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Edward Elkan Memorial Symposium

In the midst of January exams I took myself down to London for the Edward Elkan memorial symposium ran by John and Margaret Cooper.

Before I continue, I should give a brief history to Edward Elkan. Elkan was a German born, jewish GP working in 1930's England. He had a passion for lower vertebrate and amphibian pathology, contributing to the early method of human pregnancy diagnosis using Zenopus toads. The first method at that stage which did not require the death of the animal used.

During the symposium family members and academics spoke of his, and further research in his field. It's fair to say I learnt a great deal during this half-day symposium, and it was a very welcome break from the rather tiresome slog that is revision. I've always caught all manner of creatures and creepy crawlies and collected frog spawn as a young child, but, I'm almost ashamed to admit, I've never had the same burning questions about how they 'work', as I have always done with other animals. In a few short hours, the passion of these speakers, both veterinarians and otherwise opened my eyes to the fascinating story behind these animals. It's highlighted to me a huge hypocrisy committed by most people (most of all 'animal lovers') about how some animals mean 'more' to us than others. Only largely recently do people bring their cats to the vets as soon as they would have their dog, reptiles and amphibians and fish serve merely a decorative function. I hate to believe that this is how I feel, but fundamentally, we don't understand these animals nearly as well as we should to own them. Most of us will admit that the goldfish "just died" and few would think about why and even less would act on it. True, it could be old age, but more likely it was poor water quality - our fault. Reptiles for example are very hardy animals, the main cause of illness is poor diet and husbandry - easily fixed and in our control, but only if recognised early! This is not the case with reptiles and certainly not with any 'lesser beings'.

I hope to retain a great deal from this experience but one thing that will most certainly remain with me is the true importance of ALL creatures great and small.


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