Brexit: pulling together as the veterinary family

Posted on October 27, 2016 by Gudrun Ravetz

European member state flagsA colleague told me about a conversation she recently overhead in the gym changing rooms. One woman was telling her friend how she had been walking down the street and a man had cycled past and shouted at her “Go back to where you come from.” The man was white. The woman was black. She had shouted back at the cyclist, “Where I come from? You mean Kent!”

Since the Brexit referendum I have heard many anecdotes from veterinary colleagues who call the UK 'home', which also highlight the ignorance, intolerance and racism that, sadly, still lingers in our society and which Brexit has brought to the fore.

Thankfully I've never heard of these incidents occurring between veterinary colleagues – reinforcing to me that our profession is a welcoming one that embraces and celebrates the many nationalities that maintain the standards of animal and human health and welfare in the UK. Hopefully this family offers some small comfort to those on the receiving end of the post-Brexit prejudice.

'Home' is the place that we make our connections 

The place on our passport is often important to us, but ultimately home is where we settle. It is the community in which we belong, where we spend our free time, where we meet friends and the micro-community of our work. In a technological world these circles of communities can be large and broad, but often our most important connections are those in our immediate community.

For many Brexit has caused a crack in this sense of community – be that from the language we're hearing in Government statements or what we're hearing in the street - and for many EU nationals there is an understandable feeling of anxiety and sadness.

I read something a few days ago that included a quote from David Aaronovitch and which I think sums up what's happening: “Myriad of assumptions and attributions that a majority makes about a minority of whom it feels nervous or envious.”

Valuing the contributions of vets and vet nurses

Vet and vet nurse attending anaesthetised dogAt BVA we are aware of the distress that the impact of Brexit and its assumptions and attributions are continuing to cause to our EU colleagues living and working in the UK. We value every single one of our members and the contribution that we know they are making to wider society.

This is why our priority immediately following the referendum outcome was to write to BVA members, and to the 4 governments of the UK to highlight the vital role our EU colleagues play and call for the working and studying rights of vets and vet nurses up and down the country to be protected. We continue to make these calls and raise this issue in our ongoing communications with all of the UK's main political parties.

As a result of BVA's work, just last week the Liberal Democrats, in their Brexit Challenge Report on food and drink, highlighted the significant contribution that EU vets make to our meat hygiene services. Meanwhile our Brexit Working Group, led by former deputy CVO Alick Simmons, is developing positions on key priorities to the profession which we will feed into the conversations taking place around Brexit. And we want to hear the conversations you're having too.

My theme for my Presidential year is 'family' and I feel very strongly that BVA – within, and with the backing of the profession - must do everything that we can to make sure that you feel part of the veterinary family and valued in your contributions to the UK in terms of animal health and welfare, and within your wider community.

If you would like to share any of your concerns, stories and reactions to Brexit and the work BVA is doing on this matter then please share them on the BVA community. We'd love to hear from you.

I would also like to remind all members that for confidential support members of the profession can call the Vetlife Helpline on 0303 040 2551 where calls are answered 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who have experience of the profession. Alternatively, Vetlife offers a confidential email service.

Veterinary View: interview with Gudrun Ravetz

Gudrun Ravetz

Written by Gudrun Ravetz

BVA past President

Gudrun Ravetz is Head Veterinary Officer at Simplyhealth and is a Past President of the British Veterinary Association and Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons.  She is also Chair of the BVAs Good Workplace Working Group. Follow @RavetzGudrun on Twitter.