human and humane

responsibility as also being fundamental animal rights

and aids in the avoidance of the moral inversion of justifying

animal suffering as an unavoidable necessity.

These principles therefore help establish a common

ground between those advocating improved animal

welfare in reaction to public opinion and those more

proactively involved in animal protection. The socalled

animal rights movement would be better termed

the animal liberation movement because the groups’

abolitionist agenda may prohibit any use of animals,

essentially overriding constructive reforms through the

voluntary adoption or legislated enforcement of animals’

basic rights. As a rational species with moral sensibility,

we have high ideals like the Golden Rule (do to

others what you would have them do to you) that we

strive to live up to. When examined from the perspective

of bioethics, extending the Golden Rule to include

the environment and all sentient beings is simply

enlightened self-interest.

As arbiters between society and animals, veterinarians

in private practice and various branches of government,

research, and teaching, as well as organized

veterinary medicine with ties to government and

industry (such as the American and British veterinary

associations) face new challenges, demands, and

responsibilities in an ever-changing world where ethics

and compassion can no longer be shortchanged by

vested interests, custom, commerce, or convenience.

Although animal exploitation, cruelty, and suffering

have been normative in most cultures for millennia,

the evolution of society toward a more enlightened,

empathetic, and compassionate regard for animals and

the natural environment—the life community—is in

process. The veterinary profession in developed and

developing countries is part of this process as an interlocutor

between human interests, animal interests, and

the greater good, rather than as a service profession

preserving the status quo of animal use where there is

documented abuse and suffering. In terms of professional

development, personal fulfillment, and the

social status of veterinarians, veterinary bioethics can

make a substantial contribution by applying the compass

of compassion to guide us and others in our work

for the benefit of animals and society.


1. Potter VR. Bioethics: bridge to the future. Englewood Cliffs,

NJ: Prentice Hall, 1971.

2. Fox MW. Bringing life to ethics: global bioethics for a humane

society. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2001.

3. Fox MW. Veterinary bioethics. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;


4. Fox MW. Veterinary bioethics: ecoveterinary and ethnoveterinary

perspectives. Vet Res Commun 1995;19:9–15.

5. Rollin BE. An introduction to veterinary medical ethics: theory

and cases. 2nd ed. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 2006.

Check the link below for a Dr. Fox C-Span feature concerning "Animal Testing"

Dr. Michael W. Fox on C-Span

--Video Link--

Dr. Michael W. Fox

What right do we humans have to exploit other animals?  Where does that right come from and what are the limits if any?  What duties or obligations do we have in our relationships with our dogs, cats and other animals domesticated and wild?

          Follow and support Caroline Kraus and her Moments of Truth Project documentary film as she travels across the U.S. asking people, who variously live, work with and care for animals, these and other relevant questions.

Is there an overriding consensus and what are the reasons why people respond very differently to these questions, which in part examine our character, culture and future?

The viewing and discussion of this kind of documentary should be part of every school curriculum and will be of interest to all who work with, profit from and care for animals. Project Home Page: http://momentsoftruthproject.com/  To see the interview with Dr. Fox go to http://momentsoftruthproject.com/dr-michael-fox/