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Scientific conviction amidst scientific controversy in the transatlantic livestock and meat trade

01.jun.05, Justin Kastner, Douglas Powell, Terry Crowley and Karen Huff, Endeavour Vol.29 No.2 June 2005

A century before the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Great Britain and North America
grappled with pleuro-pneumonia – a disease in cattle that had equally maddening consequences. Towards the
end of the 19th century, this condition was at the heart of a transatlantic trade dispute that lasted for decades
and attracted the attention of livestock farmers, diplomats, shipping moguls, veterinarians, public health
regulators and journalists the world over. Scientific controversy aggravated the situation when there were
doubts about the scientific judgment of Privy Council veterinary officials, who were simultaneously conducting
disease-diagnosis activities and pushing for tighter regulations at British ports. At this point, William
Williams, principal of the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, waded into this troubled arena. His strong
convictions spawned a long-running disagreement with the British Government over the diagnoses of pleuropneumonia
in cattle imported from the USA and Canada.

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