Does the profession need a British Veterinary Union “to address the issues that threaten our very existence”, as Dr Shams Mir suggests.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) describes itself as “the national representative body for the veterinary profession”, helping members fulfil their professional roles. It also claims to be “the voice of the British veterinary profession” and the association’s website adds: “In promoting and supporting the interests of our members, and the animals under their care, we are committed to developing and maintaining channels of communication not least with government, parliamentarians and the media.”
The BVA is really, or supposed to be, the profession’s union, in the same way that the British Dental Association and the British Medical Association are the representative bodies for dentists and doctors respectively. But unlike the BDA and the BMA, in recent years “the voice of the British veterinary profession” has been somewhat muted.
Where it used to court the media assiduously, the association now pretty much leaves it up to media representatives to make contact if they wish to know something. The regular, packed and informative press conferences, led by the officers, came to an abrupt end for no apparent reason almost a decade ago and the BVA hasn’t considered it necessary to meet the press since then. The media now frequently go to more communicative sources for information – and generally end up less well informed.
Lobbying goes on behind the scenes with parliamentarians and others, but even some of the BVA’s honorary members or associates in Westminster are not sure what the association wants from them. Some are eager to help but are rarely approached. The BVA’s own publications give little help.
The association has certainly stepped up efforts in recent years to involve and provide support for young graduates and also supports the VBF and others providing the sort of help which Dr Mirs appears to want – but he, like considerable numbers of veterinary surgeons practising in the UK, does not belong to the BVA.
Would a new organisation attract more members or do a better job? The answer is no. Could the BVA do a better job? The answer is yes. It is an organisation that has been too inward looking for far too long. It is time to move on and be the body it should be, acting effectively and speaking out on behalf of the British veterinary profession.