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What has happened to James Herriot? Where is the Veterinary profession going?

Sitting here watching horses and riders barrelling round the Xc course on Chewton Plain at Mendip Plains EC I am afforded the luxury of a bit of navel gazing.


It was here, longer ago than I care to admit, on top of the Mendips, that my desire to be a vet was nourished by a rich drip feed of hunter trials, team chasing, hunting, eventing and tetrathaloning. The seed of my aspirations was sown, as with many of my generation, by Alf Wight, James Herriot.


I have to admit that the appeal, wasn’t driven purely by a love of animals, but by the whole package as portrayed by James Herriot, working with animals, working with and building relationships with owners, driving around a lovely bit of countryside and, oh yes turning an honest penny!
The face of veterinary practice has changed since James and Siegfried did their stuff. Small animal practices have amalgamated and ultimately been bought up by the Corporates. Turning an honest penny has become maximising shareholder dividends, and personal professional aims of doing the right and ethical thing for an animal and owner is at risk of being eclipsed by KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) based on turnover and profit.
Don’t get me wrong, practices need to make money to pay highly trained vets and pay for expensive equipment, but that sort of model has the potential to drive out the conscientious caring professionals that the profession needs to keep it going in the right direction.
Until recently Tim and I and our equine vet colleagues have been guilty of complacency in believing “… that won’t happen in equine practice”, horse vets are “a special breed” who value our clinical independence and the bond of trust we have with our owners. Truth is though, the last bastion of Herriotness is being eroded… Equine practices are under threat from the temptations of mammon and need to take steps to safeguard the wholesome ethical and professionally fulfilling nature of equine practice.

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