Homecoming weekend was in full swing at the University of Guelph. Instead of partaking in the festivities, I decided to spend my Saturday morning at an equine podiatry lab. In the Clinical Skills Building, equine limbs were suspended from the stanchions. These limbs would be used to teach us how to trim hooves and appropriately fit shoes.
I was spending a fair amount of time outside with one of the farriers as he demonstrated how to heat shoes and shape them. Countless students meandered by and watched what we were doing with curiosity. I always appreciate when non-veterinary students take an interest in our work. I didn’t have any concerns as the students discussed what we were doing with excitement.
A few moments later a couple stumbled over to the building and started to aggressively question what we were doing. “Why are there animal legs just hanging there? Do you think it’s cool to kill innocent animals?” the man asked angrily. I could tell that he had been drinking and was ready to pick a fight. Another veterinary student tried to explain what we were doing to no avail.
Typically, I know better than to engage in heated conversations with drunk people, but this situation could get ugly. He was ready to make a scene. For the sake of the university and my fellow students, I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
Injecting myself into the conversation I began to reason with him. “These limbs are from animals that have been donated to the university after being humanely euthanized.”
He looked at me skeptically and said, “Well why did they need to be euthanized? So you could use their legs?”
“No,” I responded calmly. “These animals were euthanized for various reasons, most likely due to illness. They may have been suffering before the veterinarian came to help them.”
Watching his expression, I saw my words slowly start to sink in. The look of anger slowly started to disappear. I took a few more moments to explain why it was safer for students to learn on cadavers than actual animals. He admitted that he never had taken a biology or anatomy course and didn’t really understand how these things worked. It felt good to see him slowly start to come around and see that we had no malicious intent toward these animals.
At the end of our conversation, he thanked me.
“I really appreciate you taking the time to explain everything to me. I was just caught off guard by what I saw and did not understand why this was necessary. I’m also pretty drunk,” he said as he shook my hand before heading back toward his party.