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Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on Thursday 20th February 2003 at the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London.

Present:  the President Prof. A. R. Michell and 22 Fellows and guests.

Apologies for absence had been received from 18 Fellows.

Minutes of the meeting held on 23rd January 2003 had been circulated and were approved.

Matters arising:  none.

Correspondence:  none.

Any Other Business:  none.

The President welcomed the guest speaker, Mr. David Watson, who took as his title "Reports from the Front - In Search of Reality".

Mr. Watson's theme was "the map is not the territory".  The important thing is to conquer the territory, not the map.  However, nowadays the imaginary - hyper-reality - is becoming more real than reality, and media such as TV and the Internet are superseding real life.  People begin to converse about the TV presentation, not the reality, until the time approaches when there may be no reality behind the depictions.

Where does power lie?  Do the popular press now set the Government agenda?  Newspapers and political programmes now make politicians want to please them, and electors have become consumers.  This is the real source of power, rather than the ballot box.  However, we must not sleepwalk into new situations.  Drop a frog into boiling water and it will leap out, but slowly heat a pan of cold water with a frog in it and the frog will cook.  The veterinary profession may be in danger of being cooked in exactly the same way.

The Government is no friend to the professions.  We have the Competition Commission, pharmacists trying to cherry-pick profitable veterinary lines, and clients encouraged in demanding expectations, partly by the reality of other providers, and partly by the unreality of 'TV vet' shows.  We need to ensure that we secure the territory, irrespective of the map, and it is the situation on the ground which counts, not that in reports or consultation documents.

Mr. Watson concluded by quoting Herbert (1689) - Knowledge is madness if good sense does not direct it.

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