Meet Fran: Small Animal Veterinary Surgeon, Vets4pets
"I think the problem is people get too worried about perfection and instead choose to do nothing, or getting hung up on 'being a hypocrite' if they aren't on track all the time. We have to stop this."
Briefly describe your current role and professional interests
I work 3/4 days a week in general practice where I enjoy the variety in first opinion work. My main interest is feline medicine. However, the rest of my life is spent blogging and writing about sustainable living and environmental issues using Instagram as a platform under @envirobite (which I am in the process of developing a website for), writing for the weekly newsletter 'Curious Earth' which aims to simplify environmental news, and running an Environmental Book Club, alongside managing a chronic invisible illness!
When did you know you wanted to work in the veterinary profession?
I've adored all animals as long as I can remember, but I think I was 14 when I decided for definite (after a brief spell of wanting to design roller coasters!). It seemed the perfect way to combine my interest in science and love of animals. As a kid I was always most interested in companion animals, however often being surrounded by wildlife and bird enthusiasts (including my partner, dad and sister), and witnessing the destruction we are doing to nature with my own eyes around the globe, my priorities outside of work are definitely with our wildlife.
What is your favourite part of the job?
As a first opinion vet, I love being part of a close-knit team and forming bonds with clients and pets alike. For me, my blogging and writing have been the best way to take action on the climate and ecological crisis. I feel more passionately about it than anything I have ever experienced, so spreading the word and connecting with likeminded people along with taking personal action seems the most appropriate way to create ripples and create accountability for my own impacts.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I have definitely had numerous periods where I have wondered if this career was the right choice for me, and have suffered from stress and burnout in the job, like so many others. It's taken me nearly seven years of being qualified to finally feel comfortable in my job and accept that I might actually be good at it. But taking a small step back to focus on my health as well as environmental issues is something that has helped hugely with this.
Do you have any tips for achieving a good work-life balance?
I have had no choice in the matter due to suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME for the past two years. It came on whilst training for a marathon and being forced to reduce my hours has helped enormously in achieving a work-life balance! My interests in sustainability have also helped to reduce the stress from my veterinary day job by giving me another focus, and it's great to have something I can achieve from home when I am unwell.
I think it's so important for people to be able to take a step back or diversify in the veterinary world if they are feeling the weight. The importance of a work-life balance cannot be understated, and I strongly believe we all need to live a little slower, tread a little lighter, spend time in nature, and focus on our wellbeing.
How do veterinary professionals currently help to drive sustainability?
As far as I'm concerned no matter who you are or what your job, is there are changes you can make to drive sustainability. I think the problem is people get too worried about perfection and instead choose to do nothing, or get hung up on 'being a hypocrite' if they aren't on track all the time. We have to stop this.
I had put off combining my sustainability side projects with my veterinary work for a while as I felt quite overwhelmed by it and don't run a business myself to enforce the changes. This is why I am so pleased Vet Sustain has come along! And I've felt empowered to combine the two since the group started.
What do you feel are the major opportunities to drive sustainability in the veterinary sector?
No matter which area we work in, there are things we can do - from reducing our carbon footprint in our small animal practices and advising on sustainable pet care to helping promote biodiversity and increased land use for carbon sequestration in the large animal world. Collectively we would be a significant voice to speak up about the climate and ecological crisis. I would love us to follow in the steps of other scientific groups by declaring a climate emergency and even forming a group of climate activist vets.
What are your top tips for veterinary professionals wishing to take the first steps to drive sustainability in their roles?
First and foremost has to be to read and learn as much as possible about the issues we face as a planet, trying hard not to let any personal investments influence our interpretation. We are all invested in the fossil fuel-driven world because it's all we've ever known!
Second to that is looking at any changes we can make in both our jobs and personal lives to become more sustainable, big or small, and then speak out and influence others to do the same.
If you could wave a magic wand and make one improvement to drive the sustainability impact of the veterinary profession, what would it be?
I think it would be simply to change the opinion and priorities of everyone in the profession so that we all have sustainability as a focus, and we are all on the same page and can work collectively together.
We only have one inhabitable planet and when species become extinct they are gone forever.
We have no choice but to act.
Meet the people who embed sustainability into their life and work
From the veterinary nurses who advise on responsible antibiotic use and lead welfare campaigns, to the practice managers who actively reduce the environmental footprint of their workplace — we recognise the scale of your impact.