Standing on her shoulders: BVA celebrates centenary of women in veterinary

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is celebrating the 100 years since a ground-breaking change to the law allowed women to enter the profession in the UK for the first time.

To mark the occasion, the BVA’s officer team visited the Parliamentary Archives to view the document which opened the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Register to women on December 23, 1919.

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 removed the legal barriers that prevented women entering these professions as well as the civil service.

It allowed universities to award women degrees and paved the way for Aleen Cust to become the first female veterinary surgeon to be recognised by the RCVS in 1922.

Women now make up around 60% of vets on the register and around 80% of vet students.

BVA president Daniella Dos Santos said: “I am honoured to be a female president celebrating this centenary. Thanks to those women who went before me I have been able to join this amazing profession and do a job I love.

Their determination paved the way for change for which I am eternally grateful, and gave me, and the other four female BVA presidents before me the opportunity to represent our fantastic profession.

“Seeing the act which made this possible in person was an emotional experience for me and I know that my fellow officers were also delighted to be allowed access to a document which has had such a tremendous impact on our profession.

“Like me, Aleen Cust had only ever wanted to be one thing. 100 years ago she was working as a vet but not legally recognised as one. Today we celebrate women in our profession, but we’ve still got a way to go on equality, diversity and inclusion. We’re up for the challenge.”