The report of the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries which records the proceedings taken under the Diseases of Animals Act for the year 1929 has just been issued. It indicates clearly the enormous amount and complexity of the work which devolves on the officers of the Ministry. They may very well say with John Wesley, “ All the world is my parish.” For instance in seven outbreaks of anthrax “ which …. occurred a few years ago,” the cause was found to be infected bone meal used as a manure and imported from an Eastern country (p. 43); another outbreak was traced to beans that had been imported from China (p. 44); again, special measures have been taken, at the instance of His Majesty's Government, by the Governments of Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentine to prevent the introduction of foot‐and‐mouth disease into this country by chilled or frozen meat (p. 46); an outbreak of foot‐and‐mouth disease at Los Angeles, California, led to an embargo being placed on the importation of hay and straw from that State (p. 52); while an outbreak in Southern Sweden led to similar steps being taken (p. 52). It is unnecessary to give further instances, but it is evident that the complexities of modern commerce and the development of rapid means of transport imposes world‐wide duties on the Ministry of a nature that were by no means contemplated when in 1865 the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council—of which the present Ministry is a lineal descendant—was instituted as a result of the outbreak of cattle plague which had ravaged the country. Table I. (p. 94) gives the total number of cattle in Great Britain for the five years 1925–1929 inclusive, each year ending in June. The percentage variation in the number of cattle during that time appears to be four per cent., so that the Ministry is responsible under the Act for about 7¼ millions of cattle, the 1929 return gives 7,190,539. The census and the subsequent co‐ordination of the returns made is in itself a task of no inconsiderable magnitude. In addition to this, however, veterinary skill of a high order is demanded, not only in the interests of a trade whose dimensions are indicated by the figures just given, but in the interests of public health in relation to notifiable cases, under the Act, of bovine tuberculosis. The number of cows and heifers in milk or in calf is given as 3,166,292 or 44 per cent. of the total number of bovine animals. It is of course from these that we derive our supplies of fresh milk, so that on their health our own health to a certain extent depends, and to a greater extent the health of invalids and children to whom milk is a prime necessity. It is therefore scarcely possible to over‐rate the weight of responsibility resting on the Ministry when the relation of its duties to the incidence of bovine tuberculosis is considered. Two important facts, however, demand attention. The first is that the Tuberculosis Order of 1925 was, as the Report points out, neither designed nor expected to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. The disease is widespread, and it is to be feared somewhat firmly established in our herds—an evil legacy from the past. The most that can be done at present is by means of the Order to remove as far as possible the danger to human health from the ingestion of the milk of infected animals and to reduce the number of these animals. Any attempt which might be made to completely eradicate the disease would in our present state of knowledge lead to a serious depletion of our herds throughout the country, and large expenditure in compensation (p. 23). In the second place while the Order of 1925 requires certain forms of the disease to be reported, no steps are at present taken or can be taken to search out the disease. An organisation designed so to do would be costly, as it would in the first place involve “ a considerable extension of periodical veterinary inspection of all dairy cows, coupled with the application of the biological test ” (p. 23). Hence leaving out of consideration our deficient knowledge of the disease, though its effects are horribly evident in our national life, the old conflict of public health versus public pocket is presented to us in an acute form.
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