Rural to Urban Movement
During the late 1800s in European countries, a variety of factors including rapid population growth, increasing industrialization, changing agricultural practices, and movement of people from the country to urban settings were influencing the evolution of veterinary medicine. It was apparent that trained animal care providers were needed to contribute solutions to issues caused by these factors. A multifaceted approach to manage these changes in society compelled governments to devise policies to improve standards in public health and agricultural practices while managing negative economic influences. Veterinary medicine was evolving in terms of education, research, and professional organization and its practitioners were eager to participate.
"From the late eighteenth century, onwards, Western Europe underwent a massive growth in population and consequently in animal food demands" (Swabe, 1999, p. 95). The urban demand for meat and milk had risen as rural inhabitants flooded into newly industrialized towns in search of work (Woods, 2017, p. 27). A growing population demanded adequate supplies of food, and of higher quality, which had an impact on agricultural policy. Bols & De porte (2016, p. 38) describe the social setting in 18th century France as one of change in which agricultural development became a priority again, to create class of well-fed and strong agricultural labourers capable of contributing to increased food production levels. Changes in agricultural practices occurring around the same time included field enclosures, better drainage systems, and crop rotation practices that improved yields of crops and, in turn, increased feed for livestock. Using selective breeding techniques, farmers could raise healthier animals, and more of them, to answer the demands for increased agricultural productivity.
"From the late eighteenth century, onwards, western Europe underwent a massive growth in population and consequently in animal food demands" (Swabe, 1999, p. 95).
In the mid-1800s, Britain was changing from a primarily agricultural nation “… into an industrial urbanised nation dominated by a middle class of merchants, professionals and business men” (Hall, 1994, p. 538). Between 1861 and 1901 in Britain, over 500,000 people moved to cities from the farm (Lane, 2010, p. xvii). A focus on urban issues meant that attention to agricultural policy and issues was waning leaving farmers frustrated (Bols & De porte, 2016, p. 38). As long as Britain had been able to supply food without importation, as an island without shared borders, it had been immune to animal infectious diseases crossing borders. However, when agricultural production was unable to keep pace with demand, governments addressed food deficits by importing animals from other countries where they could be acquired cheaply. As a result of importation without inspection, epizootic diseases that accompanied many imported animals easily infected domestic species of livestock. The economic devastation caused by the plagues rallied politicians to enact legislation to safeguard the health of both animals and humans. Whereas medical reformers attributed the emergence of various human diseases to the degenerating conditions of urban life, commentators on livestock disease referred to changing agricultural practices and alterations in the meat and livestock trade (Woods, 2017, p. 27).
The devastating losses of the rinderpest plague in 1865 caused the British government to become involved in animal disease control in 1866 by banning importation and requiring sick and exposed animals to be destroyed. Although public discussion had occurred about the causes and remedies for livestock plagues, it was transitory once the headlines faded. "It was really only farmers, veterinarians, medical specialists and people involved in the live animal trade who participated in the debate (Swabe, 1999, p. 101). With legislation in place, veterinarians served in a variety of roles in managing animal infectious diseases including as livestock inspectors with legal authority, as researchers investigating causes of disease and effective treatments, as practitioners recognizing afflicted animals and advising owners on appropriate sanitation methods, as advisors to governments, and keeping animal health issues in front of the public.
"An anthropocentric view of the natural world was promoted (Hardy, 2003, p. 202), leading to animals being kept as pets whereas they had previously been used for work and food on the farm."
In society, in general, there was a shift in the relationship between animals and humans as society transitioned from its primarily agrarian roots to the industrialized reality in urban centres. An anthropocentric view of the natural world was promoted (Hardy, 2003, p. 202), leading to animals being kept as pets whereas they had previously been used for work and food on the farm. Livestock were isolated in the country while companion animals moved into urban homes. Urban dwellers were familiar with the species of animals living with them in cities and towns and were more likely to be concerned about the spread of rabies rather than infectious disease outbreaks among livestock or the welfare of farm animals. A related effect of the rural to urban movement of the population was the opening up of career opportunities for trained veterinarians. The demographic and economic shifts that occurred in the 20th century opened more career options for trained animal care professionals as equine practitioners diversified into mixed practices. After World War I small animal medicine, in particular, received a boost as the internal combustion engine slowly replaced horsepower and clients brought their companion animals to veterinarians for care. The pet industry developed to provide products to pet owners. Veterinary medicine showed its progressive side by responding to changes in society with diversified services for animal owners and enhanced career opportunities for practitioners while promoting the important role of veterinary medicine in public health.
Urban dwellers were familiar with the species of animals living with them in cities and towns and were more likely to be concerned about the spread of rabies rather than infectious disease outbreaks among livestock.
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