Presentation at the ‘Constructing and contesting veterinary expertise’ conference
On 5 July Ludek Broz delivered a paper at the Constructing and contesting veterinary expertise: professionals, publics and prospects conference titled Veterinarization of Society: the paradox of marginal vets and all-powerful veterinary expertise.
The conference was organised by Professor Pru Hobson-West, Dr Alistair Anderson, and Professor Kate Millar (all University of Nottingham) and sponsored by the British Academy and Welcome Trust.
We suggest that bio-veterinary medicine exercises increasing global influence over human and animal lives and propose to call this process ‘veterinarization of society’ (in parallel with the concept of ‘medicalization of society’). However, this process seems at odds with the self-perception of the veterinary specialists described by many researchers as feeling marginalised, undervalued and powerless, in constant comparison with human medicine doctors. How can we explain this paradox? And, how widespread is this professional self-perception globally? We suggest that surprisingly little is known about the veterinary profession on the global scale as most studies and surveys have strong Euro-American bias. Hence, we argue for comparative veterinary anthropology that would ask who is veterinary expert in transcultural perspective and thus to ‘provincialize’ the seemingly universal expert system, showing that it is one of many by exposing its historicity, limits and also past and present competitors. We propose that veterinary anthropology should first, symmetrically treat ideas, practices and practitioners dealing with animal health and illness regardless of where they are standing vis-à-vis the western bio-veterinary medicine in its current form. Second, pay detailed attention to the processes of globalisation of western style bio-veterinary medicine and its effects on the socio-ecologies of human-animal relations. Third, to cultivate sensitivity to dissent knowledges and practices that thrive in the so-called west that can be called complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) and see them as indispensable part of the more-than-human lived world of animal health and illness.