The voice of the veterinary profession - Veterinary Practice
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The voice of the veterinary profession

NICKY PAULL BVA president, urges members to get more involved

ANOTHER day, another consultation document lands in the in-tray at BVA headquarters.

In this world of open government and transparent decision-making, it sometimes feels like ministers need a public consensus over which brand of coffee to serve in Whitehall (organic Fairtrade no doubt). But what’s in it for those of us on the other side responding to these hefty documents?

The cynical amongst us may see government consultations merely as a PR exercise with the reality being that they’ve already made up their minds and simply want endorsement. But we should be more optimistic about these things and in my year as president of the BVA, I’ve seen how making your voice heard in the right way at the right time can be very effective.

Take veterinary medicines for example – an issue that affects the vast majority of vets in one way or another. The BVA was at the forefront of the switchover from the Medicines Act 1968 to the new Veterinary Medicines Regulations in October 2005, representing the veterinary surgeon’s role in prescribing, and every year since we have been at the centre of making the necessary changes to the Regulations by lobbying the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and responding to its consultations.

Getting someone to take notice of your point of view can feel extremely empowering; and it’s something that all BVA members can share in. Most vets are incredibly busy and by the end of the day too exhausted to sit down and respond to 50 detailed questions on the reform of the Veterinary Surgeons Act. But that’s where we come in. There are so many different (and less taxing) ways that you can make sure your voice is heard through the BVA.

If policy making really is your thing, try to get elected onto one of our policy committees which deal with the nitty gritty of BVA policy and draft consultation responses drawing in expertise from across the veterinary world. Or get involved through your specialist division.

One clear voice

Recently, the Society for Greyhound Veterinarians (SGV) attended an Ethics and Welfare Group meeting to discuss the DEFRA consultation on the codes of welfare for racing greyhounds.

As a result I submitted the SGV consultation response, as BVA president, endorsing its contents and drawing attention to specific areas of concern. This enabled us to speak to the government with one clear voice, with the strength of our members’ expertise behind us.

The BVA also takes forward issues raised at our annual congress, where contentious issues across a very wide range of issues are debated and discussed, and at the AWF discussion forums. The work we are currently doing to lobby over the 28-day rule on medicines was first raised at last year’s congress and the campaign for an independent inquiry into pedigree dog breeding started at the AWF discussion forum in May 2008 (months before Pedigree Dogs Exposed).

Finally, members can contact the BVA with ideas, suggestions and comments on consultation documents at any time. Members can raise issues through their BVA Council rep (territorial and specialist) or download their thoughts through the online discussion forums.

Take a look at the current consultations we are responding to in the Have Your Say section of the website,, find the route that best suits you and get in touch. We’d be delighted to hear from you and we really need your input.

Getting the government to listen when it already knows what it wants to do is difficult, but it’s not impossible. More often than not, it’s about being at the table when the important decisions are being made. The BVA’s reputation has earned us a place at those tables and the more members who want to take advantage of those opportunities, the better.

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