Dr Carol Gray
Sentient Student Member
I qualified as a vet in 1982, from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. My original intention had been to work with horses, but a couple of summers spent working in equine practice as a student put me off this career path; it had nothing to do with the horses, but the owners were extremely demanding. I suppose that’s where I started getting interested in client communication!
An increasing interest in small animal practice led to my first few jobs in charity practices and in various private practices around London. I ended up in a two-person partnership in London, and did this for six years. By the mid-90s, I needed a change of career. I moved to become head of an Animal Care department at a college in Suffolk, lived in Newmarket (so that I could indulge my passion for horses), and taught animal science, animal care and veterinary nursing for five years. By then, I had acquired my first retired greyhound (a shock to my three cats!), a decision based on my love of walking on the Newmarket gallops. I was instantly hooked on the breed. I researched greyhound racing (I had been to a couple of meetings in London) and decided that I would become involved to try to improve conditions for the dogs. (For those of you who are shaking your heads, yes, I know!). I bought my first racing dog at 12 weeks, unseen, from Ireland; she came over to the UK at a year old and was put into training near Newmarket. I have now had four retired greyhounds at home (although a maximum of two at one time!). Two were adopted from the Retired Greyhound Trust, and two were my racing dogs.
I applied for a job as the first lecturer in veterinary communication skills in the UK, based at Liverpool vet school, and spent thirteen happy years there, with lots of support from colleagues in the other vet schools in the UK and Ireland. We gradually ensured that communication skills appeared on all veterinary curricula. Working with actors to recreate difficult situations in practice was fun, scary at times and tremendously rewarding. While working, I studied part-time for an MA in Medical Ethics and Law with Keele University, graduating in 2012. My dissertation topic was informed consent, which kick-started my interest in the topic. The idea to convert this into a full-time PhD was growing, and I began a search for funding.
I am now in the middle of a 3 year PhD in the School of Law at the University of Birmingham, investigating informed consent through empirical research in veterinary practice. The direction of my argument is that vets and clients should look at consent as a way of protecting the interests of the animal. I will also propose that the requirement for consent indicates that the animal has a higher status than mere property. It is the first time I have considered, in depth, the moral and legal status of animals, and the literature review is challenging my views of animals in so many ways. I feel guilty that I am not vegetarian. I feel guilty that I enjoy horse racing (and, to a lesser extent now, greyhound racing). I feel that I have learned from all the animals in my life, and I am grateful for their contributions to my life. It is my opinion that any animal who is regarded as important, and worthy of remembrance, by humans has achieved a higher moral status, regardless of legal status. Although this will be challenged as an anthropocentric view, it is probably the easiest way to extend that status to other species of animal, and therefore, eventually, to all animalkind.