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Diary of a parliamentary intern

Abstract

Parliamentary veterinary intern Anthony Ridge considers the diverse group of people he has met over the past year and how this has changed his perspective on animal health and welfare and the values vets bring to society.

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One of the perks of being the parliamentary veterinary intern is the opportunity to meet an extraordinary number of people. Since writing my last diary article, I have attended a meeting on equine biosecurity at Defra, three meetings at the RCVS, a parliamentary briefing session with the BVA, a conference of the Association of Government Vets and the Veterinary Public Health Association, a lunchtime reception celebrating 30 years of the National Office of Animal Health and two international conferences on animal welfare (including one in Portugal). I have also had the chance to give two presentations, one to veterinary students at Cambridge university and another to staff at The Brooke (an international equine animal welfare charity). Attending these events, and many more over the past year, has given me the opportunity to meet an incredibly diverse group of people, from researchers, clinicians and business people through to Peers, MPs and civil servants. And as a result, I have developed a very different perspective on animal health and welfare.

Before the internship I worked in clinical practice and my view on improving animal health and welfare focused predominantly on the diagnosis and treatment of clinical disease. However, since starting my current role I have grown to appreciate that clinical veterinary work, while important, is far from being the only way to achieve this goal. I have met veterinarians and non-veterinarians alike who play crucial roles outside clinical practice ensuring that businesses, professions, universities, research institutes, charities, government departments and many other organisations keep running effectively. All of these groups have important roles to play in improving animal health and welfare. Furthermore, working in Parliament has led me to the realisation that, just as the veterinary profession forms only part of the animal health and welfare sector, this entire sector is just one of a large number of sectors competing to be heard at a national level. Almost all animal health and welfare matters form only part of the remit of a single government department and such matters frequently find themselves far down the agenda of national priorities. This realisation has helped me to develop a broader view of veterinary contributions to society.

Outside his role as parliamentary veterinary intern, Anthony also works as a volunteer veterinary surgeon at the Wildlife Aid Foundation in Leatherhead

The work veterinarians do to improve animal health and welfare has wide-reaching economic and social impacts, including ensuring food security, protecting public health, facilitating international trade and producing innovative research, but this is not always recognised at national level. In the wake of the Brexit vote we face both challenges and opportunities, but to make progress we need to highlight these values. Furthermore, it is important to recognise that many of the challenges we face are not unique. A case in point is the potential threat posed by Brexit to our international workforce, which is shared with other sectors including agriculture, human health and many more. Combined interests give us an opportunity to foster closer relationships with other sectors and, if there is one thing that all the people I have met have taught me, it is that by working together we can have a far bigger impact than if we work alone.

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