Veterinary Education Introduction
The development of veterinary education was another important factor impacting the evolution of veterinary medicine. Promoters of veterinary education in the 1700s in western European countries recognized that training animal care providers was a foundational activity necessary to advance the veterinary profession. Private or state-sponsored veterinary schools were established first in Western Europe: the Royal Veterinary School in Lyons in 1761 and in Maison-Alfort in 1766, both founded in France by Claude Bourgelat; Copenhagen in 1773; Dresden in 1780; London Veterinary College in 1791; and the Edinburgh Veterinary College in 1823. Other schools followed in Europe and later in North America. Activities that had propelled development of the profession in Britain occurred in a similar fashion almost a century later in North America. Canada and the United States benefitted from the European experience that brought to their shores an influx of veterinary graduates and veterinary educators who: established veterinary schools and practices; supported animal care research in companies and universities; and shared knowledge gained during their long struggle to organize professionally. Veterinary schools, in spite of efforts to provide training and facilities to manage animal health and contribute to public health, faced several obstacles in the early years including:
• lack of recognition and support from some peers, politicians, and the public;
• few career options for graduates;
• an uneasy relationship with medicine as a related profession; and
• ongoing competition from unlicensed empirics and medical practitioners.
The political establishment in Britain and North America did not accept that veterinary schools needed public funding, nor that the new schools were worthy of being integrated into established academic institutions, such as universities. Politicians were trying to create policies that reconciled the management of urgent public health issues relating to livestock care with the economic realities of sustaining agricultural trade. Although societal norms for investment in agriculture varied from country to country the need for competent animal care was widely recognized. Education was seen as the solution which resulted in several schools being established in Europe and North America within a short time.
The first wave of veterinary graduates were limited in their career options: they could enter the military and care for horses in service, or establish equine practices, usually in urban settings. The early schools, often due to financial constraints, were unable to make any big changes, so they did not upgrade their curricula or facilities, but continued to focus on care of horses to the exclusion of other species. The schools were training their graduates for agriculture or the military, however, some veterinarians with an eye on the future recognized that the education currently offered was not going to meet the changing demands of the marketplace (Kraft, 2004, p. 325). A few decades after the initial founding of veterinary schools in European countries, “reformers” actively argued for educational reform. They wanted changes to the curriculum and cited shortcomings such as the abbreviated length of the program of study, lack of clinical and experimental experience, and low standards for admission. Referring to veterinary education in the 19th century, Kraft (2004, p. 324) stated "... neither the market for veterinary expertise nor the intellectual underpinnings of veterinary practice created a demand for a more scientifically oriented curriculum". Concurrently, the profession was beginning to organize for the benefit of veterinarians and their clients.
The early schools, often due to financial constraints, were unable to make any big changes, so they did not upgrade their curricula or facilities, but continued to focus on care of horses to the exclusion of other species.
The two disciplines, medicine and veterinary medicine, were loosely and unequally related: "... the "veterinary art" existed as a "branch" of human medicine, grounded in knowledge of humans and partially populated by surgeons" (Woods, 2017, p. 494). Although veterinary medicine identified little in common with its sister profession, medicine, in contrast, with its research orientation and use of animals as experimental subjects applied their experimental findings on animal subjects to improve human health. "While medical men vigorously policed the encroachment of veterinarians into human medicine, they [medical men] made many incursions the other way, for example during the cattle plague" (Worboys, 1991, p. 315). Veterinary medicine and medicine were moving along different tracks: medicine was aligning its training with the sciences, physiology and biology whereas veterinary medicine was a practical 'art' or applied science focussing on treating infectious diseases in whole populations (Worboys, 1991, p. 316). Veterinary surgeons were keen to separate themselves from human medicine by developing their own body of scientific knowledge and gaining control over the business of running their profession including education and practice standards, and statutory protection over who was qualified to practice.
"While medical men vigorously policed the encroachment of veterinarians into human medicine, they [medical men] made many incursions the other way, for example during the cattle plague" (Worboys, 1991, p. 315).
Another irritation to trained practitioners of the profession was the continued activity of unregulated lay-healers who continued to ply their trade among animal owners as they had in the previous centuries. Veterinarians practised for the most part in urban areas, because that is where their clients lived in greater numbers. As a result, rural clients were left to rely on traditional, often untrained, animal healers for their animal care needs. Veterinary graduates who did move into rural practice often found that old habits remained and it took time for their fee-paying clients to accept them.
The next sections briefly describe highlights in the advancement in European veterinary education, primarily in Britain, and the influence of British and French graduates on veterinary education and development of the profession in North America.
Return to Veterinary Education