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Still alive and kicking

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BVA Congress has a long history of highlighting issues of concern to the veterinary profession and trying to develop solutions, and this year's congress, to be held during the London Vet Show in November, will be no exception. Last year's congress saw the launch of the joint RCVS/BVA Vet Futures project (vetfutures.org.uk), which is currently in the process of identifying some of the challenges facing the profession with a view to developing an appropriate long-term strategy; this year's congress, to be held at Olympia in London on November 19 and 20, will pick up on some of the themes being identified by the project and help move that process along. Topics to be discussed include the current and future status of the profession, veterinary education, global imperatives and animal health and welfare. With the BVA also contributing to the equine and farm animal streams at the London Vet Show, as well as running a career development stream, the event promises to be of immediate practical relevance while also providing some useful pointers as to what might happen in the future.

The status of the veterinary profession will be discussed in a debate provocatively called ‘Is professionalism dead?’, as well as in a panel discussion highlighting some of the themes that have emerged from the Vet Futures project so far. A literature review undertaken as part of the project found that one of the most important factors that will underpin future client behaviour is trust in, and respect for, the profession – but what does professionalism really mean today? At a time when consumer choice is all important, and some see the veterinary profession in danger of becoming a service industry, speakers will discuss how modern veterinary businesses can succeed while still embracing the principles of professionalism.

Meanwhile, a debate on veterinary education will look at whether the current system in the UK is adequately preparing new graduates for a veterinary career, or whether it might be setting them up for disappointment. Called ‘Next generation: one size might not fit all’, the debate will examine whether the way students are currently being taught and prepared for veterinary practice is delivering the best outcomes for employers, clients and the students themselves, and whether the opening of new veterinary schools in the UK offers an opportunity for new ways of thinking.

Animal welfare features prominently in the programme, including discussion of the human-companion animal bond. The significance of this bond, and the contribution that companion animals can make to the health and wellbeing of people, is increasingly recognised, but is society doing all it can to provide for the welfare of pets? A debate called ‘Human-animal bond: all take and no give?’ will highlight some of the lesser known benefits of companion animals, while also drawing attention to the extent to which animals' needs are not being met.

Companion animal welfare will be the subject, too, of the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture at the congress, in which John Bradshaw, of the University of Bristol, will explain ‘why anthropomorphism is both essential and disastrous for canine and feline welfare’. The topic will also feature in a debate on exotic pets, which will look at the extent to which governments should intervene to limit the range of species that might be kept by private owners.

Farm animal welfare is likely to be considered in a debate on the changing relationship between vets and government, which will look at what the recent election of a new Government might mean for future animal health and welfare policy. It will also feature in a debate on the subject of climate change and food production, which, under the title ‘Vets in a climate-change world: is animal welfare being forgotten?’, will examine why vets need to be more involved with this issue. A further debate will explore opportunities for the veterinary profession in a world in which attitudes to meat production and consumption are changing.

Although the programme focuses mainly on the future of the profession and animal health and welfare, the welfare of vets is not neglected: another session will look at mental health and wellbeing in the profession in the context of wider societal changes.

In drawing together some of the themes identified in the Vet Futures project, the programme for this year's BVA Congress at the London Vet Show highlights current concerns while also showing that the profession is thinking about its future. The title for one of the congress debates might be ‘Is professionalism dead?’ but, judging from the list of topics up for discussion, it is very much alive and kicking.

■ This year's BVA Congress will be held at the London Vet Show, at Olympia in London, on November 19 and 20. More information is available at www.bva.co.uk/londonvetshow and at www.londonvetshow.co.uk

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