VETERINARY surgeons have a “moral, ethical and physical duty” to work towards improving the lives of all animals and not just those lucky few that are brought into their consulting room, Professor Noel Fitzpatrick told attendees at the 2015 inaugural VET Festival.
He told the meeting at the Surrey veterinary school: “Society expects us to stand up and say we can do something to make a difference. We shouldn’t say there is nothing we can do.”
He urged colleagues to rekindle the idealism of their youth. “Remember you are passionate about caring for animals or you would not have signed up to being a vet in the first place.”
Professor Fitzpatrick, a lecturer at the school, was a leading figure in organising the two-day meeting which provided CPD aimed at improving standards in small animal orthopaedics, neurology and soft tissue surgery.
He insisted that veterinary surgeons should look beyond their own practice to see what they can do to drive a One Health agenda in which veterinary science was an equal partner, and not just a source of information to advance human medicine.
His guest speaker was someone who has perhaps done more than anyone to break down the barriers between humans and animals, the primatologist Jane Goodall. In 1960, at the beginning of her study into the behaviour of chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream national park in Tanzania, she was the first person to observe an adult male chimp strip a twig to use as a tool to catch termites.
“At that time we de ned ourselves as the only species that made tools. As my friend and supervisor Louis Leakey told me: ‘We must redefine man, redefine tools or accept chimpanzees as human’.”
Dr Goodall recalled her struggle with the academic establishment to accept her observational methods and to recognise that non human animals do have their own unique personalities – “which is something that is obvious to anyone who has ever kept a dog”.
She also explained her efforts to secure a future for the remaining wild chimpanzee populations of Africa through the Jane Goodall Foundation which works at improving the lives of the human communities in surrounding villages. She expressed optimism that there will be a future for Africa’s wild places, because of the resilience of nature and the energy and good deeds of the younger generation, which has been harnessed in 138 countries around the world by her other charity, Roots and Shoots.