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Nigel Brown, Glen Innes, Northern Tablelands LLS

Posted Flock & Herd December 2018


Science adjusts its views based on what is observed; Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved. Sadly, some scientists have converted their science into their belief and fail to accept the reality of their observations.

The word 'veterinarian' is derived from the Latin 'veterinum' which means 'beast of burden' and 'veterinarius' which means 'of or having to do with beasts of burden'. Its first known use as animal doctor dates to 1646 (Merriam-Webster) while the adjective 'veterinary' was first used in 1791.

Different civilisations of the world have their own veterinary histories but the origins of the modern veterinary profession lies in the eighteenth century in what became known as “The Age of Enlightenment”. This was an intellectual movement, mainly in France, Britain and Germany, which advocated freedom, democracy and reason as the primary values of society so that reason and science came to replace religion and magic as the basis for understanding the natural world. Politically, it was a time of revolutions, turmoil and the overturning of established traditions. It promulgated the 'Sovereignty of Knowledge' with a contemporary stress on education. There was a new regard for animals, anticipating the rise of Darwinism, and a scientific approach to their diseases that was a part of the rise of comparative medicine.

Initially the veterinary profession in Europe was centred on the horse, influenced by the needs of the Army. The horse remained the focus for many years but, over time, the interests of the profession spread to cattle and other livestock, then to dogs and now to companion and exotic animals.

This presentation attempts to provide an overview of some of these developments.


Without attempting to restyle ours as the “oldest profession”, the earliest documented reference to veterinary medicine I have identified are inscribed on the tablets of the Sumerian civilisation, the first human civilisation (now Iran, Syria, and Turkey). These refer to 'Doctors of Oxen' or 'Doctors of Asses' - definitely early specialisation. (Sitchin, 1976)

The origins of the Sumerians is not known (Caves in the Zagros mountains? The steppes of central Asia? Outer space?), but somewhere around 8,000 BC people in south-west Asia established the concept of agriculture and slowly started to domesticate animals for both food and to assist in farming.

Settled agriculture made it possible for humans to stay in the same place for a longer period of time without depending on hunting, leading to the creation of more extensive urban development.

Historically, Mesopotamia has been identified as 'the cradle of civilization' and 'the birthplace of agriculture' plus countless indispensable inventions and discoveries including the wheel, chariot and plough as farmers developed irrigation and novel farming practices between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers - the Fertile Crescent. However, the recent discovery of dam-work and irrigation systems in southern China dating from the same period, and of equal skill and complexity, obviously throws new beams of light on the origins of civilisation and, perhaps, the origins of the veterinary profession.

The provision of specialist care for animals is probably almost as ancient as their domestication and, from this time onwards, there are references to “veterinarians” and veterinary activities throughout their literature. Model livers have been found at various early Mesopotamian sites and, given the importance of animal dissections for soothsaying plus the value of animals as goods and chattels, it is likely that animal doctors existed from these early days of agriculture and that both medical and veterinary anatomy were well advanced.

Hundreds of Akkadian texts use Sumerian medical terms and phrases. The Mesopotamian library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh included a medical section with texts divided into three groups - bultitu (therapy), shipir bel imti (surgery) and urti masmashshe (commands and incantations).

Stone knives and bamboo or bone needles used as healing instruments have been excavated in China indicating that acupuncture was practised in Ancient China in the Paleolithic period, more than 10,000 years ago although its earliest use in animals is not yet identified. However, archaeological evidence indicates that Chinese science was revolutionised during the period of Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor (2,697-2,597 BC).

The first veterinary individual named is Urlugaledinna, who lived in 3,000 BC and was a doctor and an 'expert in healing animals'. A very early cylinder seal found at Lagash belonged to him and showed a pair of surgical tongs and a serpent on a tree. (Sitchin, 1976)

Recorded techniques used in those early times included washing and cleaning, soaking in baths of hot water and mineral solvents, applications of vegetable derivatives and rubbing with petroleum products. If taken by mouth, powders were mixed with wine, beer or honey; different solvents were used for enemas. Sumerian medical texts even suggest that people were subjected to radiation (Sitchin, 1976, p36). Some skulls in cemeteries dated to that era have been found with unmistakeable signs of healed brain surgery.

The earliest surviving book of Chinese medicine, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) was written around 305-204 BC and refers to human mange and ocular worms in horses with later veterinary texts clearly identifying other known diseases. (Blancou, 2000)

The Ancient Egyptians (unlike their modern-day successors) were particularly noted for their attachment to the animal kingdom. The Egyptian Papyri of Kahun (discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1889) date to about 1825 BC, the reign of Amenemhat III, and contain a specific veterinary papyrus. This is the oldest surviving veterinary text from any civilisation.

The Shalihotra Samhita, dating from Emperor Ashoka, approx. 250 BC, is an early Indian veterinary reference written on stone pillars and cave walls round India. According to his edicts, Ashoka took great care of the welfare of his subjects (human and animal) - ”Everywhere King Piyadasi (Asoka) made two kinds of medicine available, medicine for people and medicine for animals. Where there were no healing herbs for people and animals, he ordered that they be bought and planted.” One 2,000 year-old Indian Sanskrit treatise (Susrutasamhita) refers to rabies while another (Carakasamhita) deals with diseases of elephants, camels, cattle and others while yet another (Asvayurveda-siddhanta), attributed to Salihotra, deals with falcons, elephants and horses. (Blancou, 2000)

The Byzantine and Roman civilizations created large repositories of veterinary knowledge - much of it shared between texts - by authors such as Apsyrtus (150 - 250 AD) a military veterinarian sometimes referred to as 'the father of the veterinary art of the present day', Aristotle (384 - 322BC) and Hippocrates (460 - 377 BC).

Chiron the veterinarian (contemporary with Apsyrtus) compiled works only discovered in 1885 and should not to be confused with Chiron the Centaur - a mythical figure from the Trojan War (possibly 12th Century BC) - even though the centaur (half-man and half-horse) is frequently used to identify the veterinary profession in modern times.


Arabic veterinary tradition of Bayṭara, or Shiyāt al-Khayl, originates with the treatise Kitāb al-Furūsiyya wa 'Al-Bayṭara (”Book of Horsemanship and Hippiatry”) by Ibn Akhī Hizām (late 9th century). Ibn Akhī Hizām was stable master to the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu'tadid (reigned 892-902). The Arabic literary tradition of veterinary medicine (hippiatry) and horsemanship (furūsiyya), was adopted wholesale from Byzantine Greek sources in the 9th and 10th centuries, notably Hippiatrica, a Byzantine compilation of hippiatrics (treatment of disease in horses), dated to the 5th or 6th century.

The discipline reached its peak in Mamluk Egypt during the 14th century, by which time furūsiyya had become increasingly detached from its origins in Byzantine veterinary medicine and more focussed on military arts. Al-Furūsiyya (written about. 1350) identifies four basic categories - horsemanship (including veterinary aspects of care and proper riding techniques), archery, charging with the lance and swordsmanship.

In Western Europe, the specialist care of livestock fell to stockmen, such as shepherds and swineherds, and with crafts such as farriery. This last has a distinguished history, officially recognised in England as early as 1346.

According to western perspectives, those carers who sought to cure animals or ward-off their ailments, did so on the basis of a mixture of empirical practice (based on observation plus trial and-error learning) and magic. This last was what distinguished such carers from the veterinary surgeon when the latter appeared.

The use of the European medical leech Hirudo medicinalis (and some other leech species) in treatment has been traced back 2,500 years to ancient India where it is explained in ancient Ayurvedic texts. In ancient Greece it was practised according to the humoral theory which proposed that good health was guaranteed when the human body's four ”humours” — blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile — were in balance. Records of this theory were found in the Greek philosopher Hippocrates' collection in the fifth century BC.

Bloodletting with leeches continued well into the 18th and 19th centuries in both Europe and North America. Leeches made a small-scale comeback in the 1980s being used medically in procedures such as the reattachment of body parts plus reconstructive and plastic surgeries when problematic venous congestion can arise due to inefficient venous drainage. It is also used in treating osteoarthritis in Germany. This author found leeches for sale in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul in 2010. A large jar of them - perhaps 250 as an estimate - were available for home use - “buy as many as you want” so perhaps the practice has never ceased.


The first attempts to organize and regulate the practice of treating animals in the western world tended to focus on horses because of their economic significance. In the Middle Ages, farriers combined their work in horseshoeing with the more general task of ”horse doctoring”.

In 1356, the Lord Mayor of London, concerned at the poor standard of care given to horses in the city, requested that all farriers operating within a seven-mile radius of the City of London form a ”fellowship” to regulate and improve their practices. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Worshipful Company of Farriers in 1605.

Meanwhile, Carlo Ruini's book Anatomia del Cavallo, (Anatomy of the Horse) had been published in 1598 in Italy, two months after his death. It was the first comprehensive treatise on the anatomy of a non-human species.

After witnessing the devastation being caused by cattle plague (Rinderpest) to the French herds, Claude Bourgelat, a French barrister, devoted his time to seeking out a remedy.

This led to France becoming the first country where the teaching of veterinary medicine became institutionalised with their first veterinary college being founded in Lyon, France in 1761. From this establishment Bourgelat dispatched students to combat the disease. “In a short time, the plague was stayed and the health of stock restored, through the assistance rendered to agriculture by veterinary science and art.” This can be identified as the beginning of the veterinary profession with Bourgelat considered the founder of scientific veterinary medicine. (RCVS, 2018)

By his willingness to provide instruction to blacksmiths, who were until then the only people to treat diseases of domestic animals, Bourgelat was at the birth of the training of veterinarians in France. His school moved to its current location in Paris in 1766, 23 years before the French Revolution.

In the UK, the Odiham Agricultural Society was founded on May 16th, 1783 at the George Inn in Hampshire, England, as a “society for the encouraging of Agricultural and Industry in their town and neighbourhood to promote agriculture and industry” (Pugh, 1962). As a result, it played an important role in the foundation of the veterinary profession in Britain. The Society had 47 members initially, drawn from 'Gentlemen of Rank, Fortune and Ingenuity' plus some 'intelligent farmers'. One founding member, Thomas Burgess, son of a grocer went on to become Bishop of St David's and, later, Salisbury. His interest in agricultural reform led to an affinity with the Odiham Agricultural Society, both for its focus on new developments and for its encouragement to Sobriety, Scriptures and Sunday school. His zeal and philanthropic nature led him to take up the cause of animal welfare and to campaign for more humane treatment of sick animals. (Cotchen 1990)

He proposed to the Society that “Farriery, as it is commonly practised, is conducted without principle or science and greatly to the injury to the noblest and most useful of our animals”.

Also “that the improvement of Farriery established on a study of the Anatomy, diseases and cure of cattle, particularly Horses, Cows and Sheep, will be an essential benefit to Agriculture and will greatly improve some of the most important branches of national commerce, such as Wool and Leather.

As a result, the Society meeting on August 19th, 1785, resolved to “promote the study of Farriery upon rational scientific principles.”

However, neither the Society nor Burgess had the money, medical or scientific knowledge to carry this resolution through so it was later agreed to establish the Farriery Fund.

Arthur Young, author and traveller, joined the Society in 1785 and spent time in France in 1787. He visited the French veterinary school near Paris with over 100 students from all over France and other European countries except England. In 1788, two English boys were sent to Paris and the Society advertised for contributions.

That same year a Scottish farrier, James Clark, wrote “Prevention of Disease” in which he put forward the case for farriery schools, praising the French schools and calling for similar in Britain. Granville Penn, a campaigner for enlightened causes, read this treatise, joined the Society and subscribed to the Farriery Fund.

When Granville Penn met a Frenchman who had trained and qualified at the French veterinary school, Benoit Vial de St. Bel, he found someone who could provide the teaching experience required; their combined efforts resulted in a plan for a school in England. In order to raise money rapidly, Penn sought large subscriptions from sponsors and patrons, who would become the first governors of a new ”College or Body Associating for the purpose of encouraging Veterinary Science” and which would direct the schools.

The Society accepted the plan and appointed a London Committee to supervise the scheme since the school would be in London. On February 18th, 1791, this Committee resolved to separate from its parent Society in Odiham in order to obtain the patronage of the Duke of Northumberland and from that same meeting, the London Committee was called 'The Veterinary College, London' and 'Mr Saint Bell' was appointed Professor to the College.

The College opened in 1792 with the first horse admitted for treatment in 1793.

Early veterinary education was limited in scope. Its focus was on the horse and owed much to farriery and it was only after the end of the French Wars (1815) that the profession began to realise a greater potential.

Cases of Farriery; in which Diseases of Horses are treated according to the principles of the Veterinary School of Medicine is an early English veterinary text (1806) by Sir John Shipp of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and Veterinary Surgeon to 11th and 23rd Regiments of Light Dragoons. He was the first veterinary surgeon to be commissioned into the British Army, joining the 11th Light Dragoons on 25 June 1796. His book details the use of firing with hot irons and chemical blisters to promote inflammation and subsequent healing of intractable conditions such as quittor (Clabby, 1976). These techniques were used in Australia until about 1985 and firing is still used in much of the world including the Middle East and Africa. Bloodletting likewise still has a prominent position in the therapies of developing countries this author attended a veterinary conference in Mongolia in 2011 when we were taught various techniques.

Early veterinarians inevitably acquired the name of “leech,” an old English synonym for physicians and farriers (from a Teutonic root meaning “heal.” This word is etymologically distinct from the same word describing the blood-sucking worm (Old English lyce)e.g. Hirudo medicinalis, though the use of the one by the other has helped to assimilate the two words especially given the classic technique of the day - blood-letting.

With most veterinary graduates joining the army to service the thousands of horses necessary for cavalry, artillery and supplies, the Army Board of Officers coined the title “Veterinary Surgeon” in 1796, presumably army veterinarians were officers and they needed a more respectable title than “Horse-leech”. At that time army regiments had a Medical Officer known as a Regimental Surgeon and so it appears understandable that the Veterinary Officer was a “Veterinary Surgeon”.

With the Royal Veterinary College well-established in London, William Dick established a veterinary school in Edinburgh in 1823 and the first two veterinary journals were launched in 1828, one, The Veterinarian, published for 74 years. The first meeting of the Veterinary Medical Association was held in 1836.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) (RCVS, 2018) was established by royal charter in 1844 and started to compile the first Register of Members in 1847. The Odiham Agricultural Society ended a few years later but its legacy remained in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which acquired its first premises at 10 Red Lion Square, London in 1854.

In the United States, the first schools were established in the early 19th century in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. (Widder, 2005)

Veterinary Associations emerged in many countries -e.g. Australia, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Mexico and the Netherlands, in the mid-nineteenth century in response to the changing circumstances of the profession.


Although, in general, veterinary training remained rudimentary, many of the European veterinary schools and colleges (with the exception of those in Britain) became important centres for scientific research in their early days. Three developments in particular illustrate the way in which veterinarians contributed to and gained from the advance of science. Two of these were direct responses to the search for answers to the epizootics that threatened European cattle in the nineteenth century.

Slaughter policies, which predated the emergence of the profession, and germ theory, with Pasteur's work demonstrating its validity, were important factors leading to the development of public veterinary services. These directed the campaigns that led to the eradication of rinderpest and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia from Europe in the late nineteenth century.

The work of Pasteur and Koch in immunology may have underpinned a growth in veterinarians' capabilities for meeting animal diseases, but it was veterinary scientists such as Chaveau and Boulay, who played key roles in laying the foundations for Pasteur's achievements and who gave him enthusiastic support. Similarly, veterinary scientists researching the dangers from diseased or contaminated animal products played a leading role in the development of parasitology. In turn, this led to veterinarians in western Europe (but, again, not Britain) finding increased employment as meat inspectors.

Veterinary science came of age in the late 19th century, with notable contributions from Sir John McFadyean, credited by many as having been the founder of modern veterinary research (AVMA, 2011). By the end of the nineteenth century, its value in the protection of animal and human health was well established, as was its status relative to other professions. This was recognised in the increasing incorporation of veterinary schools within universities, the peak institutions of tertiary education. The relationship between science, education and the profession remains at the core of its raison d'etre today. (Fisher, 2002)


This section has been derived from assorted papers by J. Fisher, 2002, on the Australian Veterinary History Society web site of the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists.

There were no veterinary surgeons on the First Fleet and no graduates of the British veterinary schools were transported to Australia. Few of those who came as private individuals in the nineteenth century, like John Stewart, remained in practice for very long, despite the importance of introduced livestock to the economies of the growing Australian colonies.

The poor prospects for veterinary surgeons were due to two factors -

This latter was the single most important reason for what can only be described as 'the stunted development' of the profession and, until relatively recently, the virtual absence of veterinarians playing a major role in the public sector, when compared to Europe. The stock branches formed in the late nineteenth century to meet introduced diseases employed veterinarians only in an advisory capacity.


The desirability of adequate veterinary services in Australia was recognised, especially in the light of scientific advance elsewhere, but colonial governments did little to meet the need. Instead, it was the foresight of a few individuals that led to the beginnings of veterinary education and the development of veterinary science in Australia.

The lead was taken in Victoria in the late nineteenth century by establishing, first, a veterinary association and then a veterinary school. The key figures were Graham Mitchell and WT Kendall, with the latter establishing the first Australian veterinary school in Melbourne in 1886. Despite some early difficulties, not least with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in London over recognition of its graduates, the school survived to become a part of the University of Melbourne in 1908. This was quickly followed by the foundation of a Department of Veterinary Science in the University of Sydney in 1910.

While it appeared that a sound basis had finally been established for veterinary science and the profession in Australia, it was a false dawn. There was a flowering of veterinary science in the first half of the twentieth century but this was not matched by the fortunes of the profession in private practice in an era dominated by world wars and depression.

When the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1923 was proclaimed there were two ways you could become a veterinary surgeon in NSW:

As a result the NSW Veterinary Surgeons Board was established in 1924. The first Board was chaired by the Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Mr Max Henry, and included veterinary surgeons (Professor JD Stewart and Colonel AP Gribben), two non-graduates who were eligible to be registered (Messrs Edgar Hamilton and MP Dunlop), and two members of the stockowners' organisations.

The first year saw 37 meetings of the whole Board and many visits to country towns. In all 130 applicants were interviewed, some more than once, and at the end of the first year there were 279 approvals for registration and 86 refusals.

Mr Edgar Hamilton, a member of the first Board, was given Registration Number 2 and this file is still in the hands of the Veterinary Practitioners Board.

Edgar was born at Guntawang (near Mudgee) NSW on 31 October 1877. Guntawang has its own place in NSW colonial history as the home of the Rouse family from 1825. He became a stock inspector based at Moss Vale and was in this position for 10 years. He became a registered veterinary surgeon, satisfying the 1923 Act (section 13 2(f)), by holding the Certificate of the Stock Board of Examiners issued under the Pastures Protection Act 1912. The Board records show that, in later life, Edgar lived in the Chatswood area of Sydney and died on 25 February, 1955.

( In September 2013, Trent McCarthy was registered as a veterinary practitioner in NSW with the number N10000. Trent was raised on the northern beaches of Sydney although he spent many teenage years living in Fiji where he was involved with the SPCA. Before entering Charles Sturt University (CSU) Trent also worked as a volunteer with Assistance Dogs and Riding for the Disabled. Following graduation from CSU in August 2013, Trent began working as a mixed animal practitioner at the Dungog Veterinary Hospital. )

The staff of the new university departments immediately began significant research into Australian livestock disease problems, despite poor funding and facilities. Figures such as 'Jock' Gilruth, JD Stewart, LB Bull and Max Henry established high reputations and their efforts were supported by the foundation of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1926. Veterinary research was given a degree of priority and, with Gilruth (followed by Bull) leading the CSIR Division of Animal Health, this was rewarded by a series of major advances. Perhaps the most spectacular of these was the identification of mineral deficiencies as the causes of 'coast disease', but important work was done in other areas, notably immunology. Veterinarians in Sydney and Melbourne universities participated fully in CSIR research while research facilities were also further developed in Queensland and South Australia.

Unfortunately, the development of veterinary science was not matched in professional education. There was only one graduate from Sydney in 1914 - Ian Clunies Ross - while numbers at the Melbourne Veterinary Faculty fell so low that it was closed in 1928. Although graduates found some employment in State livestock services, there was little or no demand for private practice until after World War II.

The Australian Army Veterinary Corps

Before 1897, all veterinary surgeons in the Australian Army were British. In 1897 the first graduates from the Melbourne Veterinary College joined as volunteers. On 11 October, 1899, the South African War commenced in which 16,715 men from Australia served, 25 of whom were veterinarians, including 15 Melbourne graduates. A total of 16,000 horses were sent; none returned (although this is not a reflection on the skill of the veterinarians!).

After Federation, the colonial armies were transferred to the Commonwealth Military Forces and veterinarians consolidated in a Veterinary Department which became the Australian Army Veterinary Corps in 1909.

At the commencement of World War 1, mounted units, transport and artillery brigades were quickly enlisted, horses purchased and veterinarians appointed. The first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force, left on 1 November, 1914, in 38 ships - 20,000 men, 7,500 horses and 19 Veterinary Officers. They disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt on December 4th. After the evacuation of Gallipoli, the first five Australian Army Divisions were reorganised and sent to the Western Front in France, while the Light Horse Regiments remained in Egypt and went on to fight in the Sinai and Palestine. 125 veterinarians, of whom 95 were graduates of either Melbourne or Sydney Veterinary Schools, served overseas. During the War, from 136,000 walers (horses exported from Australia) only one returned - 'Sandy' who belonged to Major General Sir William Bridges, killed at Gallipoli.

Although horses were a vital means of transport in the Great War, they were gradually replaced by mechanised units in the post-war army. The AAVC continued to function in Australian Militia Forces from 1919 through the Second World War until 1946 when it became redundant. The names of those who served in the Great War are displayed on the Roll of Honour Boards at Melbourne and Sydney Veterinary Schools.


The fifty years after World War II brought remarkable changes in the fortunes of the veterinary profession.

Against a background of sustained economic growth leading to the full development of a 'consumer society' in Australia, the profession has both grown and changed in fundamental ways.

In 1945, professional veterinary education was available in only one Australian university - Sydney. By the end of the century, it was available in all mainland States except South Australia. The Melbourne school was re-established in 1960 while veterinary science was also prominent at the Australian National University in Canberra. The curriculum has also expanded dramatically to take account not only of continuing rapid advance in scientific research and knowledge but also of the changing orientation of professional practice. Traditionally, the focus of our profession had been on livestock production but this has shifted as the importance of companion animals has grown with affluence, for clients and for the new generations of potential veterinarians.

From a position where the profession once attracted very few new entrants, it is now almost overwhelmed by them. The entry requirements for veterinary faculties have become among the highest - if not the highest - in Australian universities. Another feature has been the steady increase in female applicants for a veterinary education. With over three-quarters of undergraduates now female, the profession is rapidly in the process of being feminised. These features reflect the fundamental shift in attitudes towards animals that is a feature of modern society, a shift that creates unprecedented opportunities and challenges for our profession.


While the profession traditionally embraced its role in enhancing animal welfare, this was as a basis for enhancing the productivity of livestock industries. Today, questions have been raised concerning the ability of the profession to provide adequate livestock field services to cover health, disease and welfare.

Partly this is due to the focus of the profession shifting towards the primacy of animal welfare in its own right. The issue of animal rights as much as animal welfare has become a major preoccupation of Australian society and led to a burgeoning of perspectives from individuals with both amateur and professional understanding in the field.

Partly this is due to the changing structure of the profession with increasing emphasis on working hours, levels of remuneration, rural facilities and the private lives of veterinarians with families less keen to live in remote locations.

Another challenge to the primacy of the profession in veterinary matters is the increasing number of lay people who are performing acts of veterinary diagnosis, treatment and surgery, frequently charging for their services at lower rates than members of our profession or else using trial-and-error techniques or “magic” to the detriment of animal welfare. Treatment and welfare of wildlife is of particular concern with the absorption of many individuals into domestic menageries and others returned to the wild in unsuitable ways and potentially diseased.

And, finally, may I make an impassioned observation that, after 43 years proudly working in divers sections of my profession, I believe we do ourselves no favours by shutting our minds to the possibility that alternatives to surgical and pharmaceutical therapies are not worthy of our professional consideration.

Much of our established expertise is rooted firmly in the Newtonian physics of the 18th century and we have yet to catch up with twentieth century thought and Einsteinian perspectives that animals, and people, are a resonating mass of pulsating energy particles.

Einstein's laws of Relativity indicate that energy particles possess some amazing characteristics that we have barely begun to investigate from a veterinary, or human, perspective. However, the potential to utilize energy for both diagnostic and therapeutic techniques has hardly been tapped in our own “Age of the Laboratory”.

Recent decisions in several countries to reject complementary therapies such as homoeopathy, acupuncture and other techniques of energy medicine would seem a retrograde step from a profession whose history indicates a proud tradition of looking to the future. When research confirms that such techniques have merit, as I personally believe it will, we may well have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

By attempting to prevent competition, narrow-minded decisions influenced by vested commercial interests will have driven the divorced spectrum of energy medicine into the arms of a more receptive partner - the lay public. This uncontrolled, wider population of untrained amateurs will once again be practising animal therapy. Treatment of animals will revert to empirical learning and magic. It will be animals that will suffer.

I can only finish with the final words of the oath I took on July 10th 1975 -

'I promise and solemnly declare that...above all, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.'


  1. AVMA (2011) Exacting researcher brought profession into modern age, American Veterinary Medical Association www.avma.org
  2. Blancou, J. (2000). History of the surveillance and control of transmissible animal diseases, Office Internationale des Epizooties, 112, rue de Prony, 75017, Paris, France. ISBN 92-9044-5076
  3. Cotchen, E. (1990). The Royal Veterinary College London, A Bicentenary History, Barracuda Books Ltd, pp 11-13
  4. Fisher, J. (2002). ANZCVS website www.anzcvs.org.au
  5. Merriam-Webster Dictionarywww.merriam-webster.com
  6. Pugh, LP. (1962) From Farriery to Veterinary Medicine, 1785 - 1795, Heffner, Cambridge (for RCVS) pp 8-19
  7. Clabby, BJ. (1976). A short history of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.
  8. RCVS. (2018). History of the veterinary profession on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website, UK
  9. Sitchin, Z. 1976. The Twelfth Planet, Avon Books, Harper Collins Publishers, ISBN 0-380-39362-X
  10. Widder, KR. (2005). Michigan Agricultural College: The Evolution of a Land-Grant Philosophy, 1855-1925, p.107. MSU Press

Appendix 1

Table 1 identifies several important dates and events in the history of the modern veterinary profession that have not been discussed above. Many of these relate to British events due to their importance to Australia.

Table 1: A chronology of important veterinary events
Date Event
1848 Sheep pox found in animals imported into UK led to 1848 Act, first regulation to control import of animals.
1857 John Gamgee opens New Edinburgh Veterinary School, later moves to London but fails.
1861 James McCall founds Glasgow Veterinary School.
1865 Rinderpest diagnosed in London by JB Simonds.
1866 Cattle Diseases Prevention Act passed and State veterinary department created.
Veterinary medicine seen as of national importance in UK.
1873 William Williams establishes veterinary school in Edinburgh.
1876 Sir Frederick Fitzwygram and George Fleming, both in the Army, reorganise RCVS and obtain supplemental Charter.
1879 Fitzwygram heals rift between RCVS and Dick School allowing way for Act of Parliament to protect the veterinary profession.
1881 Veterinary Surgeons Act passed due to work of Fleming.
1882 National Veterinary Association formed.
1896 Post of Chief Veterinary Officer established.
1900 Veterinary School in Dublin opened.
1905 Williams School from Edinburgh becomes Liverpool Veterinary School.
1917 Weybridge Central Veterinary Laboratory completed.
1919 National Veterinary Medical Association formed, becomes British Veterinary Association in 1957.
1920 Veterinary Surgeons Act (1881) Amendment Act passed, provided RCVS with regular income.
1922 Aleen Cust becomes first woman MRCVS after completing course in 1890s.
1923 Veterinary Surgeons Act 1923 proclaimed in NSW.
1929 Martin Committee reports that RVC is a “national disgrace”.
1935 First sulphonamide introduced starting drugs revolution.
1936 The University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science (UQSVS) founded and commenced teaching a first year intake of seven students on the original site at Yeerongpilly
1937 Rebuilt Royal Veterinary College opened.
1938 Animal Health Division of Ministry of Agriculture born.
1946 Loveday Report on veterinary education; veterinary schools absorbed into universities.
1948 The Veterinary Surgeons Act passed giving RCVS powers over education and prevention of unqualified practice.
1949 Bristol and Cambridge Veterinary Schools established in response to the Loveday Reports.
1957 British Small Animal Veterinary Association born, became dominant division by 2000.
1961 Establishment of training for animal nursing auxiliaries.
1966 The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 consolidated and updated all previous legislation.
1966 RCVS approves RANA (Veterinary Nurses) Register.
1968 Medicines Act passed with widespread influence on sale and use of veterinary medicines.
2005 School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences opened in Wagga Wagga.
2006 School of Veterinary Medicine and Science opened at the University of Nottingham.
2013 Legislative Reform Order (LRO) to reconstitute RCVS disciplinary committees separately from RCVS Council came into force on 6 April amending the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
2014 School of Veterinary Medicine opened at the University of Surrey.

Appendix 2

The Veterinary Oaths of Australia and UK

In Australia, the oath currently made by new veterinarians is -

'I solemnly swear to practice veterinary science ethically and conscientiously for the benefit of animal welfare, animal and human health, users of veterinary services and the community. I will endeavour to maintain my practice of veterinary science to current professional standards and will strive to improve my skills and knowledge through continuing professional development. I acknowledge that along with the privilege of acceptance into the veterinary profession comes community and professional responsibility. I will maintain these principles throughout my professional life.'

In UK the oath made on acceptance into RCVS is -

'I promise and solemnly declare that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, the profession and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and that, above all, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.'


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