James is the RSPCA’s Chief Veterinary Officer, an Honorary Fellow at the University of Bristol and University of Surrey, and an active member of the animal welfare research community. James qualified from the University of Bristol in 2004, where he also completed a bachelors degree in bioethics, certificate and diploma in animal welfare science, ethics and law, and a PhD in veterinary ethics. James worked in Gloucestershire in private practice, then at an RSPCA branch. He became head of the RSPCA’s companion animals department in 2011 and CVO in 2012.
James has previously undertaken roles as chair of the British Veterinary Association’s Ethics and Welfare Group, honorary secretary of the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons, a member of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee, and editor of the Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law Veterinary Association (AWSELVA) journal.
Vet Futures is a clear chance for us as a profession to take control of our future. We can sit back and complain about changes that face us; or we can decide what type of profession we want to work in, and drive those changes.
And that goes further than just our profession. We can decide what role we want in society: what sort of industries we want to support, what types of social change we want to drive.
Vet Futures – Taking charge of our future was an excellent piece of work. It is a series of aspirations to serve us well wherever our future takes us. What it needed was people within and supporting the profession to step up to realise those ambitions. Our work as an Action Group has been to convert ambitions to actions.
It has been great to work with such leading lights of the profession, knowing that they are only a small proportion of what makes us vibrant, optimistic and dynamic.
During this work, I have certainly realised that many of the key members of the profession are so keen to progress it – nobody seems to want to just sit back and reap the benefits of being part of such a trusted and respected profession. Those who are ambitious are not just ambitious for themselves, but for all vets.
As a vet, you cannot just wring your hands about an animal’s disease progression – you take control, work out what’s the best and then work to achieve it. And I’ve seen that many vets think like that about society and the profession, too.
The report also proved – what perhaps we already knew – that the profession really cares about animal welfare. It came through loudly in the report and was the first ambition – before concerns about business sustainability and our own welfare (which are both very important, too). Some of those involved in animal care need to develop new attitudes and behaviours, but with a welfare-focused veterinary profession at the helm, they should be a dying breed.
Vet Futures provides a solid foundation. The trick to maintaining its momentum will be ensuring that the Action Plan keeps on track and developing a mechanism to ensure that new ideas keep coming up. The Vet Futures work should coordinate these, and keep them on track, in order to avoid duplication and maximise what we can all achieve together.