1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agriculture/The Maintenance of the Health of Live Stock

The Maintenance of the Health of Live Stock.

It was not till the closing decade of the 19th century that the stock-breeders of the United Kingdom found themselves in a position to prosecute their industry free from the fear of the introduction of contagious. disease through the medium of store animals imported from abroad for fattening on the native pastures. By the Diseases of Animals Act 1896 (59 & 60 Vict., c. 15) it was provided that cattle, sheep and pigs imported into the United Kingdom should be slaughtered at the place of landing. The effect was to reduce to a minimum the risk of the introduction of disease amongst the herds and flocks of the country, and at the same time to confine the trade in store, stock exclusively to the breeders of Great Britain and Ireland. This arrangement makes no difference to the food-supply of the people, for dead meat continues to arrive at British ports in ever-increasing quantity. Moreover, live animals are admitted freely from certain countries, provided such animals are slaughtered at the place of landing. At Deptford, for example, large numbers of cattle and sheep which thus arrive—mainly from Argentina, Canada and the United States—are at once slaughtered, and so furnish a steady supply of fresh-killed beef and mutton. The animals which are shipped in this way are necessarily of the best quality, because the freight on a superior beast is no more costly than on an inferior one, and the proportion of freight to sale price is therefore less With this superior description of butchers’ stock all classes of home-grown stock-good, bad and indifferent- have, of course, to compete. The Board of Agriculture has the power to close the ports of the United Kingdom against live animals from any country in which contagious disease is known to exist. This accounts, for the circumstance that so few countries—none of them in Europe—enjoy the privilege of sending live animals to British ports. In 1900 the discovery early in the year of the existence of foot-and-mouth disease amongst cattle and sheep shipped from Argentina to the United Kingdom led to the issue of an order by which all British ports were closed against live animals from the country named. This order came into force on the 30th of April, and the result was a marked decline in the shipments of live cattle and sheep from the River Plate, but a decided increase in the quantity of frozen meat sent thence to the United Kingdom.

The last quarter of the 19th century witnessed an important change in the attitude of public opinion towards legislative control over the contagious diseases of animals. When, after the introduction of cattle plague or rinderpest in 1865, the proposal was made to resort to the extreme remedy of slaughter in order to check the ravages of a disease which was pursuing its course with ruinous results, the idea was received with public indignation and denounced as barbarous. Views have undergone profound modification since then, and the most drastic remedy has come to be regarded as the most effective, and in the long run the least costly. The Cattle Diseases Prevention Act 1866 (29 & 30 Vict. c. 2) made compulsory the slaughter of diseased cattle, and permitted the slaughter of cattle which had been exposed to infection, compensation being provided out of the rates. The Act 30 & 31 Vict. c, 125, 1867, is of historical interest, in that it contains the first mention of pleuro-pneumonia, and the exposure in any market of cattle suffering from that disease was made an offence. The Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 1869 (32 & 33 Vict. c. 70) revoked all former acts, and defined disease to mean cattle plague, pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, sheep-pox, sheep-scab and glanders, together with any disease which the Privy Council might by order specify. The principle of this act in regard to foreign animals was that of free importation, with power for the Privy Council to prohibit or subject to quarantine and slaughter, as circumstances seemed to require. The act of 1869 was at that time the most complete measure that had ever been passed for dealing with diseases of animals. The re-introduction of cattle plague into England in 1877 led to the passing of the Act 41 & 42 Vict. c. 74, 1878, which repealed the act of 1869, and affirmed as a principle the landing of foreign animals for slaughter only, though free importation or quarantine on the one hand and prohibition on the other were provided for in exceptional circumstances. By an order of council which came into operation in December 1878, swine fever was declared to be a disease for the purposes of the act of that year. It was not, however, till October 1886 that anthrax and rabies were officially declared to be contagious diseases for the purposes of certain sections of the act of 1878. In 1884 the Act 47 & 48 Vict. c. 13 empowered the Privy Council to prohibit the landing of animals from any country in respect of which the circumstances were not such as to afford reasonable security against the introduction of foot-and-mouth disease. After one or two other measures of minor importance came the Act 53 & 54 Vict. c. 14, known as the Pleuro-pneumonia Act 1890, which transferred the powers of local authorities to slaughter and pay compensation in cases of pleuro-pneumonia to the Board of Agriculture, and provided further for the payment of such compensation out of money specifically voted by parliament. This measure was regarded at the time as a marked step in advance, and was only carried after a vigorous campaign in its favour. In 1892 by the Act 55 & 56 Vict. c. 47 power was given to the Board of Agriculture to use the sums voted on account of pleuro-pneumonia for paying the costs involved in dealing with foot-and-mouth disease; under this act the board could order the slaughter of diseased animals and of animals in contact with these, and could pay compensation for animals so slaughtered. Under the provisions of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act 1893 (56 & 57 Vict. c. 43) swine fever in Great Britain was, from the 1st of November in that year, dealt with by the Board of Agriculture in the same way as pleuro-pneumonia, the slaughter of infected swine being carried out under directions from the central authority, and compensation allowed from the imperial exchequer. In 1894 was passed the Diseases of Animals Act (57 & 58 Vict. c. 57), the word “contagious” being omitted from the title. This was a measure to consolidate the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts 1878–1893. In it “the expression ‘disease’ means cattle plague (that is to say, rinderpest, or the disease commonly called cattle plague), contagious pleuro-pneumonia of cattle (in this act called pleuro-pneumonia), foot-and-mouth disease, sheep-pox, sheep-scab, or swine fever (that is to say, the disease known as typhoid fever of swine, soldier purples, red disease, hog cholera or swine plague).” The Diseases of Animals Act 1896 (59 & 60 Vict. c. 15) rendered compulsory the slaughter of imported live stock at the place of landing, a boon for which British stock-breeders had striven for many years. The ports in Great Britain at which foreign animals may be landed are Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Animals from the Channel Islands may be landed at Southampton.