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June 2011 saw the culmination of a centuries-long struggle to rid the world of rinderpest, arguably the most remarkable achievement of the veterinary profession in its 250-year history. Giving the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture at this year's BVA Congress, Peter Roeder, who was secretary of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme from 2000 to 2007, explained how the disease was eradicated and highlighted some of the challenges facing the British veterinary profession in 2011 and into the future. In this, the first part of his lecture, he describes some of the important events that led to the eradication of rinderpest, discussing the seminal role of British veterinarians in this process. The second part of his lecture, to be published in next week's Veterinary Record, looks at ways in which the British veterinary profession might assist in meeting the demands of an exponentially growing global human population for food.
2011 has been designated World Veterinary Year, marking 250 years from the foundation of the first veterinary school at Lyon in France. It is highly appropriate that 2011 has also been marked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as the year that rinderpest was officially eradicated. Arguably the most remarkable achievement of the veterinary profession in its history, this was achieved after many years of concerted international effort.
Rinderpest, or cattle plague as it was commonly known in English, is the most dreaded bovine plague. It belongs to a select group of notorious infectious diseases that have changed the course of history (Scott and Provost 1992). For more than a millennium rinderpest followed marauding armies and traded cattle around Europe and Asia, causing disaster, death and devastation. Australasia and the Americas were largely spared, but invasion of Africa at …