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Vets should not engage in wanton killing of wild animals

by Darren

PLEASE NOTE: The person above is NOT the vet who is the subject of this post. It is the only picture I have of someone with a gun and therefore seemed appropriate to the post.  He is carrying it for my protection as I was traveling through an area of Africa known for raids by armed bandits.  I would never condone the killing of wild animals, even if my own safety were at risk.  Chances are, if it is, then I’ve put myself in that position and it’s not the fault of the animal.

I’ve made a complaint to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and, if you feel as strongly about this as I do, I’d like you to do the same.

Last week I learned, via various news sources, that a vet called Keith Talbot of Eden Veterinary Practice, Fife, had killed an exceptionally large fox at his parents’ house in Maidstone (Kent) on Boxing Day.  The fox was then strung up by its back legs and photographed by the national press alongside a seven year old child.

I’ve reproduced below the substantive part of my complaint, including links to the articles so you can see for yourself and form your own interpretation.  At the foot of the page are instructions for how to submit your own complaint, should you wish to do so.

PAGE 15/16: WHAT HAPPENED:

For background please see the following:
Daily Mail
Sky News
Telegraph
Metro

As you will see from the articles linked above, reports indicate that Keith Talbot killed two foxes on or around Boxing Day 2010.  He claims the reason for doing so was because he believed that one of the foxes killed his parents cat.  It therefore appears that he took it into his own hands to exact retribution.

This complaint is more about his conduct after killing the foxes, but it does help to understand the mentality of the post-killing behaviour to look at the circumstances.  He says that a 19 year old cat belonging to his parents, which usually sleeps outside on a front porch, was killed by a fox.  He therefore brought from Scotland traps and guns to exact retribution over the Christmas period.

You will know from your experience that attacks on pet cats by foxes are extremely rare.  They usually avoid each other.  Keith Talbot admits that when first asked by his father if foxes would attack a cat, his response was “I don’t think so.”  He has no way of knowing if the cat was killed by a fox, and certainly no way of knowing which fox he alleges.  The cat could simply have died in the extreme cold experienced at the time, and therefore been seen as food, by a fox or indeed by a stray (or even pet) dog or other animal.  Does this vet think that he has the right to go around Maidstone killing any animal he sees?

Whatever your views on hunting with hounds (which the vet in question clearly supports) or other forms of barbarism against wild animals that are inconvenient to humans, the main focus of this complaint is about his behaviour in bringing his actions to public attention, presumably to lend support to those who wish to return to hunting with hounds.  At the time there had just been a leak from Government indicating that there would be no vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 in 2011.

Mr Talbot appears to have proceeded to hang the fox by it’s back legs to display it for media attention, then allowed a child to be photographed with it, again presumably to encourage negative behaviour towards wild foxes.  This has led to hysterical headlines and claims by friends of Mr Talbot that foxes are a risk to pets and children.  An internet website associated with friends of Mr Talbot has produced a competition encouraging others to kill foxes in order to make macabre size comparisons, and offered a prize.

PAGE 17: WHAT PARTICULARLY DISSATISFIED YOU? (PLEASE LIST)

a) Stringing up the fox post-killing was a clear breach of the second guiding principle in the RCVS guide to professional conduct.  Keith Talbot did not “ensure that an animal under his care was treated humanely and with respect.”

b) He has contravened the fifth principle of the same code, which requires Veterinary Surgeons to “uphold the good reputation of the veterinary profession.” Indeed he has brought the profession into disrepute by encouraging the wanton killing of wild animals, and by stringing up and gloating over an animal he has chosen to destroy.

c) He has further brought the veterinary profession into disrepute by allowing the dead fox to be posed with a seven year old child. This conveys the message to children that it is acceptable to exact retribution from wildlife that they find inconvenient, and that it is ‘cool’ to go around killing animals.

PAGE 17: WHAT WOULD BE A SATISFACTORY OUTCOME TO YOUR COMPLAINT?

The vet concerned should be reprimanded for his conduct by the Royal College, and informed that future conduct of this nature will lead to his removal from the register.

(NB: you may think that I should have asked for him to be removed (or ‘struck off’) immediately, but I do think in these cases it is important to keep expectations reasonable. However, if you feel differently then please feel free to say what you feel should be done in your own complaint).

How to make your own complaint:

You are welcome to download a copy of my completed form to use as a template. Indeed if you agree with my opinion then you are welcome to use some of my words.  However, it is important that it is your complaint – if everyone just submits a copy of my form then it will give the opportunity to RCVS to just treat it as (and say they have received) only one complaint.

I must say it’s a cumbersome process which deters people from making complaints.  I’m worked up about this and yet it’s taken me nearly a week to complain because I had to find time to read an 18 page form, consider other documents such as the guide to professional conduct, and then fill out a seven page form.  Hopefully I’ve made this easier for you, so please do make a complaint if you feel strongly about this situation.

Anyway, the process:

Download the form. I’ve redacted my own address etc, but other than that it’s the complaint I submitted.  There are 18 pages in all.

– The actual complaint form starts at page 11. Replace my information with your own and your own views.  Also, please feel free to disagree with me if you do – it’s your complaint, I’ve already made mine!

– Make sure to keep your content temperate and reasoned. As with all complaints, being polite but getting your message across at the same time is important.

– Print the form (just pages 11-18, the actual form), sign it, and send it to the address on page 18.

– Please let me know that you’ve complained by adding a comment below. All comments are moderated before publication so if you’re just letting me know and don’t want it published, then please say and I won’t.

– Finally, as ever, thanks for your help.