Never Work With Animals by Gareth Steel

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Never Work With Animals by Gareth Steel

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Category: Animals and Wildlife
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: If you've read All creatures Great and Small and you're thinking this book might be a suitable sequel, think again. It's a book for the aspiring vet and to provoke thought amongst the rest of us. It isn't suitable for younger readers but it certainly lives up to the billing.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: February 2022
Publisher: Harper Element
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008466589

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I don't often begin my reviews with a warning but with Never Work With Animals it seems to be appropriate. Stories of a vet's life have proved popular since All Creatures Great and Small but Never Work With Animals is definitely not the companion volume you've been looking for. As a TV show the author would argue that All Creatures lacked realism, as do other similar programmes. Gareth Steel says that the book is not suitable for younger readers and - after reading - I agree with him. He says that he's written it to inform and provoke thought, particularly amongst aspiring vets. It deals with some uncomfortable and distressing issues but it doesn't lack sensitivity, although there are occasions when you would be best choosing between reading and eating.

It's also aimed at the pet owner: you're best off knowing exactly what your vet does and why the bill you get at the end of the treatment is not as unreasonable as you might think. If this all makes the book sound rather grim, I'm not doing it justice. It does have the occasional touches of humour but the book has definitely not been written for laughs.

Steel joined a six-person practice in Northern Ireland when he qualified and quickly came to the conclusion that university had left him knowledgeable but not wise. In the twenty years which have intervened, the wisdom has been hard-won. For most of his career he's been a locum vet, working in first-opinion practices and needing to be a jack of all trades without ever acquiring a particular expertise in any one. He has a predilection for orthopaedics, partly because of its wonderful array of what he describes as boys' toys and because it's fairly simple. Putting that in context, I suspect that he means 'simple for a qualified vet' as opposed to the layman with an injured animal.

There are anecdotes aplenty, but - essentially- they're the vehicle for the points Steel wants to make. For me, the most enlightening was the subject of Gold Standard Care which is something which many veterinary practices pride themselves on offering. In effect, this can mean that more tests are done than are necessary at an early stage - and reduced funds are available for the essential treatment at a later stage. I have argued with vets about doing tests (which inevitably put strain on an animal) when the same treatment would be given if no tests were done. Steel would prefer a copper standard, where initial investigations would cost coppers leaving increased funds available for a possible major operation at a later date. And why is Gold Standard Care so important to many vets? Well, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the profit is necessary for the practice - for whatever reason.

I was very much in tune with Steel's views on whether or not animals are sentient. If you'd like to read more on this subject, we can recommend How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance, which goes into the subject in rather more detail, but Steel will definitely encourage you to reduce your meat consumption.

You'll also be encouraged to think about breeds of dogs and which ones have inbuilt problems: some dogs are bred, de facto, to have an uncomfortable life.

Steel backs up all his views with evidence. His explanations were full but still comprehensible to a scientific ignoramus like me. I'd like to thank the publishers for making a review copy available to the Bookbag. It was a fascinating read.

For a less-heavy read on the same subject, have a look at Letting the Cat Out of the Bag: The Secret Life of a Vet by Sion Rowlands.

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