Sentient The Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics

Dr Andrea Harvey

Sentient Veterinary Member

Brumby Working Party Spokesperson

 

Like many veterinarians I had a love of animals from an early age, and a strong desire to prevent suffering and improve the welfare of all animals that I encountered.   The decision to pursue a career as a veterinarian came in my early teens through my particular passion for horses, and experiencing the elation of successfully nursing my pony through a serious tendon injury.  From that moment, I threw myself into working as much as I could with any animals that I encountered growing up in the Channel Island of Guernsey, and was fortunate to be later accepted into Bristol Veterinary School in the UK.

 

During vet school, my interest in small animal medicine grew, and being mentored by some of the best feline clinicians including Tim Gruffydd-Jones and Andy Sparkes my interest in feline medicine quickly flourished.  I graduated from University of Bristol in 2000, and after spending a year and a half in general practice, I realized that there was room for many improvements in the care of cats in clinical practice.  I returned to Bristol Vet School in 2002 to undertake a residency in feline medicine funded by the Feline Advisory Bureau (now International Cat Care). I gained the RCVS Diploma in Feline Medicine and European Diploma in Veterinary Internal Medicine in 2005, and was recognized as a feline specialist in 2006.  I stayed on at the University of Bristol as FAB funded lecturer in feline medicine from 2005-2010. Throughout this I worked closely with International Cat Care and their veterinary arm, International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) in many initiatives to improve the well being of cats, such as the now International ‘Cat Friendly Clinic’ scheme.  I was awarded the BSAVA Woodrow award in 2012 for outstanding contributions in small animal medicine, largely as a result of my work with ISFM.  

 

Around this same time, ISFM was developing several allegiances in Australia, both with the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists, in beginning to also hold the membership examination in feline medicine in the UK, and with the Centre of Veterinary Education (University of Sydney) in delivering their post-graduate feline distance education course more internationally.  Through this, I came on a trip to Australia to work further with these groups, culminating in moving to Australia in 2011. 

 

In Australia I have been able to continue my work in feline medicine, running the feline department of Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) in Sydney.  However, living on my partner’s farm in the Southern Highlands, I was also quickly re-united with caring for many other species; sheep, alpacas, goats, parrots, chickens, geese, turkeys as well as horses.

 

It wasn’t until this time that I began developing a much deeper appreciation of broader animal welfare and ethics issues, and in Australia, particularly issues surrounding the welfare of wild animals, both native and non-native species.

 

Shortly after moving to Australia, I stumbled across the charity ‘Save the Brumbies’ (www.savethebrumbies.org), and it is through them that I learnt of the plight of Australia’s wild horses and how the charity had been set up following a horrific aerial slaughter of over 600 horses in Guy Fawkes River National Park of NSW in 2000, the year that I graduated as a veterinarian.  Over the last 15 years whilst I had established a career as a feline veterinarian, there seemed to have been little involvement in the veterinary profession in wild horse management issues, and little positive progress in this area.  I subsequently become more involved with the charity, joining their committee, adopting 6 brumbies who have joined the other animals at our farm, and initiating a fertility control trial at the charity’s NSW sanctuary, investigating the utility of immunocontraception.  All this work further sparked my interest in the welfare and ethics of wild horse management in Australia.   Searching for a way of raising the profile of these issues within the veterinary profession, I was delighted to be introduced to Sentient, by an inspirational colleague and friend, Dr Sue Foster.   

 

 

Working with Sentient I founded the ‘Brumby Working Group’ last year, my vision being

to form a group of veterinarians and other animal scientists to become a central resource of scientific information about Brumbies, develop more scientific evidence upon which to base decisions on the management of these unique wild horses,  and with time to be considered the ‘go to’ organization for welfare advice regarding their management.

 

Realizing the enormity of work required in this area, led me to take this a step further, have a break from clinical practice, and enroll in a PhD, which I plan to start later this year, on wild horse ecology and fertility control, with the Centre for Compassionate Conservation (University of Technology, Sydney), under supervision of Dr Daniel Ramp and Dr Fiona Hollinshead.  Compassionate Conservation is an emerging and growing discipline that promotes the protection of captive and wild animals as individuals within conservation practice and policy, in contrast to the common historical approach of individual animals being considered as metrics to be traded off for the good of populations, species or biodiversity.   

 

Many decisions regarding the management of animals and subsequent influences on their welfare are made without the involvement of veterinarians.  I believe that the veterinary profession needs to stand together and be more pro-active in assisting all animals to be recognized for the sentient beings that they are, and support them to be able to lead  enriched lives free of unnecessary physical and emotional pain and suffering.   Sentient is a wonderful organization that unites veterinarians in this aim, and I am proud and honoured to be a part of it.