When I became directly involved in animal welfare work around 17 years ago it became immediately clear that money was always going to play a part. People and businesses have to make money in order to contribute to their chosen aspect of animal welfare and continue to do so. What I was not prepared for was the unpleasant side of competition which seems to get worse in line with the size of profit people are chasing.
Initially there were very few course providers and the atmosphere was reasonably professional, competition was a good thing because everyone was trying hard to do better than the others, Compass introduced the concept of accreditation for courses and others soon followed for instance. As time passed it seems that almost anyone decided that this was something they could do to make a living and in recent years the number of course providers has mushroomed and they all offer courses that sound similar, some have accreditation, some do not, some are taught by people with teacher training, many do not. It was at this point, probably three or four years ago that things started to get decidedly unprofessional.
Even the process of accreditation is being abused now, what happens is, the provider joins an awarding body, gets some courses accredited then fails to achieve the required standard. Before they are dropped by the awarding body they leave and move on to another one and repeat the cycle every couple of years.
A couple of years ago Compass was subjected to outright copying of courses which were then falsely attributed with inflated levels so they would appear to offer more than the originals, I suppose we ought to be flattered but we are still stunned by what happened. It now seems that the only way to appear better than anyone else is to publicly criticise the competition, even when there is no basis whatsoever for such behaviour.
The introduction of professional codes of conduct should have dealt with some of this activity particularly as most state that the signatory must not ‘make claims of superiority or disparage colleagues or members of other organisations or professions’. Sadly this simply added another way for the unscrupulous to make themselves appear superior, they make a big point about signing up to a code of conduct as part of their sales talk, then simply ignore it!
More recently such unprofessional criticism seems to have become more subtle with the advent of closed internet forums which provide a breeding ground for rumours, misinformation and downright untruths. They are spread to unwitting members who repeat what they have been told more publicly believing it to be true.
What I would dearly like to know is when the motivation to educate in support of animal welfare became a scramble for bigger and bigger profits at any cost to integrity and professionalism? For many, contributing to animal welfare has become a very low priority.
Needless to say, Compass will keep on doing what it has always done, providing high quality courses at affordable prices that will truly contribute to people’s knowledge of animals. We will also not be lowered to the level of criticising other providers, spreading rumours or untruths, the quality of our courses always has and always will do the talking.