The following Q&A article and photography collection by Angus D. Birditt highlights and celebrates the work of one Navaratnam Partheeban - otherwise known as Theeb - a farm vet based in the South West of England and co-founder of The British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS). Read the following article, when Angus went to go and visit Theeb at Whittington Lodge Farm in the rolling hills of Gloucestershire, home to Cotswold Beef and one of the many farms he works alongside. Theeb is one of the rural lives that the Our Isles project has celebrated in its exhibition at Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, Wales, supported by the Arts Council of Wales.
Why did you decide to become a farm vet, Theeb?
I loved medicine and animals, and at first, I just wanted to be a general vet. When I started working on farms and gaining experience, I really enjoyed working in the outdoors with the larger animals. I also enjoyed having to deal with not just the single animal but to think about the whole herd or flock approach.
Where did you study?
I studied in Edinburgh, which was always my dream. Having been born there and being a proud Scot, it was the only place I wanted to study.
Why a passion for cattle?
I love working with cattle, especially dairy cows. They are very intelligent animals, and we rely on them for many of our food products. Looking after these animals is important to maintain high health and welfare, which then means better productivity. There is a lot of science and research into these animals which keeps this field of veterinary medicine very interesting.
The modern dairy cow is very different from the past. Farm animals are bred for the requirements of the population therefore through breeding, different characteristics are selected. Currently some of the factors we want in our animals are better food conversion, lower methane production and longer longevity, which are some of the aims of modern breeding. Also, when our tastes change, then our animals change. For example, traditional pigs were much more fatty but as we want lean meat, then our modern pig has very little fat.
Tell us about The British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society?
I co-founded The British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS) in 2016 with a colleague whom I studied with at Edinburgh. The veterinary profession is the whitest profession in the UK, and there is very little to support and promote ethnic diversity into the profession. After having faced many incidences of prejudice throughout studying and in my career, I felt it was important to create a society to help people in the profession who come from marginalized backgrounds.
We work with universities employers, the regulation bodies and veterinary societies to help make the profession more diverse and inclusive. Our work has also included working with the agriculture sector in building a more inclusive sector. Some of our successes have included talking at major conferences, running a diversity conference, supporting bursaries, creating university student groups, conducting research into racism in the veterinary profession and providing educational resources. We are proud to be finalists in the National Diversity Awards, which are being held in March 2021.
You can follow Navaratnam Partheeban on Twitter and follow The British Veterinary Ethnicity and Diversity Society (BVEDS) on the links below:
A Portrait of Navaratnam Partheeban - the farm vet and co-founder of The British Veterinary Ethnicity & Diversity Society (BVEDS) taken by Angus D. Birditt. The portrait will be included in the Our Isles exhibition at Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, Wales, which is supported by the Arts Council of Wales.