Never Work With Animals by Gareth Steel

I love a medical memoir, I think it’s just having a glimpse into these careers which society puts on a bit of a pedestal and actually getting to the nitty gritty reality of it. My prior knowledge of veterinary practice – treatment is expensive, must love their job because they get to work with animals all day and basically a fictionalised world somewhere between Lucy Adams’ Animal Ark series and ITV’s Wild At Heart. But this book gives what feels like a very honest and realistic depiction.

Steel talks us through the minefield of farming, domestic and exotic aspects of being a vet. He started working in a rural clinic where he covered as the local farm vet seeing to the cows, sheep etc but also caring for the domestic animals in the area too. I never really considered how difficult it could be to work as a vet on a farm as it’s usually only ever focused on during lambing season where it’s got a bit of a rosey tint but some of the stories he tells makes you worry! As his career progresses he moves around a number of practices and appears to move to less rural areas and focus on more domesticated animals. But my goodness I don’t envy the on call shifts he puts in working with either classification of animal.

I found the reality of being a vet really interesting and enjoyed the comparison to doctors because it’s true we would never expect our GP to perform surgery. And the moral aspect of deciding when to treat and when not to was intriguing too. I loved his stories of animals that have stuck with him and how some real imagination was used at times to help them.

There were some chapters which came away from Steel’s direct experiences and were more scientifically/theoretically based. I found some of these chapters really interesting; like understanding vaccinations, but others felt preachy and I zoned out just skimming. I understand it’s making the book educational in addition to the entertainment but I would’ve preferred it to be more heavily about his experience.

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