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“Reasonable Tact and Diplomacy”: Disease Management and Bovine Tuberculosis in North America: 1890 - 1950

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Title: “Reasonable Tact and Diplomacy”: Disease Management and Bovine Tuberculosis in North America: 1890 - 1950
Author: Cox, Lisa
Department: Department of History
Program: History
Advisor: McCook, Stuart
Abstract: This dissertation is an investigation of bovine tuberculosis eradication in Canada and the United States from the beginning of formal intervention in the early 1890s to 1950. A zoonotic disease, capable of passing from animals to humans, Bovine tuberculosis emerged as a significant public health and livestock health issue in the late nineteenth century. Eradicating bovine tuberculosis, therefore, came on two fronts; suppressing and managing the disease in livestock, and preventing diseased livestock products from human consumption. Using the jurisdictions of Ontario and New York State, this study details bovine tuberculosis legislation over the roughly sixty years it took to successfully suppress and manage the disease. Particular attention is directed towards the formation, practice, and transformation of policy on both sides of the border, the public and livestock health implications of the disease, and the role of the state and veterinary medicine in disease intervention and management. This work complements and builds upon studies produced by scholars such as Olmstead and Rhode, Jones, and Jenkins, who have adopted various approaches to the history of bovine tuberculosis. In particular, by placing bovine tuberculosis intervention in New York State and Ontario alongside one another, key contrasts are observed in the structure of authority for disease control, competing ideas about the nature and implications of the disease, and the policies that resulted. Over time, distinct programs practiced on either side of the border grew into similar, widespread national testing programs with compensation for livestock owners. This study will explore the tremendous collaboration between Canada and the United States in terms of bovine tuberculosis thinking and practice that saw management efforts unfold, and shed light on an underexplored body of individuals who were critical to the suppression and management of not only bovine tuberculosis, but a host of other infectious diseases: veterinarians. Veterinarians such as John G. Rutherford of Canada and Veranus Moore of the United States were central to the formation, practice and transformation of bovine tuberculosis policy in the early twentieth century. It would be through these individuals that the power of the state would meet the disease on the ground. Bovine tuberculosis, despite the fanfare that surrounded the scientific understanding of it discovered in the nineteenth century, was not a disease suppressed and managed through a dramatic intervention of science, but a steady and dedicated intervention of the state. It was bureaucratic innovation, not necessarily scientific innovation that saw this disease successfully brought under control.
Date: 2013-12
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