Medical History

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

Keir Waddingtona1

a1 School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University, PO Box 909, Cardiff, CF10 3XU, UK

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.