History of the Central Veterinary Society

The Central Veterinary Society was formed in 1870. As one of fourteen regional veterinary societies formed across Britain in the later 19th century, it was a product of an age when anyone could, and frequently did call themselves ‘veterinary surgeon.’ To try and set themselves apart from the unqualified masses, qualified vets banded together into societies where they shared clinical insights, engaged with veterinary politics, and forged a sense of community. Though times have changed, these remain the core activities of the Central Veterinary Society today.

The first president of the society was George Fleming, later Principal Veterinary Surgeon to the Army and twice President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. In his 1872 address to the society, he bemoaned the fact that veterinary surgeons were looked upon as ‘little, if at all, removed from the illiterate farrier or cow-leech.’ Resolving to improve this situation he pushed through the 1881 Veterinary Surgeons Act, which reserved the title ‘veterinary surgeon’ for properly qualified individuals. He also became the first president of the National Veterinary Association (later the British Veterinary Association) in 1883. Nearly 30 years later, the Central Veterinary Society played a crucial role in fashioning this organisation into the shape it is today, when Professor J. McQueen, Central representative and future NVA president, advanced proposals to amalgamate the regional divisions under the NVA.

By virtue of its location in London, the Central Veterinary Society has always drawn on an eclectic mix of talent from vets in government, academia, research, the armed forces and practice. Thanks to their insights and commitment, it has persistently punched above its weight in influencing BVA policy. For example during the 1990s, Professor John Bleby, a stalwart and extremely long-standing representative to BVA council, persuaded the BVA to act on the Central’s views that sow stalls should be banned. Sadly Prof Bleby died earlier this year, but the Central retains its voice at BVA Council thanks to its past-president and BVA representative for London, Stephen Barabas. It also continues to foster clinical excellence through its annual CPD series catering for young and old.