The majority of Australian veterinary surgeons work at government-funded animal clinics, and the salary of a registered vet can exceed $300,000. Many also offer specialised training and certification programmes as a way to gain more experience. In addition, the Association of Veterinarians and Animal Practitioners (AVAAP) reports that Australia’s $25 million animal welfare industry generated $9 billion in revenue in 2012 (compared with $2 billion in 2007).
In the late 1980s, when the then-prime minister Paul Keating was a young student at Oxford, his family’s home in north Western Queensland became a local zoo. Keating spent hours watching the animals go out and how they behaved, including how they moved inside the enclosure.
“I remember asking my dad if he could get me a camera. Well, he got me a telephoto lens and I spent a whole day just watching,” Keating said on a recent trip to Queensland to talk about how and why pets were so often treated as “things to be bought and sold”.
“To me, it was clear to me that [zoos] were here to entertain … or to keep exotic birds away from people who might get hurt and then the birds might breed. I was fascinated with the creatures and the way they moved, but I wasn’t a zookeeper or a vet. I was quite interested in animals, but certainly not in the way that I would later become.”
He started at Royal Roads University’s Veterinary College, but soon moved on to the University of New South Wales (UNSW). His interest in zoology eventually led him to study zoology at UNSW, which began him on the path to a career as a veterinary surgeon. There, with the help of a degree in veterinary anatomy, he gained the required experience to become a state-recognised veterinary surgeon and eventually a full-time professional.
While he was studying veterinary surgery, in 1992, Keating met Bill Leek, who had worked as a zoo veterinarian while writing a textbook on the subject. “Bill was an interesting character from my perspective,” says Keating. “He was a very funny and enthusiastic guy who was very keen to teach me more.” Later that year, the two embarked on a relationship that lasted 26 years.
They were married in 1997, after Leek had died. “I really think we married in part because, although I liked animals very much, we didn’t know how to make them come out
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