Since 2020 in the U.S., the twin impacts of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic and the power of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, have highlighted the striking differentials in health care across US communities, marked by stark inequalities aligned with race and social class. In this talk, I extend questions of “access to care” to the veterinary profession to ask: What happens if we reframe these vet issues not primarily as economic problems but rather in a social justice framework? Most U.S. families have pets that they say are “part of the family.” Should this lead us to conceive of pet health care as a fundamental right, and/or obligation of the state or society—that is, as a “public good” under the One Health model? What sorts of shifts in veterinary practice, policies, and community relations might this require so that underserved populations can access care? Can the “social determinants of health” model from human medicine be useful in this reimagining?
Jane Desmond, Ph.D., is Professor of Anthropology, Affiliate Prof. in Veterinary Medicine, and Director of the Human-Animal Studies@Illinois campus-wide initiative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. She is the founding editor of the Animal Lives book series at the University of Chicago Press, and Residential Director of the International Interdisciplinary Summer Institute in Animal Studies for early career scholars held each July at UIUC. Her five books include Displaying Death and Animating Life: Human-Animal Relations in Art, Science and Everyday Life (Chicago, 2016). A former Fulbright Professor in Germany, she is currently a 2023 British Academy Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham, and a 2023–2024 Harvard Bioethics Fellow at the Harvard Medical School. Her current book project is Medicine Across the Species Line.