Field Spaying of Does – Barbaric or Humane?

By E.M. Fay

In April of this year, we heard about a proposed spaying program being planned for deer in Easthampton.  The Village Board was unanimously in favor of having fertile does operated on “in the field.”

The plan was to attract them to a bait station, trap and sedate them, and then perform the procedure on site.  The does’ reproductive organs would be removed, an operation that would allegedly take only 20 minutes.  Nothing was said about the does’ recovery time, if they would be protected while recovering, or any other safety or welfare measures.

The Village Administrator said that the names and state license numbers of veterinarians involved in the program were not yet available.

A local resident asked for at least a seven-day notification before the program takes place, so that she and her husband, a large-animal veterinarian, can check with the NYS Department of Agriculture about the plan.  She noted that spaying is ineffective regarding the protection of vegetation or reducing illnesses, two of the reasons given for wanting to reduce the number of deer.

To anyone who cares about the welfare of animals, so many questions present themselves:

How can we be sure of the standard of competence of those operating?  What precautions, if any, are being taken that the does who are trapped are not already mothers with dependent fawns?  How long is recovery time and will the does be protected by medical personnel or indeed, anyone, until they are fully recuperated, or will they be left vulnerable?  Is the glib assurance that the operations take 20 minutes an accurate one?  What if there are complications?  Will there be veterinarians qualified to handle complications, or will the does with complications be sacrificed?

Amidst all the discussions back and forth, there seemed little or no concern for the general well-being of the deer.  Deer are fully sentient beings, capable of thought and emotion like other mammals. What of the inevitable sense of distress when the doe is conscious?  What pain might she feel, as we all do after an operation? And even more important, how will the rest of her life be affected when she finds she cannot conceive?  These might seem minor matters to those who do not apprehend the fact of animal consciousness, but in 2012, an authoritative report was released, signed by the world’s top scientists, asserting the provable fact that animals do think and feel in ways similar to humans.  (Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals)

At C.A.S.H., we certainly get the point that this is an alternative to outright killing, but there are many unanswered questions, and once again it’s clear that the lives of wild animals can be taken or tinkered with.  If infection sets in, if there are mistakes, who will care? And if they do care, what can they do about it?

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