Ethics, Animal Pain, and We are Scientists

Today has been long and I feel I’ve acheived a lot. Thank you to everyone that has supported my attempt to reach vet school! I actually had someone in Sweden donate today so it really is a global effort and I am really touched!

I’ve just recieved my ethics approval so am able to start collecting data for my Dissertation!!! Very exciting and I will be getting my survey online when I wake up tommorow and would appreciate each and every response I can get 🙂

Something I am really wanting to talk about is animal pain, however as this is the subject of my dissertation I am really not wanting to cover it too much before I have done my data collection so I do not risk influencing anybody. I will go into this and you will have a weeks worth of writtings on it soon! 🙂

Anyways after all the work I have done today I also took this evening of to join my housemates at the free live music events in Gloucester. The first was part of the Gloucester Food Festival, and the second was in part of PARK:LIVE which was absolutely awesome. I even grabbed a photo to share with you 🙂 I thought it was very appropiate as the band was called “We are Scientists”

Gloucester Park Live Music Concert
Gloucester Park Live Music Concert

I also came across the Animals Inside Out exhibition on at the Natural History Museum until September. This is adapted from Gunther von Hagens bodyworld and basically shows the animals tissues, organs and blood supply preserved using silicone. I am so going spend a day down there with my sketchbook and camera to make use of such a wonderful resource before I head of to vet school! You can check out some of the exhibits here:

Until tommorow.

Gloucester Food Festival, Killer Whales, and the Vet School Diary Comic

Well today I took some time out as I heard that the Gloucester Food Festival was on, I’m kinda bored of the beans on toast/tinned tomatoes on toast that I’ve been living of recently so headed out to treat myself. The fact the sun was out led me to gamble leaving my coat at home, and I arrived to find around 50 stalls (twice the size it was last year!) amazing smells of cheese, sausages and meats. I treated myself to a 10oz homemade beef burger with british beef which was absolutely fantastic with real fresh squeezed lemonade! I also took the chance to chat to some of the local farmers exhibiting about how the weather had impacted their businesses.

Finding its way onto my twitter timeline this evening has been the book release “Death at Seaworld” which looks at how trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed in a marine park in Orlando Florida. The book is written by NYC reporter David Kirby who has gone behind the scenes interviewing former trainers and keepers to expose the emotional and psychological trauma that Killer Whales experience. This has included killer whales destroying the teeth on metal grates before having them removed by staff with powerdrills, calves being seperated from their mothers. It goes on to look at how a lack of safety protocols, and lack of formal training in recognising the precursor signs of an attack all lead to the killer whale being a misunderstood and abused animal. You can read more about the book on amazon here:

[amazon_enhanced asin=”1250002028″ /]

Ok, one of the ideas I’ve been toying with for the Vet School Diary is a weekly comic of highlights from the past week. Here is the first one ever (and yes my hair is constantly compared to a hedgehog or porcupine)!

Vet School Diary Comic Week 1
Vet School Diary Comic Week 1

Can barely keep my eyes open

Hey Guys & Gals,

Just a quick update tonight as I am literrally falling asleep. It’s been a really long day and I’ve got an early start tommorow.

Today has been filled with letter writting, survey design and an interesting twitter debate on the Badger Cull with #agrichatuk. I’ve also spoken to loads of new people on twitter, and my campaign is starting to pick up traction. This site even though I only started it 2 weeks ago is already getting over 100 visitors and readers a day and the numbers are simply growing daily!

I am planning a big push with the media towards the end of the month once I get the majority of my dissertation out of the way. Plus I am also planning on spending an afternoon reviewing the books that I have collected.

Today I also got some more DVD’s onto EBay which you can view here:

To be honest I am not really keen on Ebay because of the huge charges. I sold the Angel Doll DVD the other day for 99p plus £2.25 P&P (the max Ebay allows). It cost me £2.20 to send it, and another 50p for the padded envelope. Ebay charged me 10p final sale fee, and then paypal charged me 23p in fee’s leaving me earning just 21p for my effort. I think therefore these will be the last DVD’s that I actually list as I would earn more from actually taking them to one of the bring & buy shops.

In other news I actually spent an hour on the exercise bike, I’m sitting at my desk for such long periods at the moment that I’ve started to get some lower back pain from it the past few nights when I’ve finally laid down. Hopefully tonight with my exercise I won’t 🙂

Night all

Passports, The Plague, Vaccinations, Zoonosis and Cowpox

Thank you to everyone that has supported me in my attempt to get to vet school so far! I’ve now very nearly raised my first semesters tuition and every little does help!I’ve also decided that for days where I’ve not been sponsored I should donate the space to a worthy cause.

Todays sponsor is SOS Dairy

Well today I feel like I have done a thousand things, here’s a quick roundup. My current passport expires in  2014, whilst I can renew my passport whilst living in another country it is extremely expensive (nearly 200 Euros whilst renewing it before I go is only £70). I filled out the form for it and it’ll go in the post tommorow. I also got my first parcel of DVD’s that I sold on Ebay into the post. I spent some time reading up the government advice for travelling to Slovakia, it seems to focus on booze tourists who travel to Bratislavia for stag parties more than students though… Actually an interesting fact there is that Bratislavia only become a stag destination after hosting a football game where fans discovered the cheap booze.

Today I learnt that the Plague was still alive out there in the wild when I read a tweet from Oregon VMA. A man attempted to recue a stray cat from choking on a mouse and got bitten, he didn’t seek medical attention until experiencing fever like symptoms and local doctors diagnosed it as cat scratch fever. It was around a week before he was correctly diagnosed with Plague. Now he stands to lose his fingers and toes, you can read the full story here: If caught in time Yersinia pestis is responsive to antibiotics if caught in time. This case highlights the importance of seeking immediate medical attention for any bite from a stray animal, and if possible ensuring that the animal is captured for tests.

Zoonosis are a important consideration when working with any animals, and indeed it is not just animals passing disease to humans, but also humans passing disease to animals. In fact one of the biggest break throughs in modern medicine actually came from a zoonotic disease called cowpox in 1976. Cowpox was a mild disease that causes a few weeping spots (pocks) on their udders but little discomfort, Milkmaids occasionally caught cowpox from the cows causing them to feel off-colour for a couple of days and some pocks which usually were on the hands.

A doctor called Edward Jenner noted that those that caught cowpox did not suffer from Smallpox. Using this he started to experiment by infecting someone never exposed to smallpox with cowpox, later testing whether they could be successfull infected with smallpox. This zoonotic disease provided the first ever vaccine of modern medicine. In fact Vacca in latin means Cow, and Jenner’s house has been made into a museum here:

Till tommorow…

Sponsor of todays Diary Entry is SOS Dairy
SOS Dairy is a campaign by dairy farmers against price cuts being forced onto them by milk processors and supermarket causing them to make a loss. Whilst the cut may only be 5p/litre an average cow in the UK produces around 8710 litres of milk a year, this means that 5p causes a loss of £435.50 a year per cow. Dairy units now commonly have upwards of 100 cows meaning that the average unit will lose over £43,000 a year. It makes no sense that milk which costs money to produce is cheaper than bottled water which just bubbles up from the ground naturally. I urge all readers to use the letter templates made available by the National Farmers Union here:

An Eureka Moment…

Sometimes the lightbulb just goes on, today was one of them and its left me buzzing! I really am Vet School material and I really have learnt a lot.

I’ve spent the past day visiting my big brother and catching up as I am not sure I will get another opportunity before I leave for Slovakia. Today travelling home I grabbed a copy of the New Scientist to entertain me on the train as my laptop battery was low. Anyways this is kinda how it went…

Read loads about the Higgs particle which even though was several pages can be summed up in three words – “They Don’t Know”

Read about Climate Change actually being a good thing as the earth has been cooling and heading towards another ice age so we are preventing that by global warming… Then another article saying that the earth was previous warmer than predicted… And then another saying the earths poles are swapping round… Summed up as “No general consensus”

Read about Stem cells in court in the USA as other countries have been offering unproven/untested stem cell therapy with adipose tissue stem cells… This reminded me of a lecture series I attended at BSAVA Congress by Dr Daisuke Ito on the use of Stem Cell therapy for Spinal Cord Injury with some rather promising results with Olfactory Ensheathing Cells.

Then there was genetics… More using genetics to diagnose disease and how genetic counsellors will be needed as testing for one disease may also highlight unrelated risk factors for other diseases such as cancer…. Reminded me of the reading I had done about how a retrovirus was used 10 years ago to replace the genes within canine RNA that caused Haemophilia B giving a cure. And made me wonder again why this had never made it to market… There was then a article looking at how inbreeding could be reversed using epigenetic treatment to allow small groups of endangered animals to have a more diverse gene pool. Then I started thinking about the genetics of disease, CPV (Canine Parvo Virus) has several different strains, with just 1 protein difference on the gene affecting the virulence & pathogenesis of the disease.

One area that really did interest me is robots made out of inflatable rubber… Can see so many surgical applications here as instead of metal instruments using inflatable rubber would decrease tissue trauma and reduce the risk of accidental damage.

There was also a article on why there had been no tissue cells from Lonesome George (the last giant tortoise of his kind that recently died) been frozen. Suggesting that cloning could be used to restore extinct/endangered species. Ethically this is a tough area for me as I am not sure whether restoring species is morally right when their natural habitat no longer exists…

Microbes in the house, especially the kitchen… One of the gals in the year above me actually did a similar experiment as part of a Microbiology Project… She went round swabbing toilets around the university to see what she could culture (grow)… Microbiology taught so much in actually identifying unknown bacteria and different classes that I was shocked at just how much I knew.

All of this set my brain off looking at the stuff I had actually learnt over the past 4 years, and I realised that I actually knew more than I had realised. Whether it was how a tumour has a complex microenvironment, to how RNA can be modified, to routes of actions of medications, working with bacteria, climate change, ecology, zoology, cloning and reproductive technologies, the genome, physiology of different tissues, disease, and more. It actually shocked me just how much is there waiting to come out…

I now need sleep, so will leave it on that note until tommorow 🙂

Monday Night…

Well today for want of a better word as been long! Its now early Tuesday morning as I finally have the chance to write this, and I am absolutely exhausted.

I’ve spent today catching up with my brother, and his wife (who is actually Hungarian so been picking her brains a little too). Its been nice to catch up as its the first time I’ve seen them in 2 or 3 years (I am extremely independant and time just seems to fly by)… There was a little shock at just how much I’ve done these past couple of years, looking back sometimes I am actually shocked at how I found time for it all… However its all good as my CV is now pretty long…

Other than that spoke to a guy looking to move to Gloucester soon to work on aeroplanes, was an interesting conversation as I’ve been in Gloucester now 4 years. Kinda the end of one stage and start of the next! Also apparently I sold a DVD bundle on ebay whooop! Lol never again as out of the 99p that someone paid I am getting something like 50p… Wasn’t worth the time it took to put them on there. Apparently my current housemates had some success with a car boot sale yesterday so I am going try and do that myself next week! If I can get rid of a couple of bits I will be well on my way to my first semesters tuition whooooop! 🙂

Anyways I really must sleep! Till tommorow…

What I think a vet really is…

First of all today has been really exciting, found out registration is on the 13th September, spoken to some of my future classmates on Facebook, visited my grandparents for the first time in 9 years (and probably the last for the next 4 years), and now I am visiting my big bro.

Anyways I was asked the other day on twitter why I wanted to be a vet, being limited to 140 characters for my reply meant it was really short and concise. I’ve decided I should do a summary of what I think a vet really is…

I think a vet needs a love of animals to show compassion and care towards them

I hear a lot of people say that they want to be a vet as they don’t like people… In my opinion a vet needs to be a great people person and communicator to be a proper advocate for animals. A vet tends to be there when an animal needs a voice most whether that is to convince the poor owners that it is time to let fluffy go, or to explain why what they’ve read online is actually in fact wrong.

An Educator
Improving animal welfare starts with education, whether that is the proper care of an animal, the nutrition of that animal or just being able to explain what is wrong with the persons pet in plain english.

An Advocate
A vet is a voice for animals, and should take every opportunity they are given to improve animal welfare by speaking up. A vet should be confident in what they are saying, and able to deliver that message to make an impact.

A Problem Solver
A vet needs to be able to solve problems, whether that is through logical deduction, previous experience.

A Conservationalist
I believe that the best people to lead conservation are vets, during veterinary education ecology, plant biology, epidemiology and more form a large part of the veterinary curriculum. Vets therefore have a greater grounding in the big picture to consider the issues from a broader perspective.

A Learner
Veterinary knowledge is rapidly expanding, and after qualification it is the vets responsibility to ensure that they are up to date on current knowledge. A thirst for knowledge and hunger to learn is therefore essential for any vet

Hopefully you have a little more understanding on just what a vet really is… It is not as well paid as people assume (nowhere near a doctors salary) and it is the love for the animals that keeps most vets in the job. Senior vets earn between £44,000 – £53,000 a year, the full breakdown is available on the UK’s official graduate website here:

Till tommorow…


Animal Welfare Ramblings and the RSPCA on a Saturday Night

RSPCA Conviction and Welfare Statistics 2011

Thank you to everyone that has supported me on my journey to vet school! I know money is tight at the moment however giving just £1 will give animals an advocate to fight for them for the next 40 years!!!

Today has been interesting, I’ve not done as much of my dissertation as I had hoped as I got distracted by other things. However it really has been an eye-opener of a day.

I started with a discussion of the currently legislation for prevention of cruelty to animals in the UK, basically the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which replaced the Protection of Animals Act 1911. This was a much needed update to the legislation which had previously concentrated on farm animals and missed out companion animals (which were not as common). The Animal Welfare Act 2006 gives animals the 5 freedoms of

  • A suitable place to live
  • Suitable food and water
  • To be able to express normal behaviour
  • To have the social companionship requirements met (whether that be with others or alone)
  • To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

The biggest change it brings in is for animals at risk of harm to be confiscated from a person before suffering injury or harm. It sets the maximum fine of £20,000 and up to 51 weeks in prison. It also gives the power for issuing lifetime disqualification (ban) orders against people owning or keeping animals. Today however thanks to a conversation on twitter I became aware of the fact that the sentancing guidlines do not allow for this to be enforced. The sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty (avaliable here) state that offencing is Summary (cannot go to county/crown court) and with a maximum sentance of just 6 months which doesn’t match the maximum set in the AWA 2006 for some reason. If you know the reason leave a comment below as I am curious!

There were several tweets on my timeline at the time complaining about the RSPCA having 1.25million reports of animal cruelty yet only around 1000 prosecutions… I know there is only around 350 inspectors within the country yet this number sounded wrong to me so I did some digging. I found the RSPCA Trustee Report and Accounts 2011, and found this on page 12…

RSPCA Conviction and Welfare Statistics 2011Now looking at the Number of convictions there is almost a 27% increase from 2010 even though the amount of cruelty complaints invesitgated remained around the same. And more to the point this shows the statistics being given on twitter to be completely wrong. I support and respect the job RSPCA Inspectors do, and it is important to remember that a telephone call to the RSPCA may not always be a report of cruelty. The RSPCA get called for advice, rescuing animals (for example a fox stuck behind a shed) and more.

I know in relation to other offences the sentencing for animal cruelty is weak, however I believe in disqualifying these people from owning/keeping animals they have a lifetime sentance as they will never experience the unconditional love that animals can give. In terms of updating the law, longer sentences would be good, however what urgently needs investigating is why the sentencing guidelines do not give magistrates the power to prosecute to the full extent of the law.

Now this led me on to the government epetitions website and I did a quick search on animal cruelty. It gave me 3 pages of results of 47 petitions all basically trying to do the same thing, all with under 2000 signitures. My understanding is that a petition needs to reach 100,000 signitures before it will be discussed, that it will be discussed by the backbench committee if they have time, and that to be discussed it needs to be proposed by a MP. The last I heard was that the backbench committee already have a full calender and that no extra time i scheduled to hear these petitions – or at least this was the reason given as to why the convicted london rioters losing benefits petition was not discussed even with 258,00+ signatures.

Sadly even the major animal charities with media coverage fail to meet the goal of 100,000 signatures as shown with their petition for overhauling dog laws in the UK here Now I personally believe that working together rather than competiting against each other is the way to go, and so I would like to see a single person or organisation stepping forward to research the situation properly and fully, and to run and manage a campaign to fix these gaps in the law.

I am against animal cruelty, I applaud the RSPCA for the work they do, and I as a potential vet will work to see animal welfare improved.

Please do consider my give a pound appeal.

A long day…

I was so tired when I wrote this last night I forgot to press Publish, so apologies for the delay…

Thank you to everyone that has donated ! Every little does help and it really is appreciated as it all adds up! I added Give a Pound yesterday which is my challenge to find 40,000 people to give just £1 over the 4 years… To be honest just so long as I can raise £10,000 by September I am good for the first year and hopefully those reading and enjoying my diary will also help to keep me in vet school! Yesterday I broke the 300 people reading my diary entry so really getting exciting!

Today really has been long, I’ve written over 100 letters that I need to mail to potential sponsors, done some work on the website, and also spent the majority of the day working on my dissertation.

Also I have spoken to a few dairy farmers with the cut in price of milk at the dairy gate, its encouraging a lot of innovation. There is a dairy farmer who has been dropping of a free pint of milk explaining just how little he recieves for it and asking people to buy directly from the dairy with great success. In addition there is a twitter campaign running with the #sosdairy hashtag, and a name and shame scheme for those paying less than production.

At the moment the supermarkets that are paying above the price of production are:

Sainsburys, Tesco, M&S and Waitrose

I would urge you to consider supporting the UK Dairy industry, farmers are usually the last people to go on strike as they are too busy working and looking after their animals. However I personally believe  that they need our support and I will be looking to buy my milk direct if I can.

You can also check out my previous post which has some interesting figures about the UK Diary Industry here:

Till tommorow…

Gathering Momentum… And Badgers

RSPCA Badger Cull Leaflet

Well today has vanished… I worked most of last night on my dissertation and went to bed around 11am this morning sleeping until 6 (I know its bad however ethics side of dissertation is done Whooop!).

Today loads of people on twitter have messaged me encouragement and support, including the Ross Veterinary School over in the USA which was really touching! I am so grateful for every single person that does this as sometimes it looks impossible yet these tweets just remind its just difficult, not impossible.

Anyways, I’ve also had my first approach by a news site to feature an article on me and my struggle to raise funds (yay!) which will be appearing early next week! Also planning on talking to the local papers next week as well now that I have a plan forming. Going make a big change to this website over the weekend to hopefully make it a bit easier for me to raise the money I need.

I would rather get as close as I can to the £40,000 that I need before I start vet school as people I am talking keep saying how hard second year is. I want to be able to focus purely on my studies rather than having to worry about being able to afford to stay there.

And the Badgers…

Anyways back to animals, now today Defra won a legal battle to cull (kill) badgers to prevent the spread of TB. This is actually something that came up in the finals for my degree so I will say a few words here to give you a quick understanding of why a cull is the wrong move.

TB (Mycobacterium bovis) is a infectious disease that can be passed from badger to badger, or badger to cattle. It causes big losses to the cattle industry each year of around £90m/year. Badgers live in groups of 3 – 15, and are social animals with interactions between groups for matings common.

Now with TB control there are 3 possible options of:

  • Culling badgers which reduces the number of hosts avaliable
  • Vacinating badgers which reduces the number of susceptable hosts (hosts that can be infected)
  • and Husbandry to reduce the contact between cattle and badgers

Ok, so now picture this scenario, there is a cull of badgers and they miss one that is infected with TB. This badger then comes into contact with other badgers and infects them. The problem is still there…

Now if you picture loads of badgers being vaccinated, and one being missed. Now if this badger comes into contact with the vaccinated badgers, it cannot pass the disease on. And when this badger dies the disease dies with it.

Vaccinating is the best long term solution to this problem, and in fact steps have already been taken to change the current legislation so that this can be carried out. The vaccine itself is BadgerBCG, and can only be administered by injection. This means that badgers have to be captured to be vaccinated. At the same time as being vaccinated they are also microchipped so as to be tracked. Obviously some control is needed here, and there is FERA license that needs to be obtained from a 4 day training course in addition to licenses for Cage trapping.

In 2010-2011 72 Lay vaccinators were trained, 93 farmers got involved covering 111 square kilometers and 1171 badgers were vaccinated. In this area there was a decline in transmission to cattle.

We should be encouraging and supporting wildlife, unfortunately the UK Government likes sticking band-aids onto problems instead of resolving the cause, and this seems to be another case of that. Maybe they need to remember that human TB, Smallpox, Polio were all solved via vaccination and not by culling humans…

RSPCA Badger Cull Leaflet
RSPCA Badger Cull Leaflet – click to view full size