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Book Chapter

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In 1969 I had the honor to deliver a lecture to the 116th Annual Congress of the Royal Netherlands Veterinary Medical Association concerning the activities of veterinarians involved in herd health (Rozemond 1970). My lecture aimed to challege the veterinary aspects of a system of animal husbandry at that time new to Dutch circumstances; the system characterized by enlargement of scale and by species specialization. The thesis of this rather technical lecture read: "We have to build a new barn with a good climate." At that time, books such as Animal Machines by Ruth Harrison (1964), in which intensive rearing of farm animals was criticized, had barely attracted attention. That seemed unnecessary indeed: A Dutch agricultural journal had established Harrison as an adherent of an old-fashioned, useless and folkloristic belief. Much has changed since that time. The technical way of dealing with animals, not only in intensive rearing but also in other areas, is now facing increased criticism.

This paper is a lecture presented to the same Association but fifteen years later: the 131st Annual Congress in 1984. This second presentation contemplates two points: First, it tries to indicate how this criticism has gradually emerged and a historical outline is put forth of the development of veterinary medicine, a differentiation being made between a mythical, a technical, and a critical approach. Second, a discussion of how veterinarians have to associate themselves with this criticism in their professional conduct is presented. This discussion is necessary for two reasons. Veterinarians have increasingly become aware that they bear a professional responsibility not only for animal health but also for animal welfare; and, veterinarians are expected to give their views in concrete situations.


Translated from Tijdschrift voor Diergeneeskunde 1985, 110:21-30.