Vegans have led complaints over a photo of naked veterinary students in a fundraising calendar, labelling the picture as “bestiality” before the college pulled the controversial calendar.
Earlier this month Twitter user @hargrump, or “Incognito Jones”, shared pictures from the upcoming Royal Vet College’s (RVC) annual calendar.
“Call me an extremist but anyone else sickened by this bestiality?” the tweet said.
The Twitter account posts regularly about animal welfare issues and in the tweet called out the RVC, which is part of the University of London, using the hashtag “Go Vegan”.
#farm365— Incognito Jones (@hargrump) November 6, 2019
Call me an extremist but anyone else sickened by this bestiality?
Latest photo shoot for the 2020 @RoyalVetCollege calendar on sale now. Smh #vegav #govegan #WednesdayWisdom #veterinarians #farminguk pic.twitter.com/JpCcZpAUr7
The calendar photo features a lineup of veterinary students, posing nude, holding sheep up by their front legs, using the sheep’s head to cover their private parts.
The tweet caused quite a stir and many people shared the original poster’s disgust with the photo.
“Don't tell me that these guys are veterinarians,” someone said about the photo.
“Yep. In their final year. Imagine a student doctor taking a photo like that with a child under his care in a paediatric ward,” Incognito Jones replied.
The Veterinary Vegan Network also took offence to the photo, labelling it as “deeply disturbing”, in a now deleted Facebook post, according to The Guardian.
According to an open letter from the principal of RVC, Professor Stuart Reid, students in their final year of college produce a calendar and a proportion of the proceeds go to charities.
The British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) defended the photo of the students, explaining what the students are demonstrating in the photo is a standard practice within the industry.
“In the image in question, the vet students are demonstrating a standard handling mechanism in animal husbandry – that of tipping a sheep to allow examination of their feet and other areas which would not be examinable in a standing sheep,” the BCVA said in a statement.
“This is widely recognised as being safe and pain-free for the animals.”
The BCVA said The Vegan Vet Network had singled out the picture, as they didn’t take offence to other photos in the calendar adding doing so was “grossly unfair” and “should be condemned”.
The BCVA also said the RVC should be “making their decision on evidence rather than a small, vocal social media thread”.
Vets’ nude calendar resulted in ‘obscene’ threats
The statement from the BCVA was released on November 8, the same day as the open letter from Professor Reid.
While Professor Reid acknowledged the calendar had raised money for many worthy causes over the years, he said despite the “broad acceptance” of nude calendars, there has been an undeniable divide in opinion, not just within the college, but also in the wider community.
“The calendar has received both support and criticism in the past and the use of animals has been raised as a concern in particular,” he said.
“With the publication of this year’s calendar, there has been a very significant backlash against the RVC and our students.
“Some of the threats communicated have been obscene, threatening and, in my view, illegal and will be reported as appropriate to relevant authorities.”
Professor Reid also stated some of his staff knew about the calendar and said two things needed to be done following the relentless backlash.
The first being the calendar, or parts of it, needed to be removed for circulation and “an apology offered for any offence caused regarding any unnecessary handling that was not for the direct benefit of the animal”.
The listing for the calendar on eBay appears to have “ended”, on November 6.
The second thing Professor Reid said needed to be done was having the RVC community “re-examine the values we bring to our day-to-day life”.
No student, “individually or collectively” is being blamed for the photo, according to Professor Reid, who took sole responsibility for the photo.
“There is no place for harassment or threats directed at my students. They were doing something with the best of intentions,” he said.
“It may have fallen short of the standards some expect in terms of animal welfare – but that responsibility is mine. The complaints and attacks should be directed to me and me alone.”
The RVC Student’s Union criticised the college saying it had “failed” in their duty to protect the students.
“Their (RVC’s) statement has given credence to the negative response from a minority group online, who now feel emboldened to target individual students with personal threats,” the union’s statement read, urging students to get in contact if they need support.
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