Time for Change: Vet profession must work together to combat widespread discrimination revealed by new BVA statistics

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is highlighting the importance of inclusive and supportive workplaces as new data reveals ongoing cause for concern surrounding discrimination in veterinary workplaces. The latest data gathered by BVA reveals that one in six vets and vet students have experienced or witnessed discrimination in the past year. Despite increased attention on this issue in recent years, figures remain unchanged since the ground-breaking BVA Discrimination in the Veterinary Profession report in 2019.

Responses to BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession 2021 Spring survey showed that many members of the profession continue to underestimate the scale of the issue with only 53% of the profession reporting that they feel concerned about discrimination. This contrasts with those who have personally experienced discrimination, 86% of whom are concerned.

The figures also highlight a correlation where respondents who felt positive about their working environment reported lower levels of discrimination. 13% of those who said their workplace was a good place to work, and 11% of those who said it was a supportive environment, reported that they had experienced discrimination, compared to an average of 15% across all respondents. And in cases where discrimination was reported, those who said their working environment was supportive were far more likely to feel that the incident was dealt with satisfactorily (18% compared to 5% of those who said their working environment wasn’t supported).

The latest report was launched yesterday at a BVA webinar event “Big Conversation on equality and inclusion in the veterinary professions”. The report reveals that 15% of vets and vet students have personally experienced discrimination within a veterinary workplace or learning environment in the past twelve months, while 21% have been witness to such discrimination. Senior colleagues were most commonly responsible for the discrimination (48% of incidents) with discrimination from clients accounting for 35% of incidents. The figures remain relatively unchanged since 2019.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Malcolm Morley said:

“Once again these results paint a disturbing picture of the scale of discrimination among veterinary professionals. It is clear from our report that we must all do more to eradicate discrimination from our workplaces. It is deeply disappointing to see that there has been no improvement over the last two years and clearly unacceptable that so many members of the veterinary team continue to experience discrimination, particularly from members of our own profession.

“These conversations may be uncomfortable for the profession, but we cannot shy away from them. Whether we have personally experienced or witnessed discrimination or not we all have a duty to ensure the veterinary team is a safe and supportive environment for everyone.

“It’s encouraging to see a clear link between supportive working environments and lower levels of discrimination, and these workplaces also appear to address discrimination incidents better when they do occur. It’s incumbent on all of us to work towards improving conditions across the board and making sure all veterinary professionals can feel supported and positive about their working environment.

“BVA will continue to play our part in the Big Conversation and I encourage every veterinary professional to reflect on what role they can play to improve equality and inclusion for the whole team.”

Sex discrimination remains the most common type reported (40% of incidents) followed by race discrimination (30% of incidents). Almost a quarter of incidents related to age (23%) and one in five (19%) of the incidents were discrimination around pregnancy or parental leave.

BVA launched their “Big Conversation on equality and inclusion in the veterinary professions” following the publication of the statistics on discrimination in 2019. These conversations and the data from the report then fed into the work of the Good Workplace Working Group, which has produced the Good Veterinary Workplaces Voluntary Code and workbook. Further resources have been added to BVA’s Good Workplaces hub, including a recent suite of posters addressing the issue of microaggressions.

BVA is asking members of veterinary teams across the UK to join the #BigConversation engagement online and to consider how their workplace can provide an environment which fosters equality and inclusion for the whole team.

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