The Economic History Review

The veterinary medicine industry in Britain in the twentieth century1

Volume 64 Issue 3
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Pages: 832-854Authors: T. A. B. CORLEY, ANDREW GODLEY
Published online: February 14, 2011DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0289.2010.00553.x

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Economic historians have focused research effort on accounting for the growth and significance of Britain’s pharmaceutical industry, but little effort has so far been directed at the veterinary medicine industry, which formed an important part of the wider sector. This article addresses that gap. Factors responsible for that sector’s relative insignificance until the 1950s included a general tendency to slaughter rather than to treat sick animals, the absence of advanced medicines until the innovation of sulpha drugs and antibiotics, and difficult relations with the wider pharmaceutical industry. Thereafter output of veterinary medicines increased dramatically, arising from an exponential growth in the demand for intensively farmed poultry meat. Since the 1980s a decline in the use of drugs in agriculture has caused the industry to concentrate on the health needs of domestic animals rather than those of livestock.