Meet ACTAsia’s Vet trainer – Dr Luna Wei, a champion for animal welfare and Caring for Life Education programmes in China
Pet ownership is on the rise in China with many families now wishing to own dogs, cats and even rabbits and turtles which are currently quite the trend in some areas. Dr Wei is a vet in Xi’an, in the Shaanxi Province region and she specialises in the treatment of domestic and exotic pet animals but alongside this highly valuable work, Dr Wei is also an educator for ACTAsia’s Train the Trainer and Caring for Life program. We caught up with Dr Wei to find out more about her journey from life in her village to prominent vet and educator.
Village to Vet practice – where it all started
Growing up in a small village surrounded by animals, Dr Wei chose veterinary practice to feel a real connection to her upbringing. Her family were very supportive as they appreciated that she could earn a living from this profession. Graduating in 2001, Dr Wei worked towards opening her own clinic which she achieved in 2012. During this time, she attended a vocational college followed by university and then joined ACTAsia’s Companion Animal Welfare Veterinary Training Program at a Train The Trainer workshop to learn more about animal welfare and the vital role that she could play.
What does a typical day involve at her practice?
No two days are the same. There is a misconception in China that vets are people who only work with large animals, for example cows and pigs. However, pet ownership is now on the rise, and as a result, vets are becoming more valued in Chinese society. Very few practices in Dr Wei’s region treat rabbits so she is seeing more than 20 cases a day. Employing three vets and two assistants, Dr Wei is keen to make sure that all animals receive excellent care at her practice and she is currently taking an acupuncture course and using physiotherapy at her clinic to alleviate pain in small animals.
Why is pet ownership changing in China?
The very concept and knowledge of pet ownership is changing. Legislation is now being introduced making huge strides in raising awareness for animal welfare in China. Exotic pet animals are also becoming more desirable including rodents, birds and reptiles and every year Dr Wei spends around 20,000rnb to provide resources and equipment at her practice to enhance welfare for these exotic animals. Surprisingly, resources cannot generally be sourced from China and training from abroad is required to help these exotic animals.
How has ACTAsia supported Dr Wei’s work and what is Train the Trainer (TTT)?
Dr Wei comments that: ‘ACTAsia has helped me a lot. Not only as a person but also in my career development’. Inspired by the work she was doing with animals and within society, Dr Wei got in touch with ACTAsia’s Train the Trainer (TTT) program and got involved.
Train the Trainer (TTT) promotes fundamental standards in the treatment of companion animals. Veterinarians learn best practice through a course of workshops, including understanding sentience of the animals they treat, proper anaesthesia techniques for surgery, current spay and neuter methods, the importance of pain management, and how vaccinations can control rabies. TTT is a welcome initiative throughout China, especially in second and third tier cities where clinics for companion animals are still a relatively new idea. Once certified, vets are encouraged to take their new knowledge and share it with colleagues through peer-to-peer training. This way, ACTAsia can reach many more practising professionals than they could train first-hand in order to advocate best practice in their own country.
Dr Wei got involved with the TTT program in 2015 and since then the program has increased in popularity with local animal protection associations highly valuing the TTT course. As Dr Wei comments: ‘TTT has also helped me understand compassion and empathy. When people bring their animals in, I can now step into their shoes, and be more compassionate’.
How has Dr Wei assisted with ACTAsia’s Caring for Life program?
In 2018 Dr Wei started the ACTASIA’s Caring for Life (CFL) campaign in Xi’an, holding activities in primary and secondary schools, shopping malls and many other public places to advocate children to engage positively with animals. CFL education for children is ACTAsia’s unique six-year curriculum for all primary school years. It encompasses social welfare and citizenship, animal welfare, and environmental issues, and recognises the interdependence of all living things. Dr Wei believes that the CFL program really widens children’s knowledge and perception, and importantly, understanding of animals.
What has ACTAsia’s support meant for Dr Wei?
Dr Wei is grateful for the continuous education organised by ACTAsia and the contacts she has gained – she is now in touch with a wide range of specialists from abroad. Her horizons have broadened with her skillset and this inspires her to continue with her work. As a result, Dr Wei is now part of an international professional network which has helped her to understand that being a vet is much more than being a doctor.
Are there some special moments that have been pivotal in her career?
There are many moments that have touched and moved Dr Wei – not only helping animals but also being moved by people who help animals. For example, climbers who find stranded birds or children discovering stray animals seek out her help – indeed she treats a lot of animals free of charge. Dr Wei explains that rabbits express their emotions in a unique way; as companion pets for older people it gives her great satisfaction ensuring that these animals are healthy, thereby keeping their handlers happy and healthy. However, she explains that rescuing wildlife is a challenge and an area where they need more resources. Injured or sick wild animals are stressed and difficult to treat and there is currently not enough skills or knowledge to help them.
Dr Wei’s incredible journey from humble beginnings to a visionary in the field of veterinary science and education is truly inspirational. Humble as ever Dr Wei comments: “My goal is simply to be a loving person who cares for animals. The best thing about my job is knowing that my work is valued and that I can alleviate pain”.