While walking around one of the veterinary school open days I noticed a sign that caught my attention. It was advertising for feline blood donors, which shocked me as I thought about the number of ethical questions it raised.
I looked into the procedure of cats donating blood a little more and found this article of the procedure that occurs when a cat donates blood:
Although the article is written in a method format, certain wording of the instructions such as ‘Locate healthy happy cat’ did begin to support my original fear that donor cats may be being used solely for ‘harvesting blood’ and forgotten that he/she is a live animal. As the veterinary profession develops and we use human procedures in the vet world, I feel that ethical issues are raised such as the problem of consent. While a ‘healthy happy human’ can agree to donating blood for a good cause, not all humans are comfortable with doing so – through fear of needles for example. Unfortunately, we will never be able to speak to our feline friends to ask whether or not they are comfortable with having their blood extracted.
Granted they do not understand what is happening, probably don’t have the same fears as us and I’m sure some cats sit purring away…but should we really be doing it to save a pet for human pleasure? After all, if the pet wasn’t living in a home and suffered, say, a car accident where he/she has lost a lot of blood…he/she would probably be left to die at the side of a road – like a badger or a fox – and not taken to a vet to have its blood replaced.
Another point I have considered is the possibility of someone who has their beloved pet that they’ve become very attached to and he/she needed blood, they may buy a certain cat just to use it’s blood. Similar situations are seen in humans for transplants. I’m sure many of you have seen ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ – I do think in cases when the animal cannot consent for themself, blood and actual organs are equal in the rights we have to extract from them, although admittedly blood tissue is less risky to transplant that a whole organ.
An article by International Cat Care discusses the issues with feline blood donation:
“Most cats, for their own benefit, need to be sedated for blood donation and this in itself carries a small risk. The drugs used in sedation often lowers blood pressure, and donating blood itself can also lower blood pressure due to removing some of the circulating blood volume. These effects on blood pressure and circulation can be a particularly important if a cat has some underlying disease that neither the owner or the vet is aware of – especially things like heart disease and kidney disease.”
This is of course very different to the procedure in humans and there are questions raised as to whether this is ethical or not.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on feline blood donors!