Decentring antibiotics: UK responses to the diseases of intensive pig production, c1925-65

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It is widely assumed that the development of antibiotics had a transformative effect on livestock production by making it possible to keep larger numbers of animals in smaller spaces without them succumbing to disease. Using the health and production of UK pigs, c1925-65 as a case study, this article argues that their impact has been overstated. It draws on evidence from veterinary journals, farming magazines, and government-appointed committees to demonstrate the significance of other methods of countering the diseases that emerged in association with intensive production systems. Devised by vets, farmers and other experts, these methods predated antibiotics and evolved alongside them. They were rooted in a shared understanding of pig diseases as highly complex phenomena that resulted from interactions between pig bodies and their environments. Recognition of the roles played by housing, husbandry, nutrition, and pathogens in the production of pig disease suggested multiple possible points of intervention. In situating antibiotics within this landscape of disease prevention and control, this article challenges existing claims about their reception and impact, decentres them from the history of intensive farming, and draws attention to other methods of promoting pig health, which may find renewed applications as we move towards a post-antibiotic era.
Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalPalgrave Communications
Issue number1
Early online date23 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


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