Earlier this month, the London-based veterinary college launched its latest “naked calendar“, which is released on an annual basis in aid of charitable causes.
One particular picture included in the calendar sparked controversy, showing a line-up of naked male students each holding the hooves of a sheep that had been placed in front of them.
In an open letter published online, Professor Stuart Reid, principal of the RVC, apologised for offence caused with regards to “any unnecessary handling that was not for the direct benefit for the animal”, adding that there is “no place for harassment or threats” directed at the students involved.
Professor Reid stated that “there can be no denying” naked calendars have become increasingly contentious in recent years, explaining that the RVC’s use of animals in its naked calendar has been highlighted as a particular concern.
“With the publication of this year’s calendar, there has been a very significant backlash against the RVC and our students,” the professor said.
“Some of the threats communicated have been obscene, threatening and, in my view, illegal and will be reported as appropriate to relevant authorities.”
Professor Reid stated that following the negative reaction to the calendar, the RVC made the decision to remove some elements of the calendar from public circulation and to issue an apology.
He added that the calendar was made with the knowledge of several members of faculty.
“What we get right as an organisation reflects well on all of us; but when we get it wrong, I must take responsibility and, in this case, we got it wrong on a number of fronts,” the academic said.
“[The calendar] may have fallen short of the standards some expect in terms of animal welfare – but that responsibility is mine. The complaints and attacks should be directed to me and me alone.”
The BCVA defended those involved in the creation of the calendar, explaining that the act of tipping a sheep is “a standard handling mechanism in animal husbandry”, and is “widely recognised as being safe and pain-free for the animals”.
“The BCVA feel that singling this image and these students out for attention is grossly unfair,” the organisation stated, adding that photographs of firemen posing with cats that sometimes appear in calendars appear to have “escaped criticism”.
“Some of the vitriol spread in their direction from members of the same profession, and one with the highest incidence of mental health diagnoses and suicide within the profession, is both grossly unfair, unfounded and should be condemned.”
The RVC’s student union said in a statement that while they understood the calendar may have caused upset to some people, they felt the negative response “has been disproportionate, inappropriate and unjustified”.
“We are horrified and appalled by the severity of personal attacks and harassment our students have received from these online communities, simply for being associated with the calendar,” the student union wrote.
One Twitter user who criticised the image of the students with the sheep in the RVC naked calendar said they felt “sickened by this bestiality”.
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