Anthony Ridge, the new parliamentary intern to Lord Trees, reflects on his first month in Parliament.
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It is fair to say that working in Parliament is like nothing I have experienced before. I thought the years I spent at Cambridge would have prepared me for grand old buildings but little can prepare you for the palatial splendour of the Houses of Parliament. As you explore the rabbit warren of corridors it seems as if grand rooms, huge statues, ornate carvings and countless paintings appear from nowhere. The occasional commemorative plaque reminds you that this very small part of London has witnessed a huge portion of British history and you can still stand in the hall where Charles I was tried or hide in the cupboard where suffragette Emily Davison concealed herself for the 1911 census. Screens throughout the palace display the order of business for the day and remind you that this is still a living and breathing parliament, and the vast array of topics being discussed each day give the impression that you are a small cog in a very large and complex machine tasked with addressing the needs of the United Kingdom. It all seems very far removed from my day-to-day life as a small animal vet.
I have been made to feel very welcome, not only by Lord Trees, but also by numerous other peers and staff members at the House of Lords and many representatives from the RCVS, BVA and Defra. Technically, I now work for a company of which I am the sole employee but it certainly still feels like I am part of a team. My office is very different from what I am used to. Gone are the consulting rooms, stethoscopes and thermometers, and instead I find myself at a desk surrounded by a computer, trays of paper and a bell that sounds when there is a vote in the Lords Chamber. My daily tasks no longer include consulting or operating but instead my time is filled with researching current veterinary affairs, preparing briefing documents, coordinating events and attending meetings. To some, the administrative tasks may seem daunting and I will admit it took several days to learn to swim through the constant stream of e-mails but through it all there is a sense of purpose. Animal welfare and the veterinary profession are still at the heart of what I do every day and it is a privilege to be so close to where decisions are being made that affect animals, the profession and general society.
Last month I attended conferences on responsible use of antibiotics and sustainable agriculture, the launch of a report on the exotic pet trade, briefing sessions from the BVA and meetings with a range of policymakers and researchers. I have helped Lord Trees to prepare for speeches on Lyme disease and dog breeding, and recently have been researching the prevalence of non-stun slaughter in the UK in light of new welfare regulations. Every week there are new tasks, new topics and new challenges and it is difficult to predict what the coming months will bring, but I do know that whatever happens I will still be very proud to call myself a vet.