Chicago, Illinois, USA 2013 AVMHS

 

Chicago skyline AVMA 2013Like everywhere, the history of veterinary medicine reflects the larger history of the United States. Sunday’s American Veterinary History Society meeting was a fascinating glimpse into several periods of US history through the lens of human-animal relationships and especially veterinary medicine. Here are a few highlights from my notes:

 

mjblackwell_125x150Michael Blackwell, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, gave a powerful lecture (much of it extemporaneous) on the participation of ethnic, cultural, and gender minorities in vet med over time. He asked, “why was veterinary medicine quiet during the Civil Rights era?” As with so many other important social institutions, he answered, our profession hoped that “if we were quiet, integration would not happen to us first.” Blackwell challenged the profession to become a leader in diversity, not just for the sake of diversity; but because of our role in the overall social good. Many animal-owning communities around the US feel alienated from the veterinary profession, due in part to the fact that they have not been historically represented in the profession. “We lose something when we don’t have a significant number in our profession of people from those communities we are trying to serve.” These communities have different cultural attitudes towards animals, and different levels of socioeconomic resources; but we all love our animals and want to care for them.

 

Cultural beliefs came up again in Kimberly Porter’s analysis of the “Cedar County Cow Wars.” This episode pitted angry farmers against government veterinarians mandated to test cattle for TB. Between about 1926 and 1931, this one county in the state of Iowa was consumed in hostilities over the meaning of “scientific” and the validity of the tuberculin test, the rights of individual animal owners versus the broader public health concerns of officials, and fears that traditional rural American culture was disappearing. Porter is the first historian I know of who has discovered the role of a radio “shock jock” named Norman Baker, who broadcast over the station “KTNT” under the banner of “The Naked Truth.” In the tradition of Billy Sunday and other inflammatory radio personalities, Baker classed meat packers, serum manufacturers, and government vets as the farmers’ enemy. Porter argues that Baker inflamed his radio audience, thus accounting for the fact that this was the only place in the US where violence accompanied TB testing to this degree (and where a lawsuit went all the way up to the US Supreme Court).

 

Cultural attitudes toward veterinarians and animals can be discerned from many sources: the postcards that Trenton Boyd has collected; the newspapers and radio broadcasts from the “cow wars,” the oral histories, published lectures and papers, photographs and adverts, …all of these sources and more were featured at the Sunday session. This was a great program of veterinary and animal history. More soon!

 

Check out this vet history blog

Donald Smith has created an interesting and informative blog on veterinary history topics that he’s run across. In the U.S., there are several universities and veterinary schools that have archival materials for researchers interested in veterinary history. One of these is Cornell University, within the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library (headed by Susanne Whitaker, who is the wonderful secretary of the AVMHS) and the Kroch/Olin Libraries (archives of the University). A visit there is highly recommended for anyone interested in vet history research. In the meantime, check out Dr. Smith’s blog here:  https://www.veritasdvmblog.com. Dr Smith gave a great presentation at the AVMHS meeting on Sunday on the oral histories of veterinarians that he has collected. You can access the transcripts of his interviews on his blog site. Happy reading!

AVMHS Annual Meeting, 2013

This Sunday, the American Veterinary Medical History Society will have its annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This is also the 150th Anniversary of the American Veterinary Medical Association. There are several activities of interest to historians, including the James Steele One Health Challenge on revitalizing “One Health” in the North American veterinary profession. I will be posting about the ongoing activities, so check in this weekend!

Stay cool, literally.

Susan Jones, DVM PhD
Professor and Director
Program in the History of Science, Technology, Medicine

AVMHS – Veterinary Heritage

Veterinary Heritage: the Bulletin of the American Veterinary Medical History Society, is published twice each year.

The second issue of 2012, Vol. 35 (2), features the following articles:

“The Covert Arsenal of Biologial Agents throughout History,” Amy Sents.

“Dogs, Consumers, and Canine Veterinarians, 1870-1900,” Philip M. Teigen.

“Reflections on Clinical Practice: An Oral History by a Chinese Veterinarian,” Hung Chang Wang.

“The Humble Beginnings of the Corporate Companion Animal Hospital, Tracey L. Mullins.