Petition launched in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
A petition has been launched calling on the RCVS to investigate 'structural racism' within the veterinary profession.
Veterinary nurse Claire Burns started the petition on Change.org in response to the death of George Floyd in the USA. In it, she calls upon RCVS president Niall Connell 'to take urgent action to tackle racism that is an unacceptable but real part of veterinary medicine'.
She writes: 'Many other industries are pausing to understand the ways in which institutionalised and systemic racism prevails in their industry and as future and current veterinary professionals we recognise that it is our moral duty to denounce George's death, the police brutality seen against protesters and stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.'
At a meeting of RCVS Council on Thursday (4 June), Niall Connell spoke out in response to the recent events, and reiterated the College's commitment to diversity:
“Everyone is affected by this terrible event and we would like to stand in solidarity with our black colleagues who too frequently encounter incidents of racism in their lives," he said. "We grieve with our friends and colleagues. I would like to reiterate that RCVS Council and staff are committed to diversity and inclusion in its fullest sense. Black Lives Matter."
He continued: “I would like to reiterate that RCVS Council and staff are committed to diversity and inclusion in its fullest sense. Black Lives Matter. We are striving through the work of the diversity and inclusion group and other initiatives to build a diverse and inclusive profession, that has zero tolerance of any discrimination at any sort of level. We understand that change takes time. By working together we aspire to move forward and embrace a better future.”
But Ms Burns says this public statement 'is only the first step' and has called upon the College to reiterate and enforce the veterinary Code of Conduct, specifically section 17.5 which states:
'Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should be aware of and adhere to all of their responsibilities as set out in the relevant equalities legislation and should take steps to challenge unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation where it arises.'
Ms Burns writes: 'We suggest that the RCVS conduct and resource an in-depth review to investigate how racism pervades veterinary medicine and how structural disadvantage can be dismantled in veterinary organisations, businesses and vet schools. We are the whitest profession in the UK three per cent of veterinary professionals identify as BAME in our industry.'
She concludes: 'Structural racism has blighted our profession for some time, and we are late to the table in our commitment to dismantle it, we cannot remain silent on this issue without becoming complicit. We look to the RCVS to begin, and be transparent with, a programme that guides and supports its members on future anti-racism work and tangible support for our Black and other EM members.'
As of 10 am on Thursday (11 June), the petition has received signatures from more than 500 veterinary surgeons, nurses students and other members of the veterinary profession.