The Spectator column was a 'joke' - so why is no one laughing?

Posted on January 31, 2018 by John Fishwick

Spectator article

“It was a joke”, says the Spectator columnist.

She says she was joking about devaluing and disregarding the professional opinion of the first vet who looked at her horse, recounted in her column I’ve seen the new face of veterinary medicine and I don’t like it (paywalled article). She says she was joking about the expense of veterinary fees. Perhaps she will also say she is joking about millennial's and transgender people, who she mentions in her latest column too?

In December Spectator columnist Melissa Kite wrote a piece outlining her experience with a young equine vet, which undermined the value of the profession and our years of training.

As the representative body for the UK veterinary profession, we wrote a letter to the weekly magazine in defence of vets’ skill set - regardless of age or gender.

A strong voice for vets

The Spectator refused to publish our letter, so we shared it on our website and in social media to assure BVA members that we take every action possible to be a strong voice for vets.

Last week a BVA member of staff received a call from Ms. Kite, asking why BVA had “incited hate” against her. My colleague explained that, as a professional body, it is BVA’s role to represent vets’ views and speak out on behalf of the profession.

Yesterday, Ms. Kite’s next column appeared (paywalled article). “Maybe vets are the new transgenders. Maybe vets are some scary-ass group of professional offence-taking powerbrokers”, she wrote.

At BVA we are struggling to believe that the Spectator would publish this. 

Right of reply and moving forwards

Since the magazine refused to publish our first letter in response to Ms Kite’s column, they are unlikely to publish another letter from us. We have contacted the Spectator asking, again, why our letter wasn’t published before Christmas and, in light of this latest column, how we can air our right of reply moving forwards.

What may have started out as a joke in Ms. Kite’s mind simply isn’t funny. But what the latest column and the phone calls to BVA prove is that we were right to challenge her unfounded attack on one of our colleagues.

It’s not always possible for BVA to correct or respond to every slight against the profession in the media. So, we pick our battles so that we can have biggest impact where we can in order to get across the enormous value and contribution of vets. And we will continue working hard to be a strong voice for vets, representing the profession in the media and our parliamentary lobbying.

John Fishwick

Written by John Fishwick

BVA President from September 2017 to September 2018

John is senior lecturer in Dairy Herd Medicine and former head of the Department of Production and Population Health at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC). He is a former President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA). Prior to this he worked in mixed practice and he was once head veterinarian to the world’s largest fully integrated dairy company, farming over 25,000 high producing dairy cows in Saudi Arabia.