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John Bull’s Beef: Meat hygiene and veterinary public health in England in the twentieth century


  • Anne Hardy

    (Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London)


Britain played a pioneering role in the introduction of public health practices in the nineteenth century, yet veterinary public health was never a component of that project. The British have for the most part been indifferent to the risks of disease transmitted through meat and milk. This paper explores the reasons for this indifference, which include the nature of Britain’s livestock disease regime; the country’s prosperity before 1940; the fact that the public health organisation was run by medical men and administered by local authorities; the relatively small and politically weak character of the veterinary profession; the vested interests of administrators, farmers and the meat trades, and economic imperatives. Despite persistent veterinary pressure, it was not until the very end of the twentieth century that European Economic Community regulations and the BSE crisis finally operated to confer supervisory powers over meat production on the veterinary profession

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Hardy, 2010. "John Bull’s Beef: Meat hygiene and veterinary public health in England in the twentieth century," Review of Agricultural and Environmental Studies - Revue d'Etudes en Agriculture et Environnement, INRA Department of Economics, vol. 91(4), pages 369-392.
  • Handle: RePEc:rae:jourae:v:91:y:2010:i:4:p:369-392

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    meat; hygiene; abattoirs; veterinarians; public health;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy


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