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THE BVA's annual congress has always been an event for those with an eye to the future. This year's congress, to be held in London's Olympia from November 19 to 20 as part of the London Vet Show, promises to be even more so, as it will see the launch of the report of the Vet Futures project. Having been launched during last year's congress, the Vet Futures project, organised jointly by the RCVS and the BVA, has, over the past 12 months, been engaging with members of the veterinary profession and others to identify current challenges with a view to developing a strategy for the future (www.vetfutures.org.uk). The launch of the report, which will set out a vision of where the veterinary profession might want to be in 15 years' time, will represent the culmination of this first year of activity. The intention is that the vision outlined in the document will stimulate further engagement and set the course for action in the years ahead.
This process will begin during the BVA Congress itself, where a panel discussion entitled ‘Vet Futures – where are we going?’ will explore major themes identified by the project and what should happen next. Meanwhile, topics to be discussed in other sessions at the congress will pick up on some of the themes identified by the project to date. Not least among these will be the veterinary profession's role as a leading force in relation to animal welfare. Companion animal welfare will be the subject of the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture at the congress, in which John Bradshaw, of the University of Bristol, will consider ‘why anthropomorphism is both essential and disastrous for canine (and feline) welfare’. It will feature, too, in a debate called ‘Human-animal bond: all take and no give?’, which will consider some of the lesser known benefits of companion animals while also drawing attention to the extent to which animals' needs are not being met. A further debate will focus on exotic pets, and the extent to which governments should intervene to limit the range of species kept by private owners.
Farm animal welfare will 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 bigger role for vets in helping to meet global challenges has been a recurring theme during the Vet Futures project and will be discussed at the congress by René Carlson, president of the Word Veterinary Association, in a presentation called ‘One health, one world: how every veterinarian can help tackle global challenges’. A further session relating to human health and the environment will examine ‘What's the role of the vet in a world that eats less meat?’.
Education is fundamental to future development and a session called ‘Next generation: one size veterinary education might not fit all’ will look at whether the current system of veterinary education in the UK is adequately preparing new graduates for a veterinary career or whether it is setting them up for disappointment. Picking up on another theme identified in the Vet Futures project, a further session will consider mental health and wellbeing in the veterinary profession in the context of wider societal changes. Meanwhile, at a time when consumer choice is all important, and some see the profession in danger of becoming ‘just another service industry’, another session will ask ‘Is professionalism dead?’.
Opportunities for career progression are also important, both for individuals and for the development of the profession as a whole, as recent correspondence in Veterinary Record has highlighted (see, for example, the letter from Andrew Davies and others on p 447 of this issue). In addition to the BVA Congress stream, the BVA will also be providing a two-day Career Development stream at the London Vet Show, offering advice on topics such as dealing with complaints and difficult clients, building resilience and maintaining wellbeing, and developing a more confident, assertive approach. Other sessions will discuss returning to work after a career break and career opportunities both within and beyond clinical practice.
As well as offering an additional business stream, the London Vet Show will also provide opportunities for clinical CPD, with, for example, the BVA providing a farm animal stream aimed at general practitioners and an equine stream (organised in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association), in addition to the equine and companion animal streams organised by the Royal Veterinary College.
The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr is said to have remarked, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.’ That may be true but, for vets thinking about their own or their profession's future, the BVA Congress at the London Vet Show looks like being a good place to start.