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HomeFarming NewsFemale and younger vets ‘more likely’ to experience online abuse  
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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Female and younger vets ‘more likely’ to experience online abuse  

Online abuse of veterinary professionals is nearly as common as abuse in-person.

That is according to new statistics from the British Veterinary Association’s latest Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey.

According to the newest findings, 1 in 2 vets working in clinical practice experienced online abuse last year.

The survey offers BVA members the opportunity to anonymously share their opinions, thoughts, and experiences of working in the field.

The new figures show that the impact of online abuse can be significant.

Vet bashing is the term that usually describes online abuse or berating of veterinary staff or veterinary clinics/practices.

According to the findings, vets who had experienced online abuse in the past 12 months were more likely to report that they will have left the profession in five years’ time to pursue another career (29% vs 9% of vets who had not experienced abuse).

The survey found that female vets (45% vs 30% male) and younger vets (49% under 35 vs 27% those 55 and over) were more likely to experience online abuse.

In another survey in 2021, 57% of vets in clinical practice reported that they had felt intimidated by clients’ language or behaviour over the past year.

This was an increase of ten percentage points since the body posed the same question in 2019.

Other findings:

  • An unfair review (90%) was the most common type of online abuse that vets reported;
  • Almost 50% of those who experienced online abuse had experienced abusive language (46%)’
  • One in three (33%) experienced trolling;
  • A further three in ten (31%) experienced online harassment.
Respect your vet team – end abuse

Following its latest survey, the British Veterinary Association is mounting a new campaign entitled ‘respect your vet team – end abuse’.

The body encourages all animal owners to ‘think before you type’. It urges the public to consider the impact that trolling, harassment, and unfair reviews can have on vet practice staff members.

Fair, respectful, and courteous comments

Speaking following the publication of the survey results, the British Veterinary Association’s president, Justine Shotton, said:

“The current pressures on vet teams are immense, and it is simply unacceptable that their jobs should be made even harder by abuse from clients, either online or in-person.”

“We are very aware that a visit to the vet may be an anxious and uncertain time for animal owners, particularly when the prognosis is poor or the necessary treatment is costly.”

“However, it is absolutely unacceptable to take these frustrations out on veterinary staff. I would ask all owners to think before they type and consider whether their online comments are fair, respectful, and courteous.”

She said that most clients are cooperative and grateful for the care their animals receive.

However, a small minority are creating an “intolerable environment” for veterinary professionals in person and online.

“I know from experience the huge impact that a single aggressive or intimidating interaction with a client can have on your mental wellbeing.”

“When incidents mount up, it is no surprise that they can affect our sense of job satisfaction and ultimately drive skilled veterinary staff out of the profession.”

Toolkit

As part of its new campaign, BVA is releasing a toolkit with new resources to support Team Vet in protecting staff and limiting the frequency and impact of abuse from clients.

These include new practical tips on how to protect veterinary staff from online abuse. It also has produced downloadable posters and graphics and a series of blogs.

Furthermore, BVA is also working with Vetlife to tackle the effect of abuse on mental health and wellbeing.

The association has stated that abuse of the veterinary community is “unacceptable”.

Therefore, it is asking all animal owners to be:

  • Kind;
  • Patient;
  • Courteous.
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