Your vote matters
The general election is fast approaching, with the ballots opening on May 7th. To take part, you’ll need to have registered to vote before the 20th April.
Are you registered to vote?
Students used to be automatically registered to vote by their universities acting as “head of household”. However changes in the system have resulted in many being omitted from the electoral register and even if you voted last year you might not find yourself on this year’s list. Luckily, the window of opportunity is open for another 8 days. Register yourself online here:
If you’re not sure if you’re registered already, no worries! You can register multiple times. Also, don’t be put off if you can’t find your national insurance number; while it’s preferable to include it there is an option on the form to register without it.
Should I bother?
Yes. It will take 2 minutes and without doing it you won’t be able to vote. It’s like getting a ticket to an event you might not actually attend; you’re leaving yourself the choice so you don’t regret it on the night when everyone’s gone and you didn’t get your act together before tickets sold out.
Why is it important for me to vote?
Students make up a hefty proportion of the ballot, but we don’t seem to be good at leveraging our voting power to our advantage. In 2010 less than half of the 18-24 age bracket turned up to exercise their democratic rights, and this apathy was rewarded with tripling university fees, scrapping of sixth form EMA funding and reduced housing benefits to the under 35s. While students might not universally disagree with these changes, there was a lot of backlash and it wasn’t just because protests are a laugh.
We’re also in the position of being future members of the veterinary profession. We have, along with current practitioners, a unique insight into the needs of our field and we also in that role protect the welfare and rights of our loveable but disenfranchised patients. How the next government votes will influence the nature of the profession that we join when we graduate.
Some may have gravitated towards the veterinary sciences with the image of floating through life in an idyllic, Herriot-esque fashion; saving everything in their path and answering to no one. Really, though, lots of people are involved in creating and amending the legislation that enables us to do what we do, and that’s who you get to vote for. These regulations control, amongst many other things: protecting our privileges as knowledgeable individuals to prescribe and dispense veterinary medicines, regulating drugs to a reliable safety standard, laws to enforce movement restrictions/traceability to enable disease control and welfare acts that empower us to prevent animal cruelty.
As an added bonus, voting will help you to escape the empty feeling that comes with shirking your civic duty, elevating you above tax avoiders, jury service dodgers, litterers, possessors of overdue library books and the like.
The British Veterinary Association has produced a manifesto for changes they would like to see implemented on behalf of the profession under the next government. Some of the main points are outlined below:
Safeguard animal health.
• Protect access to veterinary medicines.
• Implement strong surveillance networks across the UK and Europe to protect the UK from exotic diseases and combat endemic UK diseases.
• Reinforce legislative and regulatory framework that supports animal health.
• Represent our professional concerns by lobbying for us in Europe.
• Direct resources and research with DEFRA to companion animals.
Promote animal welfare.
• Ensure existing legislation is enforced effectively and keeps pace with changes in society, e.g. growth in the use of internet to sell pets. Bring this legislation in line UK wide.
• New legislation to keep our standards as high as ever e.g. stun before slaughter.
Recognise the vital role of veterinary surgeons.
• Embracing partnership between vets and government, using our skills and knowledge for input to policy development and implementation.
• Ensure damage limitation on measures to reduce government costs e.g. closures of vet labs, tendering for Official Veterinarian services and the use of unregulated paraprofessionals on farms and in stables, so that they do not compromise animal and public health.
The full manifesto is short and very readable with more detail on specific actions required to achieve these goals.
Find it here along with what BVA president John Blackwell has to say:
Statistics used are from the ‘Swing the Vote’ campaign, read more about their work and the importance of the student vote here: