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Matthew, P. Pleuro-Pneumonia — Neglect of the Legislature and GovernmentFarmer’s Gazette (Ireland) Saturday 11 August 1860, p.16-17 (pdf image)

(Letter dated July 20 1860)
An article by Matthew on bovine TB (“pleuro-pneumonia”). Matthew blames “neglect of the legislature and government” for failing to deal with outbreaks more decisively, brought about because “our legislature and government are much engrossed with despicable party intrigue and cabal for power and place as to think of nothing else”. Matthew’s management suggestions for bovine TB are in line with modern views on how to deal with the problem.

The article originally appeared in the Mark Lane Express, before being copied in the Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture (Ireland) Saturday 11 August 1860, p.16-17 and the Waterford Mail Wednesday 15 August 1860, p.4 col.3-4 (pdf image).

The piece ends with an interesting aside regarding the need to “grow” a better quality of British man, able to “run down any amount of Frenchmen”. Like the rearing of cattle, this requires careful attention to culture and diet, and no alcohol!


SIR,— In the neighbouring districts we have had a number of farmsteads with cattle affected by pleuro-pneumonia — a condition of things pretty general in Great Britain. We attribute this disease to importation; but quite as probable it is of home produce, generated in some of our city dairies, where great numbers of cows are very unnaturally placed and fed: at least, it has proved most fatal there. However generated, the inattention of the legislature and government to this continued and wide-spread evil is in high degree culpable. It is amusing to observe our susceptibility, pretended or real, to danger of infection from abroad, when there is not one-hundredth part of risk of imported infection, at least from the German States or Denmark, as from home infection from purchase of cattle in the markets of our own country.

In Germany and Denmark, should the pleuro-pneumonia appear, all the cattle on the farm are immediately slaughtered under supervision of the authorities; the infected deeply buried in their skins, and the beef of the still healthy sold for what it will bring in the nearest town; at the same time, the greatest care is taken to prevent the infection being carried by dirty clothes, foul hands, from touching the diseased or otherwise, to the neighbouring farms (no one is more likely to carry the infection than the cow-doctor himself) ; while, in the case of the disease becoming general in a district or large agricultural village, a military cordon is placed, to insulate the infected locality from all connection in cattle, hides, horns, or whatever may be thought likely to carry the infection. That the disease is infectious, carried on infection, no rational mind, who examines into facts, we think, can doubt.

The cattle of the infected farm are valued previous to being slaughtered, and the farmer receives (I think) two-thirds of the value of the whole; the deficit, after deducting the price got for beef, &c., of the apparently sound cattle, being raised by a district tax. These regulations on the continent have nearly, if not wholly, eradicated the disease; while in Britain nothing is done to prevent, but everything done to spread the disease. Here, in most cases, no sooner does the possessor perceive one of his herd affected by this disease, than he hastens to remove the rest, by sending them off to markets far and near, fearing that they may have received the germs of the infection, which has been known to remain latent in the body for several months before breaking out into recognisable disease. It is this nefarious practice which disseminates the disease, and has rendered it so prevalent throughout Britain, assisted by the railway conveyance of sound cattle in dirty trucks, in which the diseased may have been carried to the butcher or the market a day or two previous.

Why is this most disastrous ailment, by which the agricultural interests in Britain have suffered so deeply, not legislated against? Why are these most ruinous and criminal practices allowed to go on, which threaten the destruction of our famed British cattle, and throw us entirely upon foreign supply? The reason is that our legislature and government are much engrossed with despicable party intrigue and cabal for power and place as to think of nothing else — at least totally to neglect the most urgent of their duties. We have, in fact, a continued civil war. There ought to be a minister of home sanitary affairs, well for man as for what supports man, not removable at every turn of the game of outs-and-ins. The scarcity and very high price of animal food (beef) to some extent owing to this disease, and the quantity of diseased meat sold in the market is disgusting to think of; the losses from this disease having in so many cases impoverished the farmer, he has been prevented from the enriching and high cultivation of his land, and diminished produce and increase of poverty are the result. The continental plan of eradicating the disease should immediately be adopted and most rigorously carried out; any one not reporting the appearance of this disease in his stock to be subject to heavy fine, and the taking to market or disposing of cattle when the disease is in the herd stock, except under supervision of the authorities, to be proceeded against as a criminal offence. The utmost care ought also to be taken that cattle trucks be cleanly washed out in every part each time they are used, and while dripping wet all over to be well dusted with quick lime. Before the appearance of the pleuro-pneumonia and of the mouth and foot disease, and before a delicacy of constitution had been induced by a cultivated selection of breeds having early disposition to fatten — to oil dropsy, without regard to strength or hardihood of constitution (as nature selects), the cow, especially the black cattle of Scotland, was proverbially free from disease. I may mention that although 1 have had a good many cattle in my possession, never had one under any infectious disease, owing, perhaps, to care in the purchase, and attention have clean cattle trucks.

These oil-dropsical cattle, which by five years of age get non-productive, must tend to construct a race of men of the same character — to which John Bull, no doubt, is tending. This leads us to consider of the propriety of following out these denaturalized breeds. We wish to grow athletes — men fit for the battle field, men able to vault a six bar gate, and keep with the hounds on foot—of thick skins, of flesh firm, tough, and elastic as a piece of india rubber, able to bear any amount of blows without swelling up like a puff ball. Is it necessary to remind the reader that this tone of the muscular system and ability to run down any amount of Frenchmen is not to be obtained by drinking French wines or any other large quantity of fluid, especially if drugged with alcohol, &c.? Need I further mention that wine is much disposed to run into the acetous fermentation, and that a common method of correcting this is to hang a small bag of sugar (acetate) of lead in the wine cask from the bunghole, sufficient to poison the animalcules, the production of which seems cause the acidity? Pure cold water, which being the natural corrector of thirst, is delicious while required, and insipid (Scottice, wersh) when not required, is the drink of the able soldier. Tea and beer, without any addition of stupifying drugs, come next; but in these the natural provision against excess is wanting.—

PATRICK MATTHEW, Gourdie Hill, Carse of Gowrie, July 20th.— Mark-lane Express.

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