Re-inventing the wheel? Farm health planning, 1942-2006

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Humanities - Ctr for History of Sci, Tec

Abstract

This project examines the history of farm health planning (FHP), an activity which lies at the heart of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) current strategies for animal health and welfare and veterinary surveillance, and features strongly in its considerations of future veterinary services. Formerly known as veterinary preventive medicine, FHP has been pursued in different forms and with varying degrees of success, throughout the post-WWII era.



Combining a critical analysis of the science and practice of FHP, 1942-2010, with an investigation into its economic, social and political aspects, this research reveals how and why vets, farmers, scientists and government officials problematised and addressed impediments to production, and with what effects. It shows how disease targets were selected, the assumptions, approaches and outcomes of research relating to them, and the framing, selection and implementation of administrative and technical methods for their resolution. Historical findings are used to analyse present-day policy making, and form a basis for definite recommendations on the future framing, implementation and evaluation of FHP.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description One medicine? : investigating human and animal disease, c1850-2015
Amount £563,000 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 10/2011 
End 09/2016
 
Description Delivering disease prevention : insights from history 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/Parliamentarians
Results and Impact A powerpoint presentation delivered to approximately 20 members of Defra's Farm Health Planning team in 2010. It situated the ongoing drive for farm health planning within a longer history of efforts to prevent livestock disease on farms. Drawing parallels between past and present, it extracted lessons to be learned from history.

Defra (Farm Health Planning team)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Farm animal welfare : a regulatory history 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This presentation examined the early history of farm animal welfare regulation in Britain.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Farm animal welfare : a regulatory history 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation documented the state's assumption of responsibility of animal welfare in the 1960s, setting it within a broader history of concern for animal cruelty

Section not completed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description From foot and mouth to farm health planning : the value of history to livestock disease control 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact This presentation discussed some of the ways in which history can inform current understandings of, and decision making in livestock disease control. This was illustrated using selected historical examples, including foot and mouth disease policy, fowl pest vaccination in the 1960s, and farm health planning / veterinary preventive medicine

Section not completed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Healthy animals, healthy profits : preventing livestock disease on British farms, 1960-75 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Healthy animals, Healthy profits' is the catchphrase currently used by the British government's Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to advertise its farm health planning (FHP) scheme. FHP is a voluntary initiative, delivered by practising vets, paid for by farmers, and facilitated by government. It aims to prevent disease and foster herd health on the basis that 'prevention is better than cure.'



This paper reveals that FHP is the latest in a long line of semi-public initiatives designed to promote preventive veterinary medicine on British farms. It focuses particularly on the initiatives of the period 1960-75, asking why veterinary preventive medicine rose to political prominence at this time, how vets, farmers and government officials defined it, what measures they devised to implement it, and with what effects. I argue that despite widespread support for the principle that prevention is better than cure, it was infrequently put into practice. After addressing the reasons for the limited uptake of veterinary preventive medicine, I ask whether history can provide any lessons for current animal health policy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Intensive farming and the redefinition of livestock health and disease, c1930-70 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This paper will examine how intensive farming practices affected both the demographics of livestock disease, and the ways in vets and farmers understood, evaluated and acted upon it. Starting in the 1930s, and accelerating after WWII, British agriculture was transformed into a state-supported, specialist, large-scale venture, heavily dependent upon external inputs, and oriented towards maximising production at lowest cost. This process of intensification enabled new diseases to take hold. It also drove the development of production benchmarks and health surveillance, as a result of which, conditions not formerly identified as diseases were classified as such because they undermined herd or flock productivity. In association with these changes, health was redefined. No longer a state in which disease symptoms were absent, it became a condition of optimum productivity, whose achievement was assessed against specified rates of growth and reproduction
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Intensive pig production and the redefinition of health and disease, c1930-70 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Starting in the 1930s, and accelerating after WWII, British agriculture was transformed into a state-supported, specialist, large-scale industry, heavily dependent upon external inputs, and oriented towards maximising production at lowest cost. This paper will examine the impacts of this process on the demographics of livestock disease, and how it was perceived and managed by farmers, vets and other experts.

Focussing on intensive pig production, it documents the emergence, identification and problematisation of new kinds of 'obscure' diseases, and the so-called 'diseases of production.' Attempts to detect these conditions, understand their aetiology, and to assess and limit their impacts precipitated the reconceptualisation of health and disease. Formerly viewed as a consequence of germs invading susceptible bodies, disease became an ecological product of pig bodies interacting with their environments, a condition influenced as much by feeding, breeding, housing and stockmanship as by pathogens. At the same time, health ceased to equate to an absence of disease symptoms, and became one of several factors contributing to optimal growth and productivity. In this way, it became possible to pursue health and productivity without attending directly to pathogens or disease. The paper concludes by examining the implications of these shifts for the traditional experts in livestock disease, veterinary surgeons
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Pets, pigs and politics : towards a new history of veterinary medicine 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact This paper presented an overview of the goals, findings and outputs of the project 'Re-inventing the wheel? Farm health planning, c1942-2006
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Rethinking health, disease and modernity : a view from the farm, c.1930-70 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Focussing on veterinary understandings of livestock health and disease, this paper calls for a rethinking of the history of infectious disease concepts. Most existing literature on this topic highlights the reductionism of post-germ theory concepts when compared to earlier, more ecological understandings of disease. While interest in social and environmental determinants of disease did not disappear entirely, until the 1980s it was largely confined to individuals critical of industrial modernity and its environmental impacts. Then, new and emerging diseases such as AIDS, antimicrobial resistance, environmentalism, and the backlash against intensive farming brought ecological conceptions back into mainstream medical thought.

My paper will challenge this narrative by revealing that ecological conceptions of livestock disease were actually constitutive with agricultural modernity. The mid-century shift to more intensive husbandry systems and the privileging of livestock productivity led to the emergence of new diseases, along with new ways of thinking about and managing them. Formerly viewed as a consequence of germs invading susceptible bodies, livestock disease became an ecological product of bodies interacting with their environments, a condition influenced as much by feeding, breeding, housing and stockmanship as by pathogens. At the same time, health ceased to equate to an absence of disease symptoms, and became one of several factors contributing to optimal growth and productivity. In this way, it became possible to pursue health and productivity without attending directly to pathogens or disease. The paper concludes by examining the implications of these shifts for the traditional experts in livestock disease, veterinary surgeons.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity