Late on Christmas Day, I sat down with Matt to watch Britain’s Top 100 Dogs 2019 on ITV. We caught a very late night showing which concluded at 3:15am, but nonetheless, it was still enjoyable enough that we stayed up late to watch it.
In the programme, we were introduced to a Gordon Setter and his owner, Sue, who takes him regular to the vets to have his blood drawn. You may think this sounds like a regular veterinary treatment, but her loyal pooch faces the needle for a whole other reason: He helps save other dogs’ lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I think people who donate blood and sign up for organ donation are absolutely wonderful people, and they can and do help to save thousands of human lives. The difference between them and the dogs who have their blood drawn, though, is that the dogs cannot consent and do not consent. Instead, they are taken against their will by their owners. Dare I say it, but it’s no more inhumane than the forced insemination process of milk production, or the cage hen situation in egg factories. While I myself may not be vegan, I am extremely conscientious of the animal welfare situation and I strive to eat or drink organically and ethically when I do. Knowing those who work in the farming industries, I have seen first-hand the care and compassion between local, small scale businesses, and the heartlessness of large, commercial meat and dairy producers.
As a sensible blogger, I’ve spent the past 48 hours researching this pet blood donation practice and I can safely say that none of it sits well for me. There have been investigations into dog blood farms and PETA themselves helped to close down a farm in Texas which cruelly abused former race greyhounds in order to sell their blood for cash.
Greyhounds. Soft, loving, friendly Greyhounds.
Although I couldn’t find anything indicative of any kind blood-for-cash scheme in the UK, it didn’t sit right with me that pet owners would be taking their fur babies to get jabbed with a needle and partially drained, with nothing to gain from it at all.
“I love you so much, Rover! In fact, I’m taking you to the vet this afternoon so you can get 10–20% of your blood drawn!”
Y’know what I mean? A bit spishy.
Most dogs hate the vet at the best of times, so going through this process is hardly going to be enjoyable for them. As much as many of the providers of this service might coo and ahh over how the dogs get belly rubs and tasty treats as a reward for their co-operation, as Victoria Stilwell (big fan, by the way) would tell you – Your dog isn’t enjoying himself, he is submitting!
Your dog doesn’t have a bloody clue what’s going on! All he know is that he is in the vet. Your dog doesn’t want to be at the vet saving lives, he wants to be at the park chasing squirrels, digging up your flowers and lounging in front of the fireplace. I get that you might want your dog to be saving lives, but are you really thinking about him?
In the programme, we saw how Sue’s beautiful Gordon Setter was lifted onto the veterinary table, led on his side and plied with treats and belly rubs. Once he was sufficiently ‘calm’ (*cough* subdued *cough*), a needle connected to a collection bag was inserted into his jugular vein. Immediately, I grimaced.
To Matt, this dog was a hero. This dog was helping save the lives of other furry friends and of course his commitment should be celebrated. I had other feelings towards it. Given the dog had absolutely zero control or choice (and it is and was, as ever, human interference), then this had some sort of dystopian feel to it, a bit like Michael Bay’s The Island, if you’ve ever seen that movie. Dogs giving blood now, really? Whatever next?
“What if something happened to Hugo, and he needed a blood donation to save him?” Matt challenged me.
“If something happened to Hugo that was that severe that he needed hospitalisation and a blood transfusion, then the kindest thing might be to hold him for one final time” I said reluctantly. As much as the thought pained me, one dog suffering to save another (who was also suffering) can never be considered as humane.
I love our little Hugo, I love him to pieces, he is a part of my family. If we wouldn’t force our will on our babies and force them to give blood without their consent, why are we doing it to our pets?
It is, dare I say it, selfish human need. We cannot risk the thought of losing our fur babies, and so the only way we comfort ourselves from that thought is to fork out thousands of pounds for expensive (and sometimes unsuccessful) veterinary treatments and allow another dog to suffer to save our own. But what about the dogs who suffer for our pets, don’t they deserve toys, treats and belly rubs, too? What about those 150 Greyhounds in America, or those two who didn’t make it. Who was loving on them?
I firmly believe that in the wild, a dog attacked by another dog would not be afforded such ‘priveleges’ (if you can ever call it that) as a blood transfusion. In the wild, a wild dog or wolf that was attacked or injured so much so that it bled heavily would die. A sick, anaemic dog would die. That’s not just me being cruel, that’s life and nature. As a dog Mom, I love my dog and I hope to god that nothing bad ever happens to him, but if he was ever in so much pain and discomfort that it was a choice between a one way vet trip or a maybe successful blood transfusion, then I would do what is kindest for him. As much as I love little Hugo, no dog’s misery and suffering is worth my happiness. As much as we love our fur babies, dogs often are and can be replaced, by an equally lovable dog, who we will love again in our own way.
Hugo cannot be a blood donor, and in some ways I am grateful that it is something that I will never be coerced into considering. For one, he is only a quarter of the 100kg minimum weight, for two, he doesn’t particularly like being pulled around and for three, the only centre near me is into town and out again, anyway. The idea of taking my dog to have his blood drawn to save somebody else’s dog was something that I found incomprehensible. I’m sure the owners are doing it for the best intentions in the world, but really, the dogs can’t agree.
Why aren’t vets picking up on the inhumanity of this practice? They can’t be for animal rights, but against it when it comes to blood harvesting? Or is it that money does the talking once again?
I understand that Pet Blood Bank is the only UK charity to offer such a service in Britain and I’m sure that they have the best intentions at heart, but really, please consider what you’re putting your fur babies through. I fully appreciate that you may want your pet to become a heroic sensation or you may want your pet to get well and live out their full life with you but please, if you love your pet, always, always put them at the heart of everything you do. Sometimes, if love someone enough, one of the hardest decisions that we will ever have to make is knowing when the kindest thing to do is to let them go.