The BVA has revealed the results of a survey in which 24% of working veterinary surgeons and vet students said they have experienced or witnessed discrimination in the past year.

The survey, which received 2445 responses from BVA members, found that 16% of vets and vet students have personally experienced discrimination within a veterinary workplace or learning environment in the past twelve months, while 20% had witnessed discrimination.

Senior colleagues were most commonly responsible for the discrimination (47% of incidents), with discrimination from clients accounting for 35% of incidents.

Sex discrimination was the most common type reported (44% of incidents) and was particularly prevalent in academic settings and in production animal, equine, and mixed practices.

Race discrimination was the next most commonly reported (27% of incidents).

Respondents also gave details of discrimination in relation to other protected characteristics, including age, sexuality, disability and gender reassignment.

Younger vets were more likely than older vets to have personally experienced discrimination in the past year (27% of those under 35 had experienced discrimination).

Female vets were more than twice as likely to have experienced discrimination than their male colleagues (19% and 8% respectively).

The incidence of discrimination was higher amongst vets from a range of minority ethnic backgrounds. Those who described their sexual orientation as bi, gay or lesbian were twice as likely to have personally experienced discrimination in the past year.

Despite the high incidence of discrimination reported, responses to the same survey showed that only 56% of the profession feel concerned about discrimination.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos (pictured right) said: "This is the first time anyone has collected such a significant body of evidence on this issue and the results are truly shocking. It is completely unacceptable that so many members of the veterinary team are subject to discrimination not just from clients but from members of our own profession.

"Worryingly, it seems that the scale of the issue will come as a surprise to many members of our profession and so it is vital that we all join the conversation and reflect on what role we can play to improve equality and inclusion. The veterinary team must become a safe and supportive environment for everyone. We cannot accept anything less for ourselves, for our colleagues and for our profession."

Only 12% of respondents were satisfied with how their incident had been dealt, rising to 23% among those who felt able to report. Daniella said: "Many of the experiences documented in our report are shocking and distressing and this distress is often compounded by what comes next. It was very saddening to hear that so many people have felt unable to report their experiences or that their reports were handled badly by those who received them.

"Experiencing discrimination can be very traumatic, without the ‘double-whammy’ of having your complaint dismissed or mishandled by managers or senior staff. We need to make sure everyone who experiences discrimination is able to get the outcome they deserve.

"Through the discrimination questionnaire we heard many distressing stories from vets, students, vet nurses and other colleagues. We are incredibly grateful to them for sharing these with us so that we can raise awareness of what’s happening in our veterinary workplaces."

To raise awareness of the scale of the issue, the BVA is inviting all members of the veterinary team to join a "Big Conversation on equality and inclusion in the veterinary professions", starting with the release of its report on the current situation on discrimination, which can be downloaded here, then inviting everyone to join online engagement sessions through social media and BVA members to feed in views via their regional representatives ahead of Council on 24 July.

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