From fielding unexpected questions outside the Taj Mahal to concerns about the future of his profession, Yorkshire vet Peter Wright has been revealing all at this weekend’s Countryside Live in Harrogate.
Thirsk-based veterinarian Mr Wright, a former apprentice of the late Alf Wight - aka James Herriot - was at the showground to meet fans, sign copies of his new book ‘My Yorkshire Great and Small' and answer questions from the public on stage.
His appearance came at the end of another whirlwind week for the veterinarian and co-star of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, which has seen him carry out castrations on bulls as part of his day job, launch his latest read at the White Rose book cafe in Thirsk and do some TV work for another programme, Big Week in the Wild, alongside conservationist Bill Oddie.
“It’s been quite a busy week really but the practice always has to come first,” said Mr Wright.
Asked what messages he wanted to get across to the public, Mr Wright told The Yorkshire Post he wanted to share his concerns for the future of the veterinary profession.
“Our profession is changing, whether it’s for the better I don’t know,” he said.
“I am concerned that we haven’t got the right intake of veterinary students. We are selecting people that are extremely academically able but whether they have got the personalities and the skills to become successful veterinary surgeons is a different kettle of fish.
“The reason I say that is we have so many youngsters now who join the profession and leave it within the first year or two years because they become totally disillusioned with it and some of them get the degrees and don’t join the profession at all, I think that’s a massive waste of resources.
“If we have got our selection criteria right, how is it that they leave the profession in droves?”
So what personality traits make for a successful vet?
“You have got to be able to get on with people from right across the spectrum of society. You have got to communicate with people on the levels they want to be communicated with.
“In the veterinary world there are many different ways of tackling a particular problem and I think sometimes you have got to tailor-make your approach to a patient depending on who the client is, I think a lot of vets struggle to do that.”
Mr Wright, who said he was going into “semi-retirement” next year, is used to being put on the spot at events such as Countryside Live, but it is sometimes in the most unexpected of circumstances that he is approached by fans of The Yorkshire Vet - now in its ninth series.
“I went on holiday to India and whilst I was there I went to the Taj Mahal and I was standing there looking in awe at this incredible spectacle when I felt a tap on the shoulder and I turned round,” the vet said.
“There was a couple standing there and the chap said I know you from somewhere. As soon as I opened my mouth with my Yorkshire accent, ‘oh, the Yorkshire Vet, I’m from Australia’. We got chatting and he said, ‘Can I just ask you about my cat, it keeps attacking me’, so I did a consultation at the Taj Mahal with a couple of Australians and I thought that was quite bizarre really!”
A question he is sometimes asked when quizzed by the public is about his favourite and least favourite animals.
“One of the questions that comes up is ‘which animal scares you the most’ and I think my answer to that is snakes.
“If you’ve got a bull that’s going to charge at you or a dog that is going to bite, there’s warning signs. If you have a snake there, they have such dispassionate eyes with no emotion whatsoever. They just sit there looking at you and you don’t know if they are going to strike, whether they are happy or what’s going to happen, so they put me out of my comfort zone really.”
Asked what else he would have become if he had not set out as a vet, he said: “Going back to when I was at school, I’m from a farming background but my grandparents gave up when times were very hard and my grandfather became a farm manager.
“When I qualified it was really difficult to get into veterinary school and I said to my mother one day, when she asked what I was going to do if I didn’t get into veterinary school, that I might go farm working and she was horrified because she knew how hard it was.”
He admitted: “Really, I didn’t have a plan B other than that so it was either go for it, or I don’t know what I would have done really, but I would have to have stayed in the countryside because if I had to go to a city I think I would have withered away, I could not live in the city.”