UK Vets Must Build on Trust for the Future

UK - Vets must maintain trust in a changing and cynical world is the message from outgoing British Veterinary Association (BVA) President, Robin Hargreaves.
calendar icon 26 September 2014
clock icon 6 minute read

In his final Presidential speech in Manchester on the 26 September, Mr Hargreaves pointed to the tradition of integrity and professionalism that vets enjoy, saying that: “Trust exists in every individual vet/client relationship, in the relationship between BVA and our members, and between the veterinary profession and policymakers.”

Mr Hargreaves emphasised the need to build on this trust to defend and champion the veterinary profession, particularly in relation to the challenges and opportunities he then went on to outline.

On the future of the veterinary profession, Mr Hargreaves said: “As new veterinary schools open and the existing schools increase their intake our members are understandably concerned about the impact in terms of underemployment, salary suppression, and the availability of adequate teaching staff and high quality EMS.

“Of course market forces will dictate the future in terms of pure numbers, but it’s our job to think about the consequences, to inform decision makers, and to make sure the next generation of aspiring students understands the changing veterinary landscape.

“Managing the expectations of young people making the transition from school to university to practice becomes increasingly important when you consider the enormous pressure that young vets are put under.”

On non-stun slaughter, Mr Hargreaves said: “We were overwhelmed by the positive response from the veterinary profession, but also from members of the public who thanked us for shining a spotlight on such a significant animal welfare issue.

“Our government e-petition attracted 70,000 signatures in just two months revealing the strength of feeling amongst the public not just in favour of better animal welfare standards, but also in support of clearer information about the food they buy. And we have been at pains to stress that this is an issue of animal welfare.

“There are those who have attempted to hijack our campaign for their own ends. There are those who refuse to accept our scientifically sound assertion that slaughter without stunning compromises animal welfare. But we have responded to those challenges, engaged with people on both sides of the argument, and we will continue to keep up the pressure.

“We still have some way to go to reach our target of 100,000 signatures and so I implore each of you to promote the petition to your friends, family and colleagues. To share it on social media and to carry on informing people about why it is so important to stun animals before slaughter.”

On bovine TB, Mr Hargreaves said: “It will come as no surprise that one of the biggest challenges I have faced this year is in managing our response to the pilot badger culls in England.

“It remains a hugely emotive and difficult issue and we acknowledge that there are strong differences of opinion within our membership. It has not been an easy process and I am proud that we have managed to maintain a fragile consensus through our Council for our science- and evidence-led position. That is thanks in large part to the willingness of our divisions and our members from different ends of the spectrum of views to come together to analyse and debate the issues.

“I am also proud of the fact that despite enormous public and media pressure, we didn’t take a populist line. We considered the evidence in great detail, debated it from all angles through our committees and Council, and took a view on how we can deliver the greatest benefits in terms of disease control and eradication.

"On so many animal welfare issues politicians are in danger of taking the view that if it’s not popular it’s got to be wrong. But that would be to miss the detail, the nuance, and the scientific rigour that should be applied to animal health and welfare policy.”

On BVA Membership, Mr Hargreaves said: “I am delighted to report that BVA membership continues to grow. I’m proud of the way BVA responded so clearly and positively to our comprehensive 2012 member research. The implementation of those changes continues and we are already seeing the results.

“You told us you wanted BVA to be more visible and this year we have seen a 90 per cent increase in our media coverage. You told us we needed to do more to engage our members and we introduced a survey panel to capture members’ views and experiences. And you told us we needed to improve our communication with you and last month we launched our new website on time, within budget, and fully integrated with our new database to ensure members receive the information they are most interested in.

“In meeting these colleagues from all walks of life I have often been struck first of all by how far they have gone in the profession and how different their career paths have been to my own. But I am also struck by how similar we are, and by the extent to which we remain connected.

“Because as veterinary surgeons we are united by certain fundamental values and principles, and it is these we employ in educating and shaping the next generation. We must never lose sight of how much we have in common.

“Specialisation is clearly a trend that is here to stay and I couldn’t countenance not being a member of the specialist divisions in my own area of work, these being BSAVA and SPVS. But equally I couldn’t imagine not being a member – and a vigorous and determined supporter – of BVA.

“Because BVA is the glue that holds us together and it is a reflection of our shared values. It’s the one organisation that recognises and champions the connection we all share. And it is important that those on the outside see that strength in numbers and hear that collective voice.”

Charlotte Rowney

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