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Veterinary Services
The Lowe report and its echoes from history
  1. A. Woods, VetMB, MA, MSc, PhD, MRCVS
  1. Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ
  1. e-mail: a.woods{at}

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Philip Lowe's 2009 report on veterinary expertise in food animal production aimed to advance the debate on whether existing farm animal veterinary expertise was sufficient to deliver the Government's Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. However, as Abigail Woods explains, the issues examined in the report were not entirely unprecedented

AMONG the key recommendations of the Lowe report were that, first, food animal vets should rethink their relationships with farmers and the state. Secondly, they should view the consumer as their ultimate customer and build a more prominent role in public health. Thirdly, they should reorient and market their services to meet farmers' demands. Farm health planning, with its focus on preventing disease and maintaining health, was identified as a key vehicle for achieving these goals (Lowe 2009).

When viewed from a historical perspective, there is something deeply paradoxical about these recommendations. On the one hand, they reflect Lowe's analysis of changes in the roles, responsibilities and relationships of the veterinary profession, farmers and government. The shift in veterinary focus from food animals to pets, the rolling back of state support for agriculture and veterinary services, and the proposed shift towards responsibility and cost sharing all called for fundamental rethinking of the demand for and supply and role of food animal veterinarians.

On the other hand, Lowe's recommendations bore a distinct resemblance to the conclusions of four earlier investigations that predated these changes. Commissioned by government and reporting in 1938, 1944, 1964 and 1975, these inquiries also focused on future veterinary services to food animals; proclaimed the need for new relationships between vets, farmers and the state; called on vets to assume a greater role in public health; and promoted the growth of herd-based preventive veterinary medicine.

The Lowe report (above) followed previous reports (right) on veterinary education, veterinary recruitment …

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