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World Veterinary Day 2023
Stories from NZVA members
World Veterinary Day takes place on 29 April 2023 with the theme of promoting diversity, equity and inclusiveness in the veterinary profession. To celebrate our diverse workforce, the NZVA is sharing stories and videos from our members about their work and lives as veterinarians.
Principal Advisor, Animal Products
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Lead Veterinary Epidemiologist
OSPRI New Zealand
Bethany (Beth) Duffill-Brookes (she/her)
Senior Advisor, Animal Welfare Science
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Kia ora, ko Beth tōku ingoa.
World Veterinary Day is a great opportunity for us to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the veterinary profession, and it’s fantastic to have this opportunity to share some of my story.
When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to be a veterinarian. I spent a lot of time with our family pets and at our neighbour’s sheep and beef farm. From a very young age I was out there bottle-feeding lambs and being involved in whatever ways I could. I always wanted to be a large animal vet and imagined working in rural practice in the UK. I remember at the age of 15 spending a day at a local abattoir for work experience, and finding the whole process fascinating – especially the meat inspection. I had no idea then that my first veterinary role out of university would be working in the meat industry.
I graduated in 2015 from the University of Bristol, having completed the Official Veterinarian (OV) course as part of my elective in my final year. Following graduation, I used this OV qualification and got a job working in the British meat industry. I started as a reliever in the Somerset area (south west of England) covering a variety of meat premises, including large- and small-scale poultry plants, pork processors, sheep, beef, horse and bobby calf premises. A number of these premises were multi-species, giving me a variety of experiences as a new vet in the industry. I was then based at a plant for over a year, which processed sheep, goats, pigs and bobby calves. Part of my role was also meat inspection, and I was lucky that my university had such a strong veterinary public health programme as I learnt much of this as a student. As a new graduate I had a lot to learn, primarily about how to work with a team of people who’d been in the meat industry for longer than I’d been alive. I had good technical knowledge but learnt fast how to make improvements in this work environment, as well as how to communicate effectively with different types of people.
Whilst working in the UK, I applied for a role within Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI’s) Verification Services (VS). The idea of working in a public health and animal welfare system where my knowledge and expertise had effects nationally and globally was really exciting to me so, when the opportunity became available, I jumped at the chance. My partner (now wife) and I then organised ourselves to move across the world to Aotearoa New Zealand. It felt like a huge decision, as we’d never visited NZ and didn’t really know what we were coming to, but it has turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We’ve now been married for five years, have two cats and have made NZ our home.
I worked for VS for six years, and in the last three years was also an Animal Welfare Coordinator. Part of this role has involved training new and existing team members in animal welfare, reviewing animal welfare cases, creating reports, and working with other animal welfare interested stakeholders. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of my role. In particular, building relationships with colleagues across the country, and providing support and mentorship on working through animal welfare cases were highlights of the role.
For the last two months, I’ve been working as a Senior Advisor for the Animal Welfare Science team within MPI. It’s been great to join a team of people focussed on animal welfare, with such a broad scope of knowledge and experience. I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenges of the new role, from public inquiries through to working with stakeholders.
I thoroughly enjoy being a non-clinical veterinarian. Many people think of vets only as those in practice, when there are a number of roles out there that are not directly client-facing. All these roles are really important in maintaining and improving animal health and welfare, as well as the health of the human population and the environment (One Health). Throughout my career I have been able to use my knowledge and expertise to help animals and protect animal welfare and public health. I feel very privileged now to be working solely in animal welfare and helping drive positive change in this space.
My advice to anyone considering a career in veterinary science is to think broadly about what being a vet means. Having a degree in veterinary science allows you to take a career in many areas, including practice work (small animal, equine, food production, exotic/zoo animals etc), animal welfare, pharmaceuticals, research, epidemiology, public health and teaching.
There is a huge variety of veterinary jobs out there so it’s certainly worth keeping your options open if you do decide on becoming a vet.