Redefining Success

At a recent member forum we struggled to think of occasions where the AVA (Australian Veterinary Association) had been successful on an issue where there has been internal controversy.

Success often arises from compromise combined with choosing your battles wisely. Failure to do one or both of these things invariably results in conflict that may remain unresolved until we find a better way to communicate or understand each other.

Communication means having something in common which happens in communities and conversation can be a good way to start the ball rolling.

imagesThe AVA is our veterinary community.

Conversation begins with a shared experience or story says ideas man Mark Strom, the facilitator at the PanPacific Animal Welfare Forum at the AVA National Conference in May this year.

It will only continue through respectful listening and response and there will not always be agreement or accord. There will also be different views on what constitutes a good conversation depending on our individual personalities and style of relating.

Those who thrive on robust, vigorous debate and disagreement, for example, may choose to engage in politics and use their skills to flex their mental acumen, brow beat opponents or hammer opinions. I understand those who have these talents actually enjoy this way of relating to each other.  On the other hand, more sensitive individuals may prefer conciliatory approaches to disagreements and find rigorous heated debates traumatizing or unrewarding. These are two extremes and I suggest we all fit or fluctuate somewhere along this ego spectrum.

Similarly, as Veterinarians, albeit with a common profession and common concern for the welfare of animals, we have a spectrum of differences, which is what helps to make our organization strong.BN13150_1

This strength is potentially eroded when the really big ‘ambitious’ projects are up for discussion because we forget or cannot access our commonality, or find there may actually be no meeting point,  no willingness to compromise or simply no agreement to disagree. Occasionally it may be that we really seem to be talking completely different languages from each other, which makes communication very difficult if there are limits to comprehension. It is also true that issues will assume degrees of importance to different people and final outcomes of decisions on topics of universal relevance can often be disappointing.

I have learned that life is largely made up of compromises.Unknown-1

We have ideals and we make compromises.

Veterinarians do not compromise on animal welfare but our definition of what comprises animal welfare in the modern world  often requires exploring, discussing and contemplating from a wider global and cross cultural perspective.

Perhaps there cannot really be an ideal or attainable definition of a perfect scenario in any animal welfare issue we undertake but I suggest that we all know what comprises an unacceptable treatment of animals. This could be a starting point for building optimum welfare practices since it is a point of common agreement in Australian culture. In countries and cultures where safety and human rights are violated it is sadly beyond our control to expect our views to be upheld and now that we live in a global economy, we probably need to redefine the true scope of our influence or authority.

Already we can see why the live animal trade is fraught with peril.262849-110716-cattle

Many great minds and experts have been contemplating this national issue for a long time. Given that we cannot expect to be able to regulate the actions of all parties involved in live export we can do our best to uphold Australian standards of animal welfare, in my own opinion, simply by stopping live animal exports.

Recent events have proved that this is not actually ‘simple’ in any regard apart from  philosophical. There will need to be infrastructural support to help both the animals and the economy until this new culture of no live export is established. A whole other conversation may then ensue in which veterinarians will need to be content to have a smaller part as economists, engineers, corporations and politicians implement this ideal. But we will have done our part and we can be satisfied.


Veterinarians do not have to save the world they just have to advocate for animal welfare and we have an expanding evidence base from which to make informed decisions in this regard.

Animal Activism has grown in communities across the globe in response to the expanded awareness that we as humans are developing for the spiritual nature of all living things. From a spiritual perspective animals do have rights but as pawns in human life they forfeit many of these and their lives to our own needs or desires, food, work, sport, companionship, clothing and the like. From a spiritual perspective animals also have a role in the service to mankind that is often not acknowledged or appreciated in activism. Similarly, not all advocates for animal rights are activists, so once again the terminology trips us up in our efforts to communicate adequately. We have another ‘spectrum’ to contend with from fundamentalism and activism to advocacy, depending once again on our personal attributes and way of being.


Animals communicate with us through heart power and not mind power and when we harness this capacity in ourselves we may find that it is a most rewarding and effective means to avoid conflict. I felt that this was part of the message that Mark Strom was trying to impart in the PanPacific forum. He was trying to get us to recognize that we can operate from a higher intelligence or purpose. Wisdom is not an intellectual capacity. Wisdom, unlike truth, cannot be learned but is attained by aspiration and time. Once attained it helps our mind to make the right decisions and choices.

ChaleI became a vet because I wanted to serve animals, little realizing at the time that that would mean dealing largely with people. I never described myself as an animal lover but I certainly do love animals with an ever increasing awareness of what that really means. A large part of my life is now devoted to studying and practicing meditation and bringing this awareness openly into my veterinary practice so I can speak from experience about the spiritual aspects of animal welfare.


This may not solve the ambitious problems we encounter in the AVA but it helps me enormously to deal personally with issues in the AVA where there is internal conflict or controversy. The key for me has been to redefine success.






Develop heart-power.
Because the power of the mind
Has now become obsolete.

Sri Chinmoy, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 60, Agni Press, 1984


The mind thinks it has
Tremendous wisdom.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 37, Agni Press, 2004


I choose steady progress
Over speedy success.

Sri Chinmoy, Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, Part 29, Agni Press, 2002



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