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TV vet escapes RCVS censure

A TV Vet who faced disciplinary charges from the profession’s governing body following her outrageous comments on television earlier this year about ‘unhealthy’ Bulldogs escaped censure last week – but was warned to be more careful about making such public pronouncements in future.

As reported previously, vet Emma Milne had appeared on the BBC’s investigative programme Real Story in June of this year, the subject of the programme being ‘unhealthy;’ breeds of dog. Milne had commented that Bulldogs were inherently unhealthy, due to their breeding and went onto describe them as "mutated freaks" and that "there wasn’t a healthy one in the country". She repeated the allegation on live TV the next day when she appeared alongside a Bulldog breeder on GMTV.

Many outraged Bulldog owners complained about Milne’s comments to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Initially, the college sided with the vet and declined to take any action. However, following hundreds of further complaints, the RCVS Preliminary Investigation Committee launched an investigation into the matter and met on Thursday, October 14th to discuss the matter. Milne defended her comments, saying that her contribution to Real Story had been edited to appear stronger than it was, although she had no such defence for her comments on ‘This Morning’, which was broadcast live.

The RCVS Press Office declined to make any comment to OUR DOGS on the hearing the following day, seeming almost to deny all
knowledge of any such hearing. However, one of the breeders who complained to the RCVS, Mrs Ginette Elliott of Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, subsequently received a letter from Oliver Codrington of the Professional Conduct Department who informed her that the Committee had found no disciplinary charges to answer.

Mr Codrington wrote that the Committee had taken into account all comments on both sides of the argument, together with various press articles concerning Milne’s broadcast comments.

Mr Codrington wrote: "The views of the Preliminary Investigation Committee are that Miss Milne’s comments, while clearly edited to be hard hitting, were illustrative of a viewpoint that is shared by many in the veterinary profession and were arguably defensible.

"The complaints against Miss Milne provoked considerable discussion on the merits of either side of the argument (for and against the breeding of Bulldogs) but ultimately the Committee were, as a whole, in agreement that the College cannot interfere with veterinary surgeons expressing personal viewpoints on issues of animal welfare –indeed, this is one of the obligations of the profession."

The letter went on to state that the Committee could find no evidence of serious professional misconduct against Milne and considered the matter closed. He added: "The Committee were, however, minded to issue Miss Milne with some advice on ensuring that viewpoints are expressed in less inflammatory language and clearly attributable as personal views than those of the profession at large."

Ginette Elliott told OUR DOGS: "I didn't expect too much as I believe the RCVS is managed largely by vets who have little or no experience of being in practice. However, at the very least, they should ensure that their members stick to established facts when talking to the media and not their personal opinions.

"Miss Milne speaks with authority on subjects she knows very little about unfortunately, she misuses her MRCVS as her stamp of authority and does not rely on established facts."

Mrs Elliott concluded: "The RCVS should be as concerned as dog breeders are at the young, newly qualified, inexperienced vets going straight from school to television and media and setting themselves up as experts in everything pertaining to animals."

Emma Milne told OUR DOGS that she had nothing to add as "the letter is self-explanatory".

She added that she stood by her comments about bulldogs and was happy to be quoted as saying so.