Keynote puts the record straight on first day of BSAVA Virtual Congress - Veterinary Practice
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Keynote puts the record straight on first day of BSAVA Virtual Congress

Lucy Cooke put the record straight about the importance of feminine influences on our collective history

Darwin made a big mistake when formulating his theories on evolution, the audience for the BSAVA’s first virtual Congress was told, today, on the first day of the three-day event.

The great biologist chose to ignore the key part played by the female of the species in the process of natural selection. He thought that as males were “ardent, aggressive and dominant”, they were solely responsible for the choices that drive evolution forward, while females “were passive, coy and monogamous” and only merit a few footnotes in his seminal book, “The Descent of Man”.

In her opening address to this year’s BSAVA event, zoologist, author and broadcaster Lucy Cooke put the record straight about the importance of feminine influences on our collective history. Indeed, she pointed out that lemurs, the group that was the common ancestor of all extant primates – live in almost entirely matriarchal societies.

Her observations may not be a total surprise to her online audience in a profession that is now largely dominated by female vets and vet nurses. But they show the important gap in our understanding of natural history, which she hopes will be at least partly filled by her forthcoming book – “Bitch – the Female of the Species”.

As a filmmaker, Dr Cooke has also brought a renewed focus on two other neglected groups – those Madagascan lemurs and the sloths of South America. Her presentation captured many of the remarkable qualities that she finds so attractive in these animals.

As well as demonstrating a different blueprint for social organisation, lemurs are inherently appealing – they sing, they dance and they smell of maple syrup as a result of their largely fruit-based diet, she said.

As the slowest moving creature in the forest, sloths are not easily noticed. Yet they offer lessons on how to survive for 60 million years that we would be wise to follow. The secret is “to slow down, be mindful, reduce wasteful decisions based on convenience, be economical with energy, recycle creatively and hug a tree,” she said.

Regrettably, the survival of both these remarkable groups is under threat due to habitat pressures. Dr Cooke encouraged her audience to visit the places where they live before it is too late. She believed that environmental tourism could be the economic force that will allow these threatened species to cling on. “By visiting these places and hiring local guides, you will ensure that the people there have the financial luxury of appreciating the wildlife around them,” she said.

Dr Cooke kicked off three jam-packed days of live CPD, interactive sessions, evening social events and a lively exhibition hall at BSAVA Virtual Congress this year. She is one of four big name keynotes at the event, Jenny Campbell, Dr Ranj and Derek Mills will be addressing the delegates over the next two days.

Other highlights of the day included Kieran Borgeat’s fully interactive session on Interactive Cardiac Radiography which attracted more than 500 delegates.

The dermatology stream also drew in the crowds with “Has COVID caused stress-related alopecia” generating interesting debate between dermatologist Ariane Neuber-Watts and Behaviourist Sarah Heath, with John Chitty providing insight from an exotics practice perspective.

Catherine Oxtoby and Pam Mosedale considered the importance of clinical audit in ensuring patient safety, recognising that tools must be in place to mitigate potential errors and learn from errors that do occur. The session included plenty of practical advice and tips for undertaking clinical audit.

In the Feline Medicine and Surgery stream, Nicki Reed and Fergus Allerton considered how we should deal with cats with chronic diarrhoea in practice. Fergus’ presentation focussed on the value and risks of GI biopsies in cats, whilst Nicki’s talk reflected on the value of diets in the management of feline IBD. The lively Q and A session included discussion of other diagnostic and treatment techniques, including the use of faecal testing and faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), and concerns relating to antimicrobial resistance.

In the Cardiology stream, Marc Kraus considered the role of apps and devices in the future of cardiology (a personal perspective). Marc gave a detailed insight into some of the apps and technologies being developed in both human and veterinary medicine, including leadless pacemakers, smart phone ECGs, focussed cardiac ultrasound and advanced mitral valve repair surgeries.

Delegates made good use of the interactivity on offer throughout the day on the virtual platform, with Q and As after the talks and during via the use of polls proving to be popular. Delegates also commented that the standard of Clinical Abstract posters was very high this year. Laura Muir incited running fever on social media with her motivating tweet about her virtual run and the running selfies tagged #BSAVAVirtualRun are now being posted, to chase the prize for the best picture taken.

Don’t miss the start of today’s sessions with the opening address from keynote Jenny Campbell at 8.45am.

To register for BSAVA Virtual Congress visit the website.

For information on how to become a BSAVA member, visit the BSAVA website.

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