The local universality of veterinary expertise and the geography of animal disease

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This paper explores the concept of local universality in relation to the regulation of animal health. Protocols have come to play an important role in medical practice, standardising diseases and the expertise required to identify them. Focusing on the use of protocols to identify bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in England and Wales, it is argued that the decontextualised expertise inherent to protocols comes unstuck in practice. Using ethnographies of two veterinary practices, the paper instead shows how forms of situated veterinary expertise emerge in response to practical contingencies, thereby enacting different ontological versions of bTB. The development of these skills stems from the relationships that organise bTB testing as well as through informal work‐based modes of learning. Although these practices vary from place to place and depart from the bTB testing protocol, it is variation in practice rather than uniformity that effectively allows the protocol to work. In conclusion, the paper discusses how the management of animal health may be assisted by a flexible rather than uniform approach to disease and veterinary expertise.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society, and School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3WA

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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