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To Stamp Out “So Terrible a Malady”: Bovine Tuberculosis and Tuberculin Testing in Britain, 1890–1939

  • Keir Waddington (a1)
Extract

In the early-twentieth century, moves to prevent infection from tuberculosis became an integral part of local government public health schemes. While the scale of action was dependent on individual authorities and ratepayers, interest was not limited to the pulmonary form of the disease. Effort was also directed at tackling bovine tuberculosis, which by the 1890s had become “the most important disease of cows” and, with its zoonotic properties accepted, “a substantial risk to the … consumer”. With meat and milk identified as the main vectors, moves to detect infected livestock and limit the spread of the disease became part of a wider preventive strategy. Measures were introduced to control the sale of tuberculous meat and milk. Eradication schemes were promoted, as concern merged with a growing interest in food safety and agriculture, and became caught up with debates on national efficiency, farming and child health.

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References
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1 See F B Smith, The retreat of tuberculosis 1850–1950, London, Croom Helm, 1988; Linda Bryder, Below the magic mountain: a social history of tuberculosis in twentieth-century Britain, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988.

2 William Savage, Milk and the public health, London, Macmillan, 1912, p. 125.

3 People's League of Health, Report of a special committee appointed by the People's League of Health to make a survey of tuberculosis of bovine origin in Great Britain, London, People's League of Health, 1932, pp. 1–9; H Hyslop Thomson, Tuberculosis and national health, London, Methuen, 1939, p. 109; Br. med. J., 1924, i: 347.

4 Ministry of Health, A memorandum on bovine tuberculosis in man with special reference to infection by milk, Reports on Public Health and Medical Subjects, London, 1931, p. 23; London Metropolitan Archive: ‘Non-pulmonary tuberculosis decline in London’, LCC/PH/GEN/4/239.

5 Leslie Jordan, The eradication of bovine tuberculosis, London, HMSO, 1933, p. 3.

6 Peter Koolmees, ‘Veterinary inspection and food hygiene in the twentieth century’, in David F Smith and Jim Phillips (eds), Food, science, policy and regulation in the twentieth century: international and comparative perspectives, London, Routledge, 2000, p. 61.

7 Public Record Office (PRO): Eastwood to W Fletcher, 25 April 1922, FD 1/154.

8 Harold Scurfield, ‘Use of tuberculin’, Public Health, 1899, 12: 39.

9 J F De Vine, Bovine tuberculosis, Chicago, American Veterinary Publishing, 1917, p. 31.

10 See Peter Atkins, ‘The pasteurisation of England. The science, culture and health implications of milk processing, 1900–50’, in Smith and Phillips (eds), op. cit., note 6 above, pp. 37–51; Jim Phillips and Michael French, ‘State regulation and the hazards of milk, 1900–1939’, Soc. Hist. Med., 1999, 12: 371–88.

11 See Michael Worboys, Spreading germs: disease theories and medical practice in Britain, 1865–1900, Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp. 189, 224–8; G Feldberg, Disease and class: tuberculosis and the shaping of modern north American society, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1995, pp. 55–80.

12 J Basil Buxton and R E Glover, Tuberculin tests in cattle, London, HMSO, 1939, p. 7.

13 Smith, op. cit., note 1 above, pp. 57–62; Bryder, op. cit., note 1 above, pp. 25–6, 35–6, 191–3; Worboys, op. cit., note 11 above, pp. 224–8.

14 Peter J Atkins, ‘White poison? The social consequences of milk consumption, 1850–1930’, Soc. Hist. Med., 1992, 5: 207–27; Bryder, op. cit., note 1 above, pp. 133–8, 245–7; Barbara G Rosenkrantz, ‘The trouble with bovine tuberculosis’, Bull. Hist. Med., 1985, 59: 155–75; Smith, op. cit., note 1 above, pp. 175–94; Keir Waddington, ‘The science of cows: tuberculosis, research and the state in the United Kingdom, 1880–1911’, Hist. Sci., 2001, 39: 355–81; Worboys, op. cit., note 11 above, pp. 193–233; Deborah Dwork, ‘The milk option: an aspect of the history of the infant welfare movement in England, 1898–1908’, Med. Hist., 1987, 31: 51–69. On the role of meat, see Keir Waddington, ‘“Unfit for human consumption”: tuberculosis and the problem of infected meat in late Victorian Britain’, Bull. Hist. Med., 2003, 77: 636–61.

15 See Atkins, op. cit., note 10 above, 37–51; L Margaret Barnett, ‘The People's League of Health and the campaign against bovine tuberculosis in the 1930s’, in Smith and Phillips (eds), op. cit., note 6 above; Bryder, op. cit., note 1 above, pp. 133–8.

16 ‘Dr Koch's remedy and tuberculous meat and milk’, Sanitary Record, 15 Dec. 1890, pp. 286–7; ‘Tuberculosis in animals’, ibid. p. 290; Edgar Crookshank, ‘The tubercle bacillus’, J. R. Agric. Soc. Engl., 1891, 2: 94; ‘Experiments with tuberculin on cattle’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1891, 4: 173–7.

17 George Wooldridge (ed.), Encyclopaedia of veterinary medicine, surgery and obstetrics, 2 vols, London, H Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton, 1923, vol. 1, p. 91.

18 Edward Courtenay and Frederick Hobday, Manual of the practice of veterinary medicine, London, Baillière, Tindall & Cox, 1913, p. 449.

19British Congress on Tuberculosis, 1901, 4: 111.

20 James Law, ‘An account of the special investigation of bovine tuberculosis’, Public Health, 1895/6, 8: 132; Meredith Young, ‘Legislative measures necessary for the abolition of tuberculosis in cattle’, Public Health, 1898/9, 11: 613.

21 See John R Fisher, ‘Cattle plagues past and present: the mystery of mad cow disease’, J. contemp. Hist., 1998, 33: 215–28; idem, ‘To kill or not to kill: the eradication of contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia in western Europe’, Med. Hist., 2003, 47: 314–31; Worboys, op. cit., note 11 above, pp. 43–72.

22The Times, 22 April 1895, p. 4.

23 Bernhard Bang, ‘Measures taken against animal tuberculosis in Denmark’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1908, 21: 288.

24 ‘Establishing a tuberculosis-free dairy herd’, J. Ministry Agric., 1924/5, 31: 138–49.

25 ‘Immunisation against tuberculosis by von Behring's method’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1906, 19: 86–8.

26 For the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, see J R Fisher, ‘The economic effects of cattle diseases in Britain and its containment’, Agric. Hist., 1980, 54: 278–94.

27 Crookshank, op. cit., note 16 above, p. 94; John McFadyean, ‘Experiments with tuberculin in cattle’, J. R. Agric. Soc. Engl., 1891, 2: 29–35.

28Br. med. J., 1897, i: 993.

29 Harold Scurfield, ‘Suggestions with a view to the encouragement of the use of tuberculin’, Public Health, 1895/6, 8: 41; Meat Trades' Journal and Cattle Salesman's Gazette, 24 Oct. 1895, p. 510.

30 See Peter Atkins, ‘Lobbying and resistance with regard to policy on bovine tuberculosis: an inside/outside model of Britain, 1900–1939’, given at ‘From urban penalty to global emergency: current issues in the history of tuberculosis’, Social History of Medicine conference, Sheffield, March 2002.

31 Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the administrative proceedings for controlling the danger to man through the use as food of the meat and milk of tuberculous animals, London, HMSO, 1898.

32The Times, 4 Nov. 1895, p. 4.

33 See Phillips and French, op. cit., note 10, pp. 371–88.

34 John Penberthy, ‘The veterinary aspects of the tuberculosis problem’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1907, 20: 287.

35 Editorial, ‘The stamping out of tuberculosis’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1899, 12: 57; Scurfield, op. cit., note 29 above, p. 43.

36 ‘Prevention of tuberculosis in cattle’, Vet. Rec., 7 Oct. 1899, p. 207; Br. med. J., 1899, i: 677.

37 ‘Prevention of tuberculosis among cattle’, Med. Officer, 17 April 1909, p. 824; Brennan de Vine, ‘Eradication of tuberculosis from dairy herds supplying milk to Birmingham’, J. Meat Milk Hyg., 1911, 1: 138–41; Br. med. J., 1925, i: 309.

38 ‘Tuberculosis in London’, Vet. Rec., 25 Feb. 1893, p. 470.

39 Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, op. cit., note 31 above, p. 2; Annual report of the Veterinary Department for the year 1890, London, 1891, p. 7.

40The Times, 3 Jan. 1899, p. 13; Worboys, op. cit., note 11 above, pp. 58, 223–4.

41 Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, op. cit., note 31 above, pp. 13–14.

42The Times, 15 Aug. 1898, p. 12; A H Matthews, Fifty years of agricultural politics: a history of the Central Chamber of Agriculture 1865–1915, London, P S King, 1915.

43The Times, 15 Aug. 1898, p. 11.

44 National Veterinary Association, Sixteenth general meeting, London, 1898, pp. 13–29; J McLaughlan Young, ‘Tuberculin testing’, Vet. Rec., 20 June 1896, pp. 681–3.

45 ‘The degree of prevalence of bovine tuberculosis’, Public Health, 1893/4, 6: 30.

46Meat Trades' Journal and Cattle Salesman's Gazette, 17 Feb. 1898, p. 874.

47 Jim Phillips and Michael French, ‘Adulteration and food law, 1899–1939’, Twentieth Century Br. Hist., 1998, 9: 357–8.

48 PRO: W Fletcher to Eastwood, 29 April 1922, FD 1/154.

49 Scurfield, op. cit., note 29 above, p. 239.

50 ‘Tuberculosis in cattle’, Vet. Rec., 6 April 1895, p. 557.

51 Walter Jowett, ‘Some observations on the tuberculin test’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1914, 27: 136.

52 Arthur Littlejohn, ‘Tuberculin as a diagnostic agent’, Vet. J., June 1911, pp. 332–4.

53 Walter Jowett, ‘Tuberculin as a diagnostic agent’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1909, 22: 11.

54Public Health, 1899, 12: 233.

55 A M Trotter, ‘Notes on two new methods of testing with tuberculin’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1908, 21: 153–8; ‘The ophthalmic reaction to tuberculin’, ibid. pp. 185–7.

56 Arthur Littlejohn, ‘The combined tuberculin test for cattle’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1908, 22: 217–37.

57 Jowett, op. cit., note 51 above, pp. 144–5.

58 J Watson, ‘More about tuberculin’, Vet. Rec., 31 Dec. 1898, p. 388.

59 PRO: MAF diseases of animals branch circular letter, MAF 35/1103.

60 PRO: ‘Eradication of bovine tuberculosis’, 6 Aug. 1930, MAF 35/659.

61 See Linda Bryder, ‘Tuberculosis and the MRC’, in Joan Austoker and Linda Bryder (eds), Historical perspectives of the role of the MRC, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 1–21.

62 PRO: Tuberculin committee minutes, 9 June 1923, FD 1/154.

63 PRO: W Fletcher to Treasury, 23 July 1923, T 161/213.

64 J McFadyean, ‘Experiments with tuberculin on cattle’, J. comp. Pathol. Bacteriol., 1991, 4: 29.

65 PRO: Memorandum, 30 July 1923, T 161/213.

66 PRO: W Fletcher to Eastwood, 29 April 1922, FD 1/154.

67 See Joan Austoker, ‘Walter Morley Fletcher and the origins of a basic biomedical research policy’, in Austoker and Bryder (eds), op. cit., note 61 above, pp. 23–33.

68 PRO: W Fletcher to Holland-Hibbert, 30 July 1925, FD 1/155.

69 Keith Vernon, ‘Science for the farmer? Agricultural research in England 1909–36’, Twentieth Century Br. Hist., 1997, 8: 310–33.

70 PRO: W Fletcher to Treasury, 23 July 1923, T 161/213.

71 MRC, Tuberculin tests in cattle, with special reference to the intradermal test, London, HMSO, 1925, pp. 77–83, 116.

72 See Atkins, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 37–51; Phillips and French, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 371–88, for a discussion of milk regulation.

73Public Health, 1933, 46: 366; Annual report of the Board of Agriculture, London, 1926.

74 Vernon, op. cit., note 69 above, pp. 329–31; Atkins, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 42–4.

75 PRO: Memorandum, 1 March 1937, MAF 52/130.

76 J Basil Buxton and Arthur S MacNalty, The intradermal tuberculin test in cattle, London, HMSO, 1928, pp. 32, 3.

77 PRO: Tuberculin subcommittee minutes, 1 Nov. 1934, MAF 35/338.

78 Buxton and MacNalty, op. cit., note 76 above, pp. 10–11, 14.

79 R N Dixey, Tuberculin-tested milk: a study of reorganization for its production, Oxford, Agricultural Economics Research Institute, 1937, p. 98.

80 Buxton and MacNalty, op. cit., note 76 above, pp. 17–19; Hyslop Thomson, op. cit., note 3 above, p. 118.

81 PRO: Note by the tuberculin committee, June 1925, FD 1/156.

82 Buxton and MacNalty, op. cit., note 76 above; C Adeane and J Gaskell, ‘A segregation method for eliminating tuberculosis from cattle’, J. Hyg., 1927/8, 27: 250.

83 Buxton and Glover, op. cit., note 12 above, p. 4.

84 Jordan, op. cit., note 5 above, p. 3; Alexander Fowler and Norman Wright, Reactors in tuberculin tested (licensed herds), Ayr, Hannah Dairy Research Institute, 1931.

85 Phillips and French, op. cit., note 10 above, p. 382.

86 Cited in David Taylor, ‘The English dairy industry, 1860–1930: the need for reassessment’, Agric. Hist. Rev., 1974, 22: 153.

87 V Liversage, Economics of production of grade ‘A’ (tuberculin tested) milk, Oxford, Clarendon press, 1926.

88 PRO: Joint Tuberculosis Committee minutes, 8 Oct. 1934, FD 1/4497.

89 C Hallas, ‘Supply responsiveness in dairy farming’, Agric. Hist. Rev., 1991, 39: 14–15.

90 For the ARC, see Timothy DeJager, ‘Pure science and practical interests: the origins of the Agricultural Research Council, 1930–37’, Minerva, 1993, 31: 129–50.

91 See Atkins, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 37–51.

92 Editorial, ‘A pure milk supply’, Tubercle, 1919/20, 1: 377–8.

93 Economic Advisory Council on Cattle Diseases, Report of the Committee on Cattle Diseases, London, HMSO, 1934.

94 Buxton and Glover, op. cit., note 12 above, p. 1.

95 PRO: Joint Tuberculosis Committee minutes, 8 Oct. 1934, FD 1/4497; PRO: Kay to Havelock, 26 June 1934, FD 1/4498.

96 PRO: Milk in schools scheme, 1934, ED 50/81.

97Br. med. J., 1939, ii: 1235.

98J. Ministry Agric., 1934–35, 41: 1041–2.

99 ‘Employment of part-time officers in the state veterinary service’, Vet. Rec., 1938, 50: 239; J. Ministry Agric., 1937–38, 44: 205–6.

100Br. med. J., 1939, i: 1149.

101 PRO: Joint Tuberculosis Committee minutes, 13 Feb. 1934, FD 1/4498.

102 Buxton and Glover, op. cit., note 12 above, p. 1.

103 Ibid.

104 PRO: Memorandum, c.1930, MH 58/124.

105 PRO: Jackson to Beckett, 10 Oct. 1930; minute sheet, 3 Oct.1929, MH 58/124.

106 Buxton and Glover, op. cit., note 12 above, p. 15.

107 PRO: ‘Provisions applicable to tuberculins intended for testing cattle’, 1936, FD 1/4497.

108 W L Little, ‘Cases of tuberculosis among dairy cows’, J. comp. Pathol. Ther., 1906, 19: 48.

109 PRO: NFU Welsh branch, 24 Jan. 1938, MH 55/1219.

110 Dixey, op. cit., note 79 above, pp. 97, 96.

111 A Porter, ‘The preciptin, complement binding and anti-opsonic tests in tuberculous and normal cattle’, J. Hyg., 1911, 11: 106.

112 ‘The danger of tuberculous milk supply’, Med. Officer, 2 July 1910, p. 11.

113 Jordan, op. cit., note 5 above, p. 9.

114 Royal Commision on Tuberculosis, op. cit., note 31 above, p. 20.

115 Dixey, op. cit., note 79 above, p. 96.

116 Liversage, op. cit., note 87 above, p. 17; A Archer, The stockowner's veterinary aid, London, Lockwood, 1921, p. 132.

117 David Taylor, ‘Growth and structural change in the English dairy industry c.1860–1930’, Agric. Hist. Rev., 1987, 35: 61.

118 Jonathan Brown, Agriculture in England, Manchester University Press, 1987, pp. 92–3.

119 PRO: Advisory committee on TT milk minutes, 16 Sept. 1938, JV 3/35.

120 PRO: Midland counties dairy to NFU, 13 Sept. 1937, JV 7/645.

121 PRO: Representations of the milk marketing board, 29 Sept. 1938, MAF 34/762; PRO: Joint Tuberculosis Committee minutes, 5 Nov. 1937, FD 1/4497.

122 Smith, op. cit., note 1 above, p. 180.

123 Edmund Penning-Rowsell, ‘Who “betrayed” whom? Power and politics in the 1920/21 agricultural crisis’, Agric. History Review, 1997, 42: 176–94.

124 Dixey, op. cit., note 79 above, pp. 89, 99.

125 Norman Barron, The dairy farmer's veterinary book, Ipswich, Dairy Farmer (books), 1950, p. 112.

126 MAFF memorandum, ‘Inquiry into badgers and bovine tuberculosis’, section V, March 2000.

127 Atkins, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 37–51; Phillips and French, op. cit., note 10 above, pp. 371–88.

128 PRO: Memorandum, 14 Aug. 1931, MAF 35/659.

129 E R Hiscox and Ursula Starling, ‘The use of the fermentation-reductase test for the grading of milk, J. Hyg., 1925, 24: 164–8.

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