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SPVS -VMG x Vet Sustain CPD Day ‘Sustainability in Veterinary Practice and Beyond’: Review

‘Thank you for looking at it and not looking away’ – Libby Kemkaran-Thompson, Vet Sustain

Madi Hewitson

Last week a collection of some of the brightest minds in the veterinary profession joined forces to provide a day full of hope for the future. The topic of the day was sustainability in the veterinary profession. It touched on every sector from small animal to aquaculture. This important day provided insights into the struggles faced in each sector when it comes to tackling climate change and the concerns about the future if swift action is not taken – and also offered hope that some solutions lie within reach for our profession.

We were reminded from the very start of the day that

we are not killing the planet, we are killing ourselves – that we need to be the change and take action – to not be passive but be active’.

That message was duly reinforced with actionable measures that can be implemented in your workplace by switching to renewable energy providers and reducing your fresh gas flow during anaesthesia, all suggested to us by the inspiring Ellie West of Davies Veterinary Specialists.

Parallels were drawn throughout the day to the NHS emissions. The NHS contributes 5-10% of total carbon emissions of the U.K: 14% comes from travel, 5% is from anaesthetic gases, 10% is due to waste. Through these parallels we can look inwardly for areas of improvement and take inspiration from their actions in encouraging telemedicine to reduce transport emissions, building designs, local sourcing of food and reduction of surgical times. It was noted that to reduce the burden on the NHS we need to act in favour of our planet, and the same can be said for the veterinary profession and the animals under our care.

Tim Mair and Silvia Janksa took our minds back to the tragic Australian bush fires and the devastating impact that it had on equids, from burns to drought. They also touched on the effect of climate change on long-term equine health, including increased ragwort with more favourable climatic conditions, and the risk of poisoning this brings. This was followed by a much-needed reminder on the importance of antibiotic preservation and correct usage of anti-parasiticides, and a discussion on actions taken for a more sustainable zoo from Marwell zoo vet and BVA Junior Vice President, Justine Shotton.

Farming is a vital topic in climate discussions, especially when 70% of the land mass in the U.K is used for agriculture. During a talk on sustainable farming futures, Navaratnam Partheeban commented that,

Food production systems effect every single one of the [Vet Sustain] sustainability goals. The links are so close to the health and wellbeing of the earth and everything on it.

This highlights the significant influence of veterinary professionals in helping to mitigate the climate crisis.

This day only touched the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to climate change and the economic, environmental and social repercussions and solutions in our professions. To save the future we need a new story. Our planet is in crisis – and we need a shared story about how to build the healthier, greener, and more just world we so urgently need. Today was more than helpful, it was hopeful and reassuring.

"There is no single way to tell this story - it must come from different perspectives - but we can all contribute to building a shared vision for the future."

That is why conversations and CPD like this are so important and make essential listening for those who missed it.

A key message to take away from the day was eloquently said by Sue Paterson, sustainability lead on the RCVS council:

We took an oath for a better world for all animals not just the ones under our care – we have a responsibility to take a leadership role in this crisis.’

A truth that when acted upon has the possibility for great change.

Thank you to all our speakers and to SPVS-VMG for inviting Vet Sustain to collaborate on this important event.