09/15/23 Animal Welfare not Important to the Veterinary Chamber

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Animal Friends Croatia sent a letter to the Croatian Veterinary Chamber because of inappropriate statements given by the veterinarian

- It is inadmissible that, according to veterinarians, the beaten horse is in good condition and animal protection extreme.

Animal Friends Croatia sent a letter to Ivan Zemljak, President of the Croatian Veterinary Chamber, pointing out inappropriate statements including by Zemljak himself and the veterinarian Berislav Špigelski who caused public outrage by declaring that the beaten-up horse near Karlovac is in excellent condition. They state that statements by Dr. Vet. Med. Špigelski caused overall public outrage because of a lack of professionalism, very high insensitivity and favoritism towards the abuser. This was followed by equally shameful statements by Zemljak that the Chamber does not deal with animal welfare and that in the protection of animals, „some things have gone to extremes”.

In the letter they state that besides from refusing to look at the video footage and check whether the horse that was abused by two men was even examined, veterinarian Špigleski said that the footage is incorrectly interpreted. „The footage undoubtedly shows two men hitting the horse with wooden slats and it is impossible not to interpret that in any other way than abuse. The veterinarian said that the horse, which was mercilessly beaten while tied, helpless and scared, is in excellent shape, yet timid, but does not consider that is so due to abuse. He says that the horse is ‘difficult as his natura’ and that then something happened, without specifying what. It is unclear that the veterinarian who sees the animal for the first time knows that the animal is of a difficult nature. It is difficult to say which is worse – the part where he is denying the abuse of the horse or that he is justifying the abuse with the difficult nature of the animal”, Snježana Klopotan Kačavenda, Animal Friends Croatia Association Project Coordinator, pointed out.

She adds that when the veterinarian evaluates that the beaten horse is in excellent condition, he suggests that the suffered abuse is not dangerous to the horse’s welfare, health and life: „Dr. Vet. Med. Špigelski did not, not even in one instance, express condemnation for abuse or empathy towards the horse that was, as proved by the footage, without any doubt heavily abused and most certainly not for the first and only time. That is why the lack of care for animal welfare, expected from the veterinarian, caused disbelief and anger of numerous citizens.”

Animal Friends Croatia was also flabbergasted by statements provided by the President of the Croatian Veterinary Chamber that announced the supervision of the work of Dr. Vet. Med. Špigelski. Instead of declaring the veterinarian’s statements and unprofessional and inadmissible, Ivan Zemljak said that the Chamber does not deal with animals but the animal welfare is determined by the veterinary inspection, while the Chamber only cares about the work of the profession. „Veterinarian profession and evaluation of their work cannot be, by the Chamber, separated from the animal welfare as otherwise it protects the abusers! Indeed, people first expect veterinarians to like the animals and that they will stand up for their welfare. It is insufficient that the veterinarian evaluates that the animal is in ‘well-fed condition’ while ignoring physical marks and changes of behavior that indicate abuse. The role of the veterinarian is even more serious as the victim cannot communicate in human language”, warned Klopotan Kačavenda.

Animal Friends Croatia was especially shocked by Zemljak’s scandalous statement that in animal welfare „some things have gone to extremes”. They asked him for an explanation in the context of horse abuse: „Is it extreme to you that people condemned the horse abuse or that the police did their job very well, arrested the abusers and reported them for the criminal offense of killing or abusing the animals? Is it extreme to you that the animal was taken away so its further beating is stopped? How is it possible that, for the veterinarian, extreme animal protection can exist as they should be the first to advocate their protection and law enforcement?” They explain that to them it is extreme that the abusive behavior is not sanctioned only because a veterinarian thinks that the abused animal is excellent.

They ask the Chamber to condemn the wrong messages and the veterinarian’s public behavior, as well as any animal abuse and to change their attitude. „All mentioned inappropriate statements shame and heavily damage the reputation of the veterinarian profession as well as the trust of citizens in veterinarians. With this enormous damage is done to all doctors of veterinary medicine who perform their work responsibly, professionally, with commitment and empathy. It is a huge problem when veterinarians lessen and relativize the evident extreme animal abuse cases.

Instead of reacting on their own to help the animals, the police, citizens and associations must fight to protect the animals and that the laws be enforced”, Klopotan Kačavenda concludes.

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