Updated: Feb 1, 2021
As a student-led organisation which aims to increase diversity through encouraging young people into veterinary and animal-related sciences, we never intended to be an ‘activist’ group. However, as the devastating events in America unfold and as people become more aware of the struggles black people have faced and continue to face to this day, we feel it our duty to speak out on behalf of students belonging to ethnic minority groups. We believe it would be irresponsible of us to encourage young people to join a profession which provides limited support to individuals from these underrepresented groups which is why we have chosen to write this open letter.
The personal accounts which have come to light over the last week may have come as a shock to many of you, however, for the majority of us who belong to the ‘BAME’ community, this is an uncomfortable reality. The veterinary and animal-related profession and the academic institutions which sit within it are by no means perfect in regard to systemic racism. It is an unequivocal fact that this profession is one of the least diverse professions in the UK. It is an unequivocal fact that the profession and academic institutions are aware of this yet have chosen to do very little to change it. It is also a fact that many ethnic minority students, vets, vet nurses, scientists and others have experienced racism within this profession (whether overtly or covertly) and yet little has been done to support these individuals.
Those who identify as part of the ‘BAME’ community encounter ongoing struggles and will likely continue to do so unless real change is made by everyone. Not every individual’s experience is the same and therefore there cannot be a single solution. In addition, it should not lie on the shoulders of these underrepresented people to initiate this change and provide all the answers.
Despite this, it has fallen upon Animal Aspirations to firmly push for real systemic change within our own university as we feel they have let us down. There is a need for transparency about what is currently being done to encourage and support ethnic minority students. There is also a need for effective systems to mitigate all forms of racial discrimination and to provide satisfactory outcomes when incidences do occur. A better established Equality and Diversity Committee is required, that actively listens to the voices of students and staff and acts accordingly. Finally, we believe it is essential that the burden does not lie with us and other ‘BAME’ students to hold the University to account and therefore we expect an external auditor to be employed to ensure these changes are followed through and progress is made.
In times like these we can choose to do nothing, stay silent and hope this moment passes; or (and more rightly so) we can push for positive and everlasting change. A change that will make our profession more diverse, dynamic and inclusive than ever. This is a call to action. A call to everyone to ask themselves how they can contribute to not only the current #blacklivesmatter movement but beyond for a more inclusive future society.
Animal Aspirations Team