In the UK actors playing veterinarians cannot handle animals like vets

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All Creatures Great and Small cast

In the UK in 2019 there was a change in the law regarding animals in entertainment which means that actors cannot handle animals like a true veterinarian because to do so would be to do something to an animal that it doesn’t require and the person doing it isn’t trained. I’ll be honest and say that I cannot find this piece of legislation. I had thought that it may have been attached to the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 but I’m not sure that it is.

The point of this snippet of information is that the actors who play the current version of the ’80s television hit All Creatures Great and Small can no longer stick their hands up a cow’s bum. This must have happened in reality when it was originally made which in retrospect looks surprising.

All Creatures Great and Small cast

All Creatures Great and Small cast. Picture in the public domain or fair use.


For international readers of this webpage, the television hit All Creatures Great and Small was a fictional series about a veterinary clinic in the country in which the veterinarians were often called out to treat farm animals. It was adapted from books by James Alfred Wright whose pen name was James Herriot. Mr Wright practised veterinary medicine in Yorkshire for 50 years.

The actor playing James Harriet in the current series is Nicholas Ralph who takes over from Christopher Timothy. He said that he was banned from handling the animals that his character was treating to avoid causing unnecessary discomfort which, as mentioned, is now banned under the law.

In order therefore to film the scenes where he is treating an animal they had to use an artificial one. A prosthetic substitute was used for calving scenes. Someone out of view swished a tail around by hand.

The new series has been revived by Channel 5. Other actors in the series are Dame Diana Rigg, Nigel Havers and Anna Madeley. It starts next Tuesday.

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