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“The future of the veterinary profession is not in the hands of the future generation; it is in our hands”

03 September 2020, at 7:05am

Millennials. Generation Z. A demographic of people whose lives are seen to be consumed and driven by social media and technology. The next generation of veterinary professionals.

Growing up in a world where technology has made communication more accessible and far reaching, everybody now has a platform from which they can share their thoughts and opinions, with the possibility of reaching an audience larger than ever before. As a result, not only are we connecting more with the catastrophic events happening due to the environmental crisis, but we are seeing a great movement within society towards the use of personal platforms to promote positive change. Consequentially, a surge in climate activism has been driven by the youth movement. A youth whose lives will be indefinitely impacted by the changes occurring.

Greta Thunberg has been an incredible advocate for progress in the environmental sector and a great role model to the younger generation. She is a young woman who has managed to drive the most amazing movement for generations and has been a great leader and advocate of disruptive change. She has demonstrated that, no matter your age, your voice and opinions matter and that they will be heard. However, when we look closer to home, within the veterinary profession, the role models for environmentalism are few and far between. Those that are championing environmentalism report challenging conversations and closing doors.

With access to the instant gratification that comes from a life that revolves around social media, we have reduced our capability for patience. Generations that grew up among resource scarcity in war time often have the mindset of “I need” when it comes to consumption. That then evolved to “I want” and now to “I deserve”. This “fast food” culture has permeated our lifestyles – “we deserve it and we want it now”. Although this attitude has contributed to the climate crisis at an alarming rate, it has also provided the attitude of urgency that is needed to mitigate it. This has been echoed in the youth climate strikes – “we want action and we want it now”. Their message and their voices are loud, and I hope that this will begin to be echoed within the veterinary profession, as future generations become our colleagues.

I hope that this future brings a greater balance to the ethnic and cultural diversity within veterinary medicine. That the awareness of intersectional environmentalism, an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet, is ingrained into the profession alongside the influx of youth. Furthermore, and importantly, that BAME colleagues’ voices are equally heard on the topic of environmentalism.

Despite all of this, the future of the veterinary profession is not in the hands of the future generation; it is in our hands. Your hands. Collectively, the profession needs to address this important and urgent crisis that we all contribute to. It is very easy to dismiss a problem and put it on to the shoulders of another. However, ultimately, it is not the future's responsibility, it is ours, at this very moment. How we act in this time will shape the future of our profession.

My final message to you all, is that we need to empower ourselves and the “Greta”-like characters around us. We must realise that we are all in this together and must reject a nit-picking culture, that delays and divides us, from finding solutions to this very real threat that is upon us.

Member of Vet Sustain

Madi Hewitson, BVMedSci (Hons), BVS, BVM, MRCVS, recently graduated from the University of Nottingham and is dedicated to improving and promoting sustainability within the veterinary profession. Madi is also a veterinary app designer, founder of a non-profit organisation and photographer working with Vet Sustain as a member of their growing community.

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