Today was different as well. The other students are given Fridays off. I was given the option to take today off as well, but I chose to come in. Due to that, I was the only student on the floor which gave me the best view in the house and a completely different experience. I shadowed Eva today. She is a veterinarian that was trained in Spain. As she told me, she came over to the UK for six months to improve her English. That was three years ago. I really enjoyed working with her, but more on that later.
On Fridays, one producer delivers sixty pigs for slaughter. Without eleven students on the floor, the slaughter men are able to work even more efficiently. Eva and I began with the ante mortem inspections. Once we had completed those, we returned to Eva’s office for coffee. When I began this morning, one of the workers heard that I was going to be working with Eva and the only thing that he said was, “I hope that you like coffee.” I just replied, “I survived vet school with coffee!” Once we had both changed into our boiler suits and hardhats, we began the post-mortem inspection. Technically in the UK, only the ante mortem inspection must be completed by the OV. However, since this abattoir is small, the OV performs both the ante mortem and the post mortem inspections.
The post mortem inspections are essentially the same thing that we have been completing all week. They involve looking at the pluck for signs of pathology including parasites, pneumonia, pericarditis, endocarditis, etc. Once any condemned parts are disposed of, then the carcass is examined. Of particular importance are the kidneys (signs of septicemia), joints (swelling, arthritis), pleura, tail (abscesses), etc. Once the carcass has been deemed acceptable, then a stamp is affixed to both shoulders and both hips. The stamp is merely a red food dye since everything must be edible.
While processing sixty pigs from the same producer can be rather boring particularly since they all theoretically have the same pathology (just varying degrees of illness), I especially found it interesting since Eva explained everything that we saw. Much of it I already knew, but it was an excellent refresher and I soon began to mentally identify the pathology on the carcasses before she could verbalize it just as a method of testing myself. During the day, we were able to talk quite a bit and compare veterinary medicine in Spain to that in the UK to that in the US. It is also especially interesting that public health in Spain is such a popular choice of a career as compared to in the UK and the US. As Eva explained, public health vets are highly respected and they are well paid. However, many vets are leaving Spain because the economy is so poor and the job market is far better in the UK. I thoroughly appreciated the candor of Eva and the staff of the abattoir. They willingly answered any question that I could pose.