Michael Bresalier

From 1945, Zebu cattle living on the Indian subcontinent were exhaustively identified, enumerated and evaluated by officials working for the newly created Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). These indigenous, humped-backed cattle (Bos indicus) provided crucial sources of draught power, food and income to the area’s human inhabitants. Surveying them was a lengthy and painstaking process that took seven years to complete. It was disrupted by political events such as the Partition of India, the creation of Pakistan and the end of British rule in 1947, which impacted on the provision of agricultural services and the presence of technical experts able to attend to the Zebu. It was made more difficult by the Zebu themselves. Numbering more than 100 million in India alone (which held nearly half of the world’s population) , their living conditions, locations and roles within agrarian systems varied greatly, as did their physical state. Investigators identified at least twenty eight distinct breeds, whose diverse sizes, shapes and productive capacities reflected their adaptation to particular climates and environments . Many were burdened by chronic infections, parasites and malnutrition , which undermined their health and limited their ability to fulfil their human-designated roles.Footnote 1

The Zebu attracted attention at this time as a result of the findings of the FAO’s first World Food Survey . Reporting in 1946, it anticipated a growing food crisis across much of the world: production was below pre-war levels, famine had just devastated Bengal and millions of people were unable to meet their basic calorie requirements. With the world’s population predicted to increase exponentially, the situation would only deteriorate.Footnote 2 The Zebu survey formed one facet of the FAO’s response. It sought to identify those cattle with the greatest potential to develop more productive bodies, and to enrol them in a campaign to combat human hunger. This extended beyond India to Latin America, Africa and much of Asia , and enlisted not only cattle but also buffalo, chickens, pigs and other animals. However, the recognized importance of milk for child growth and development, and the vitamin, mineral and protein deficiencies that it helped to address, meant that cattle played a central role.

This role was not entirely new. The twin challenges of improving human nutrition through increased milk consumption, and developing agriculture through improvements in livestock health and production, had preoccupied nations, colonies and the League of Nations during the interwar years, culminating in calls to ‘marry food and agriculture’.Footnote 3 However, it was only after the war, under the aegis of the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), that these two agendas became truly integrated. In framing healthy, productive cattle as essential to the production of healthy, well-nourished humans, these organizations encouraged experts in human and veterinary medicine to transcend the institutional and disciplinary boundaries that had grown to separate them,Footnote 4 and to forge new relationships with each other, and with the human and bovine subjects whose bodies they sought to transform.

Taking the interwar period as its jumping-off point, this chapter explores and accounts for these previously undocumented post-war developments. In revealing the centrality of cattle to the international campaign to feed the world, it adds a crucial zoological strand to the existing historiography on world hunger, and demonstrates the importance of a cross-cutting approach to domains of science and policy that historians typically study in isolation from each other. Existing accounts of world hunger adopt two distinct approaches. Some historians have examined how it was framed as a problem of overpopulation , and have explored neo-Malthusian efforts by American philanthropists such as the Ford Foundation, and UN experts such as Julian Huxley, to manage the crisis by controlling human fertility.Footnote 5 Others have examined approaches to hunger as a problem of agricultural development , and interrogate the alliances between the Rockefeller Foundation , the US government and the FAO that resulted in efforts to modernize food production through seed-and-soil science and hybrid crops, culminating in the so-called ‘Green Revolution’.Footnote 6 In these accounts and in the burgeoning literature on international health organizations,Footnote 7 livestock hardly feature.Footnote 8 Relegated to histories of development, they are viewed largely in terms of their ability to promote economic growth and destroy the environment .Footnote 9 When their influence over human health is considered, it is primarily as hosts and transmitters of infectious diseases to humans.Footnote 10

However, as this chapter demonstrates, livestock attracted attention for other reasons. Post-war experts from across the UN and its allied agencies viewed them not only as threats to human health but also as potential contributors to it, suppliers of highly nutritious foodstuffs that would benefit human health and strength.Footnote 11 This role was not disconnected from that of disease transmitter because many of the zoonotic infections that animals conveyed to humans undermined their own health and productivity. However, as we shall see, international efforts to promote cattle as sources of meat and milk focused not only on the prevention of their diseases but also—in line with the WHO’s definition of human health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’—on improving their feeding , breeding, husbandry and general health.Footnote 12 The unproductive bodies of developing world cows therefore shaped and were produced by the post-war international campaign against world hunger, which brought experts and activities that historians have tended to regard as ‘veterinary’ in character into the realms of human health and medicine.Footnote 13

In recounting the history of that campaign, and its bovine subjects and shapers, this chapter draws on the traces that cows left on the historical record.Footnote 14 As subjects of investigation by experts in animal pathology, nutrition and physiology, cattle frequently feature within their scientific literatures. They also appear in the statistical surveys and documents of the FAO, WHO and allied agencies. As producers of vitamins, fats and proteins for human consumption, they left indirect traces on the bodies of their human consumers, and in scientific and documents dedicated to human health and nutrition.Footnote 15 By analysing these traces, the people and circumstances that gave rise to them, and the methods used to create them, this chapter sheds new light on the people, organizations and agendas that drove the interlinked creation of healthy cattle and healthy humans in the post-war international arena.

The first section will explore the parallel development during the interwar period of scientific literatures and policy agendas that granted two distinctive roles to cows. In human health and nutrition , new knowledge of vitamins and trace elements led experts to regard cows as important sources of human food, and to promote the consumption of their milk .Footnote 16 In agriculture and veterinary medicine, scientific advances and the deepening agricultural depression led experts to view cows as key sources of farming income, and to attempt improvements to their health and productivity. In colonial and international settings, links formed between these two agendas, resulted in calls for the ‘marriage of food and agriculture’. The second section will relate how, in wartime and the immediate post-war era, these links were concretized by food shortages and the identification of ‘protein malnutrition’ as a key problem in the developing world , such that world hunger came to be viewed as a problem of unproductive cattle, whose health and nutrition had a direct bearing on the health and nutrition of their human consumers. The third section outlines how the FAO and the WHO responded to this problem by creating new structures within which different types of expert came together to plan the creation of new bovine bodies and new experts capable of bringing them into being. It also touches on the consequences of these plans for the cows that helped to shape them.

4.1 Cows in Interwar Medicine and Agriculture

The interwar period witnessed a new consciousness about the centrality of foods produced by animals to the nourishment of humans. By the 1930s, patterns of food consumption in most of the industrial world had shifted from grain-based to animal-based diets —the so-called ‘nutrition transition’.Footnote 17 Meat , milk and other livestock products gained pride of place on the tables of all classes, becoming integral to national cultures, tastes and identities.Footnote 18 Their significance to human health and nutrition was increasingly recognized. In the later nineteenth century, early nutrition scientists had regarded animals as crucial sources of calories and protein , whose meat and milk could help to repair muscles and ensure the efficient functioning of the human motor.Footnote 19 During the early twentieth century, as nutrition science expanded, gained institutional expression and won new sources of public funding, the evaluation of animal foods shifted to focus on newly identified components—amino acids , minerals and vitamins—which scientists deemed essential for normal physiological growth, development and function. In 1918 the American biochemist and nutrition scientist E.V. McCollum heralded this as the ‘newer knowledge of nutrition’.Footnote 20 Despite early controversies, this new knowledge was eventually accepted as nutritional fact, generating a Nobel Prize for the discoverers of vitamins, Christiaan Eijkman and Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins .Footnote 21

A number of nutritional scientists sought to translate the findings of experimental research into practical knowledge that could guide medical and public health professionals , policy -makers and the public.Footnote 22 Ranking foods according to their nutritional value, they concluded that those derived from animals were the best for humans.Footnote 23 Their laboratory and field studies showed that milk , meat , eggs and fish not only provided high-quality proteins —with the best combination of essential amino acids—but also other micronutrients, notably vitamins A and D, which were identified as especially important for infants, children , and pregnant and lactating women. In this evaluation, milk was awarded pride of place and defined as a ‘protective food’.Footnote 24 The dairy cow therefore became an essential contributor to the health and efficiency of human bodies.Footnote 25 For McCollum , ‘the consumption of milk and its products form[ed] the greatest factor for the protection of mankind’,Footnote 26 while an enquiry by experts associated with the League of Nations characterized it as the best and most readily available ‘protective food’, ‘the nearest approach we possess to a perfect and complete food’.Footnote 27

In shifting attention from the quantity to quality of food intake, the newer knowledge of nutrition reframed understandings of an adequate diet , its cost and its relationship to health. It also led to the identification of ‘malnutrition’ as a new medical problem caused by inadequate dietary intake of vitamins , amino acids or minerals, and characterized by suboptimal growth, health and productivity.Footnote 28 Scientific investigations revealed that malnutrition could be rectified by adding bovine bodily products to human diets. They stimulated significant improvements in human growth and efficiency, lowered the incidence of deficiency diseases such as rickets , and helped to reduce maternal mortality. Dietary surveys conducted in 1930s Britain , where economic depression had devastated industrial heartlands, suggested that a fifth of all children were chronically malnourished. Read alongside scientists’ calculations of the cost of a nutritious diet, this finding stimulated criticisms of a government that repeatedly asserted the adequacy of its responses to poverty . It also encouraged efforts to increase the consumption of ‘protective foods’ such as milk .Footnote 29 In Britain and the USA , policies were introduced to provide daily milk for schoolchildren.Footnote 30 There was also a movement to encourage pasteurization as a means of improving the quality and public appeal of milk, which was often produced in unhygienic conditions and contaminated with germs that caused scarlet fever and tuberculosis in humans.Footnote 31

John Boyd Orr , a medically trained nutrition scientist who headed the Rowett Institute of Animal Nutrition in Aberdeen , was at the forefront of British nutritional research, dietary surveys and the political campaign to promote government action.Footnote 32 He also helped to establish malnutrition as a colonial problem. With the head of the Kenyan Medical Department, John Gilks, he surveyed the diet and health of different tribes, finding differences in the health and physique of populations that consumed animal-based diets compared with grain- and vegetable-based diets. Similar observations had been made by Robert McCarrison in India, and were subsequently confirmed and elaborated there by W. Akyroyd , and by other colonial investigators working in West Africa , the Middle East and Kenya , where field studies were impeded by the Maasai migrating to fulfil their cows’ need for water.Footnote 33

In the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana ), the Jamaican-born British paediatrician Cicely Williams , working for the Colonial Medical Service , identified a new form of malnutrition that she attributed to ‘some amino or protein deficiency’.Footnote 34 Found in infants who had been breast-fed by malnourished mothers and weaned on maize porridge, it led to severe bloating, loss of hair, blotched skin, wasting, diarrhoea and oedema. She named it with the native Ga term, ‘kwashiorkor’ .Footnote 35 The condition was also identified by investigators working in other parts of colonial Africa, though they used different terms for it.Footnote 36 In drawing medical attention away from the tropical diseases that had lent medical definition to these regions since the later nineteenth century,Footnote 37 these discoveries suggested that the prime animal shapers of human health were not the parasitic animals that transmitted tropical diseases but the bovine animals that supplied nutrition to humans. They also fuelled concerns that low-level production and consumption of bovine bodies was holding back economic development in Africa , and could threaten global security by prompting a Malthusian crisis in India and mass migration to the West.Footnote 38

These investigations awarded cattle the role of food producers for undernourished humans. However, other experts awarded them a different role—as resources for agricultural and economic development that suffered health and nutritional problems of their own. This bovine role became increasingly important during the interwar depression. British dairy farming won many new converts in this period because the perishability of milk afforded protection from the flood of cheap food imports that depressed the prices of other products. By 1930–1931, dairy cows supplied 27% of the gross agricultural produce of England and Wales and were farmed by three-quarters of the members of the National Farmers’ Union. However, the large volume of domestic milk production resulted in low prices, particularly in summer when cows tended to calve. British efforts to address this issue focused on expanding the market for milk, through its provision to schoolchildren , and with the aid of a national Milk Marketing Board.Footnote 39 There were also research and policy initiatives that aimed to make production more efficient by improving the health, nutrition and breeding of dairy cows, whose bodies were reportedly deteriorating as farmers adopted cost-saving measures to ride out the depression.Footnote 40

As subjects of scientific investigation, British cattle were distributed between the ‘watertight compartments’ whose formation was described in Chapter 3. The policy of channelling public funds for agricultural research into selected fields and institutions, and the hostility expressed by veterinarians towards disease investigations performed by non-veterinarians, meant that the breeding of cows was investigated at Cambridge University, their nutrition at Cambridge and the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, aspects of dairying at University College Reading, and cow health at the Royal Veterinary College and State Veterinary Laboratory . In these various locations, researchers worked to promote the development and application of rational breeding practices, to apply the new knowledge of nutrition to bovine diets , and to counteract diseases such as brucellosis and tuberculosis which undermined cattle (re)production.Footnote 41 Their research programmes—which impacted on the bodies, behaviours and lived experiences of cows owned by Britain’s more progressive farmers —were quite separate from those concerned with human health and nutrition , which took place in medical schools and in research institutions supported by the publicly funded Medical Research Council (MRC).Footnote 42 This separation was reflected in policy : health matters were dealt with by the Ministry of Health and farming matters by the Ministry of Agriculture. Where connections were inescapable, as with the management of zoonotic diseases such as bovine tuberculosis , which spread via milk to humans and was a major focus of concern in this period, they were characterized by conflict owing to very different framings of the problem by experts and officials concerned with human and animal health.Footnote 43

As director of the Rowett Institute and a member of the MRC’s Nutrition Committee, who conducted research on the mineral content of livestock pastures and the nutritional content of human diets , Orr was one of the few individuals to transcend these institutional, disciplinary and species boundaries and approach cows as simultaneously medical and agricultural problems.Footnote 44 As a qualified doctor, his research on bovine nutrition perpetuated longstanding zoological traditions in medicine, as outlined in Chapters 2 and 3. This work proceeded in tandem with his concern for human nutrition , and may even have enabled it, by allowing him to draw analogies between the causes of malnutrition in animals and humans.Footnote 45

Orr also benefited from, and contributed to, the more fluid situation in colonial contexts where research and policy compartments were less watertight, enabling the cow’s dual roles to be considered in tandem. As a member of the Research Committee of the Empire Marketing Board, he travelled and conducted dietary surveys throughout the empire. His survey on the health and nutrition of Kenyan humans followed on directly from a survey he conducted on the health and nutrition of Kenyan settlers’ cattle, and was stimulated by co-investigator John Gilks’ observation that the Kikuyu sometimes sought out the same substances as those contained within the special saltlicks that they encouraged their cattle to consume.Footnote 46 While the report of the cattle survey did not directly connect the health and feeding of cattle with that of humans, it did argue that ‘a general improvement of agriculture and animal husbandry’ would advance ‘the health and working capacity of the native’.Footnote 47 In promoting the production and consumption of milk , it lent support to the Kenyan government’s efforts to improve agriculture through the development of mixed farming , a method extrapolated from the British context, which received wider support in this period from colonial agricultural scientists alarmed by the ecological and economic consequences of arable monoculture and nomadic pastoralism.Footnote 48 Studies like Orr’s and Gilks’ strengthened the belief that relationships between humans, cows and the land needed to change, and that, by developing agriculture, they would advance human health, working capacity and, by extension, the colonial economy.Footnote 49

The League of Nations took up these issues as part of its wider agenda of achieving global security through economic stability. Its 1931 publication The Agricultural Crisis studied the effects of the Great Depression on world agriculture , and identified lack of purchasing power as a key problem.Footnote 50 In 1932 it initiated enquiries (to which Orr contributed) into the impacts of depression on public health and nutrition . These integrated the dietary standards and recommendations drawn up by different governments and researchers, and placed the issue on the League Assembly’s agenda.Footnote 51 In 1935, Frank McDougall , an Australian economist and expert on imperial trade, presented his analysis of these dual problems in a 15-page memo to the League of Nations. He outlined how, in the West, scientific advances had led to increases in agricultural production , but owing to plummeting prices, some farmers were disposing of surpluses by burning wheat or pouring milk down gutters. To support their farmers, some governments had introduced protectionist trading policies and agricultural subsidies, but this was preventing the distribution of nutritious food to the people who most needed it. The problem was not that the world had too much food but that, owing to flaws in pricing and marketing, it was not being consumed.Footnote 52

The belief that fulfilling human nutritional needs would lift agriculture—and the world economy—out of depression generated calls to ‘marry food and agriculture’.Footnote 53 MacDougall argued that this could be achieved through agricultural policies that promoted farm-based production, rationalised distribution, and greater consumption of nutritious foods. The principle won support from a League of Nations Mixed Committee, which was highly unusual in bringing together experts in public health , agriculture and economics . Its interim report, released in 1936, emphasized the need to increase the production and consumption of protective foods such as milk .Footnote 54 It argued that on account of the ‘application of science to agriculture’ there was already ‘ample scope’ to shift world agricultural production in this direction, so that with appropriate government support ‘the real needs of each community for the health-giving foods may be correlated with the undoubted power of agriculture to produce all that is necessary for abundant health’.Footnote 55

Among the obstacles to this shift, which the committee identified in its 1937 Final Report, were natural conditions—soil and climate —which limited what foods could be produced; the structure of agricultural holdings; lack of capital; the conservative outlooks of peasant farmers ; the need for more scientific research and education; and the cleanliness, quality and safety of products such as milk. The Report also highlighted recent changes that were helping to address these problems. However, as in other discussions of interwar nutrition , the health, feeding and keeping of cows was hardly mentioned.Footnote 56 While commentators acknowledged cows as key participants in plans to feed the world, they did not draw direct associations between the bodily condition of cows and those of their human consumers. With the outbreak of war, however, this would begin to change.Footnote 57

4.2 War and its Aftermath

Although looming hostilities prevented the translation of the Committee’s findings into action, Orr took its lessons back to Britain , where heavy reliance upon imported food was undermined by war. In his 1940 volume Feeding the People in Wartime, and in advice that he and other nutrition scientists provided to the Ministry of Food about the development of a nutrition-based national food plan, he promoted the consumption of home-produced milk , vegetables and arable foods.Footnote 58 This advice had little influence on rationing policy but it did inform the creation of schemes that channelled protective foods such as milk to children , and pregnant and nursing women. Dairy cows served not only these groups but consumers in general, because a reduction in other, imported animal proteins enhanced human reliance on home-produced milk .Footnote 59 As vital suppliers of food, and key contributors to national defence, they were rewarded with privileged access to scarce supplies of imported feedstuffs. However, these supplies soon ran short, forcing farmers to utilize and grow different types of feed to which bovine bodies proved less responsive. Their reduced milk output could not be addressed by increasing cow numbers because there was nothing to feed them. The only solution was to increase the efficiency of production. To this end, scientists intensified their scrutiny of cows and their efforts to rectify deficiencies in their feeding, breeding and health.Footnote 60

British veterinarians played an important part in this process. Their leaders—who included Thomas Dalling , head of the Government Veterinary Laboratory —won the attention of farmers and the state by estimating the enhanced quantity of milk that they could generate through a state-subsidized veterinary scheme for controlling certain diseases of dairy cows.Footnote 61 Significantly, the diseases targeted by this scheme were not the zoonotic conditions such as tuberculosis, which had acted as points of connection between interwar human and veterinary medicine, but those that impacted primarily on milk output and therefore human nutrition: mastitis, infertility, brucellosis and Johne’s disease .Footnote 62 In winning support for their scheme, vets forged important connections between the health and productivity of bovine bodies and those of humans, and made their expertise relevant to both. Their interventions reshaped the bodies and lived experiences of cows. They subjected them to rectal examinations to assess and promote their reproductive performance, to udder manipulations aimed at evaluating their milk -producing capacity, and to vaccinations and drug treatments. They also branded unproductive cows as ‘passengers’ and recommended their culling .Footnote 63

At the end of the war, similar connections between the health and productivity of bovine and human bodies were forged on the international stage as the newly formed FAO surveyed the state of global food and agriculture.Footnote 64 The FAO found that some areas devastated by the fighting lacked the human and animal resources they needed to produce sufficient food.Footnote 65 In other areas these resources existed but were not up to the task. The Zebu survey mentioned above was just one of several that revealed very large livestock populations but startlingly low levels of animal protein consumption by humans.Footnote 66 Throughout the developing world , cows were failing to perform their human-designated roles as food producers. India held 250,000 million or a quarter of all cattle and water buffaloes in the world, but the average annual yield per milk animal was only 200 kg compared with 4000 kg in the Netherlands.Footnote 67 Whereas the average annual yield of an American beef cow was 75.6 kg, in Asia the figure was less than 12 kg. These unproductive bovine bodies caused particular alarm owing to unprecedented (and unexpected) population growth in the Far East, Africa and Latin America. Population experts predicted an impending collapse as human numbers outstripped food supplies. The FAO’s first World Food Survey in 1946 estimated that two-thirds of the world’s human population were hungry. Their findings added the threat of starvation to the persistent problem of malnutrition .Footnote 68 As the Cold War set in and decolonization began, fears grew that hungry people would join disaffected rebel groups or turn to communism.Footnote 69 In this context, cows were not only crucial sources of food but also political actors capable of influencing global security .

As the FAO’s first director, Orr responded by attempting to implement earlier ideas of a marriage of food and agriculture .Footnote 70 He sought to create a World Food Board, which would centrally organize world food production according to actual needs rather than the market, with the ultimate aim of ensuring food as a basic human right. This radical vision never materialized, largely because of resistance from major agricultural powers. Instead it developed into a system for donating, disposing of or trading agricultural surpluses from the developed to the underdeveloped world through mechanisms such as the FAO’s World Food Programme, the USA Food for Peace Programme, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF’s) child health–milk initiatives.Footnote 71 On taking control in 1949, Orr’s successor, the American Norris E. Dodd , maintained this system of food redistribution. However, he also turned more directly to the problem of food production in the face of new evidence about the scope and severity of global undernutrition.Footnote 72 This evidence was gathered by a joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Nutrition . Formed in 1949, it was charged with determining and developing strategies to tackle the most pressing human nutritional problems.Footnote 73 It integrated the WHO’s interest in improving human health and nutrition with the FAO’s interest in improving the efficiency and equitability of food production , distribution and consumption.Footnote 74 At its first session in Geneva, it identified kwashiorkor as a key nutritional problem and target for international action.

Interest in this disease had grown considerably in the decade since Williams had identified it in the Gold Coast . Studies by medical researchers, including Hugh Trowell in East Africa , John Fleming Brock in South Africa , and the British physiologist and nutrition expert J.C. Waterlow in Central America, suggested that it potentially affected many parts of the world.Footnote 75 Unlike other forms of malnutrition , which were associated with vitamin deficiencies , it was linked to deficiencies of certain amino acids which were obtained from proteins found particularly in milk and meat . Its problematization therefore re-emphasized the cow’s significance as a supplier of these products. The joint Committee recommended that kwashiorkor be adopted as the official term for malnutrition directly arising from milk protein deficiency, and that the FAO and the WHO support surveys to determine its prevalence in different parts of the world.Footnote 76

The first survey was conducted in sub-Saharan Africa in 1950 by Brock (a Committee member and WHO consultant) and Marcel Autret (a biochemist and member of the FAO’s Nutrition Division). Their 1952 report, Kwashiorkor in Africa, claimed that the condition was evident in every community they visited, except the Maasai and the Batussi (Tutsi) in Rwanda, who produced and consumed a large amount of cow’s milk.Footnote 77 A second survey, conducted in 1953 by Autret and the Guatemalan pediatrician, Moisés Béhar showed that kwashiorkor was prevalent throughout Central America.Footnote 78 These studies confirmed the international scale of the problem. They also raised new questions about its specific nature and identity, for, while protein malnutrition was the key variable it was not unique to the condition, and was implicated in several other deficiency diseases, including marasmus and nutritional anaemia. Distinguishing kwashiorkor from these conditions was necessary to determine its prevalence and to develop programmes to tackle it. Following meetings in The Gambia and Jamaica, in late 1952 the joint Committee decided to redefine it as one of a number of conditions they brought together under the new category of ‘protein malnutrition.’Footnote 79 While not entirely straightforward, this category expanded the focus of international concern, as illustrated by the claim made by one of its creators, J.C. Waterlow that ‘we are concerned not only with the very sick and the dying, but perhaps much more with mild or chronic, so-called ‘marginal’, states in infants and … this is a far more important problem than acute kwashiokor.’Footnote 80

The Third Report of the FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Nutrition, published in 1953, consolidated this change in focus. Protein malnutrition had become the single most important world health problem, the cause of an epidemic of deficiency diseases in underdeveloped countries, which severely burdened their populations , economies and healthcare systems.Footnote 81 The Committee was quite clear about the general causes of and solutions to protein malnutrition . First, food supply was a key determining factor: many underdeveloped countries were unable to meet the nutritional needs of their populations and particularly suffered from ‘low production’ of milk , meat , fish and eggs. Therefore, the ‘first and essential step’ in tackling protein malnutrition was to ensure that ‘the right kinds of food’ were available ‘all the time’. Second, population growth had exacerbated the problem. Partly resulting from improvements in public health , it had spurred increasing production of starchy foods, which satisfied the immediate needs of the growing numbers of hungry people but not their protein requirements.Footnote 82 Therefore agriculture in underdeveloped countries needed to be transformed to meet these requirements, with a focus on generating more animal proteins, particularly from the bodies of cows. The unique importance of milk proteins (and, by extension, cows) was emphasized at a second conference on protein malnutrition in Princeton in 1955, which proposed milk as a reference protein for determining the amino acid requirements for infants and young children .Footnote 83 These developments opened up new avenues for linking human nutrition to livestock bodies. World hunger was being bound up with world cattle populations . As the key means of rectifying protein malnutrition , cows were becoming more important to human health and nutrition than ever before.

Curiously, these connections have been largely overlooked in historical accounts of the growing hegemony of protein malnutrition in world hunger campaigns spearheaded by the FAO, the WHO and UNICEF in the 1950s and 1960s.Footnote 84 Considerable attention has been paid to the work of the Protein Advisory Group (PAG) , created in 1955, which brought together nutrition experts from the three main UN agencies and various academic and research institutions.Footnote 85 PAG played a leading role in identifying a growing ‘protein crisis’ across the world and in characterizing it in terms of a widening ‘protein gap’ between regions with adequate per capita supplies and those without—most of Africa , Asia and large parts of Latin America. Along with fixing world attention on protein malnutrition , PAG also promoted particular solutions to the problem.Footnote 86 The best known were its efforts to develop and market ‘new protein foods’ synthetically derived from plants, algae and petroleum products.Footnote 87 Criticisms both before and after pointed out that these efforts directed large financial investments to first-world scientists, institutions and industries, but did little to foster agricultural and economic development in hungry countries, and ultimately failed to redress the chronic problem of inadequate protein supplies.Footnote 88 While such criticisms were well founded, it is important to note that these schemes represented only a small fraction of international efforts. Far greater importance was placed on improving ‘traditional’ sources of animal protein, particularly cows.Footnote 89

4.3 Healthy Cows, Healthy Humans

By the mid-1950s, international experts had reached a consensus that the developing world required more animal food , particularly the vitamin- and protein -rich foods derived from bovine bodies.Footnote 90 Ralph Wesley Phillips , an American specialist in animal husbandry and breeding , who oversaw the Zebu study and became the first director of the FAO’s Department of Agriculture , recognized that ‘there are many areas in the world where human needs for animal protein are not adequately met’. Highlighting the ‘striking variation’ in food availability in underdeveloped and developed regions, he aimed to address the significant shortfalls in production in countries outside North America, Australia , New Zealand and Europe.Footnote 91 One way of achieving this goal was to increase livestock numbers. This had been a short-term strategy in post-war Europe but seemed less applicable on a global scale. The world livestock population was already large—roughly equivalent to the human population (soon to reach 3 billion), or double if domesticated fowl were included.Footnote 92 Although on average the protein that animals supplied seemed adequate, the highest levels of production and consumption were concentrated in the developed world, which contained less than 40% of the world’s livestock but produced nearly 80% of its meat and eggs.Footnote 93 The problem elsewhere was not livestock numbers but productivity. In a review of world cattle for Scientific American, Phillips noted that ‘the best zebu performances have been far below those of European breeds. In India a few well-handled Sahiwal cows have produced somewhat more than 10,000 pounds of milk in a year. In the United States, Holsteins have produced as much as 40,000 pounds.’Footnote 94 If third-world animals could match the outputs of first-world animals, then threats of starvation and malnutrition could be averted.

Achieving this goal was far harder than adding numbers to existing stocks because it involved tackling the reasons why third-world animals were so unproductive. W. Ross Cockrill , a Scottish veterinarian who joined the FAO’s Department of Agriculture in 1953 and later became assistant director of its Animal Production and Health Division (APHD), summed up the problem: ‘multitudes of livestock which could be the genesis of alleviation of human hunger are themselves suffering from disease and malnutrition’ .Footnote 95 For Cockrill, the state of bovine bodies was both analogous to, and a cause of, the condition of the human bodies they were supposed to be nourishing. Cows were frequently stunted and unproductive because they relied on deficient forage, grazing and pasture lands. They suffered from endemic infectious, parasitic, nutritional, metabolic and organic diseases that sometimes killed them but more usually reduced their growth and productivity.Footnote 96 The majority were produced by opportunistic matings rather than those planned to effect improvements in their bodies. Husbandry practices such as overstocking, or traditions which derived from the symbolic or economic value that humans placed on cows, further undermined their health and productivity. Consequently, as Cockrill later reflected, ‘The world’s livestock population which, if properly managed, could be the genesis of alleviation of human hunger and malnutrition, is itself in large part starved, diseased and parasitic upon the human race.’Footnote 97

Efforts to address these problems were mounted by not only the FAO but also the WHO. Each formed a section that enrolled cows in the campaign against world hunger. Each positioned veterinarians and experts in animal science (which brought together genetics , nutrition and husbandry, and had developed into a taught discipline in US universities in the 1930s) as crucial to the improvement of bovine—and, by extension, human—bodies.Footnote 98 This turn to veterinary expertise was stimulated not only by shifting perceptions of the relationships between bovine and human health but also by vets’ wartime activities, which had demonstrated their capacity to serve human health as well as agriculture. As outlined above, vets claiming to be ‘physician of the farm and the guarantor of the nation’s food supply’ had worked to improve British milk output for the benefit of consumers, while in the USA they had helped to ratchet up livestock production.Footnote 99 War had also granted vets opportunities to operate on the world stage, assisting in the relief and redevelopment of war-torn nations. Such activities elevated their status and encouraged a shift in professional identity, putting them in a strong position to join other experts in addressing the challenges of feeding the world. Their involvement fashioned the world’s cows into veterinary subjects, and reinvigorated and expanded older veterinary public health agendas stretching back to the nineteenth century.Footnote 100

The FAO’s AHPD was one of the key institutional contexts for these developments.Footnote 101 From 1950 it was headed by the Australian Keith Kesteven , who had left livestock farming and breeding in the late 1930s to study veterinary science at the University of Sydney. During the war he had acted as veterinary advisor to the Australian armed forces.Footnote 102 Afterwards, as a member of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), he led efforts in China to redevelop its livestock industry and eradicate rinderpest . He built the APHD into an important body employing 32 specialists at headquarters in Rome and more than 300 in the field, where they helped some 60 different countries to plan livestock health and production programmes.Footnote 103 Most staff came from universities, institutes and agricultural departments of leading livestock-producing nations, with the USA, Britain , Denmark , Australia , New Zealand and Canada heavily represented. A few came from developing nations, particularly India and parts of Latin America, where veterinary and animal production services were fairly well established. A selection of staff were sent to member countries for specialist training in an aspect of animal or veterinary science.Footnote 104 By 1959 the division consisted of three branches focusing on production, health and dairy production. Each was dedicated to developing and applying forms of expertise that would bring the bodies of third-world livestock in line with those of the first-world.

The Dairy Branch grew out of the APHD’s work in providing technical assistance in milk production and plant management for the Milk Conservation Programme .Footnote 105 This had been established by UNICEF in 1948 to distribute dried skimmed milk powder from major dairy-producing countries to war-ravaged and underfed countries across Europe, Asia and Africa .Footnote 106 The FAO supported the programme as a short-term solution to shortages of dairy foods , while also promoting the expansion and improvement of local milk production, with the long-term aim of enabling countries to become self-sufficient.Footnote 107 One means of achieving this goal was through technical and material assistance for dairy cooperatives.Footnote 108 From 1946 the FAO supported a dairy cooperative in the Anand district of Gujarat province outside Bombay, which broke an old monopoly, rooted in British colonial rule , that underpaid farmers and supplied substandard milk .Footnote 109 With FAO and bilateral support from Denmark and New Zealand , new dairy plants were built and new dairy technicians and veterinarians were trained to run them. The cooperative enabled small producers to pool and receive a reasonable price for relatively small quantities of milk. Their cows became subjects of shared veterinary animal husbandry services that aimed to enhance their productivity. The FAO viewed the cooperative as a key model for its approach to improving dairy production in the developing world .Footnote 110

Technical support for dairy cooperatives relied on the expertise of the APHD’s other branches. The Animal Production Branch focused on developing programmes that combined breeding , nutrition and husbandry. From its inception, it concentrated on collecting information about ‘animal genetic resources’ through surveys of cattle breeds in different regions. The Zebu in India and Pakistan , and other breeds in Africa and Europe , were scrutinized and evaluated as a basis for advising governments and local breeders on ‘how best to utilize their valuable animal genetic resources’.Footnote 111 Nutrition was also a key focus. One of the Division’s first reports, Nutritional Deficiencies in Livestock, detailed the state of animal nutrition in much of the world, the variety of nutritional diseases that burdened livestock, and ways of improving their nutrition.Footnote 112 Building on almost a half-century of animal nutrition research in the USA ,Footnote 113 the authors argued that just as with humans, poor animal diets led to poor growth and dietary deficiencies, and were a ‘chief factor limiting production of meat , milk and eggs … Tremendous quantities of the world’s feeds are wasted in this type of feeding, resulting in large losses of human foods.’ Not only was ‘the vitamin A value of milk… entirely dependent upon the amount present in the feed’, but ‘underfeeding dairy cows results in the reduction of milk supply as much as 75%’.Footnote 114 Therefore, ‘correcting dietary deficiencies in livestock rations will do much to increase the world’s supply of meat, milk and eggs’.Footnote 115 To address the problem, the American nutritionists who wrote the report placed particular emphasis on improving the quality of pastures through mixed farming and the application of fertilizers.

The APHD also had a Health Branch. Its activities were coordinated by vet Thomas Dalling , who had helped to lead the British veterinary profession’s wartime efforts to connect bovine and human health. He had also advised UNRRA and the FAO on the post-war reconstruction of European veterinary services and livestock economies.Footnote 116 He was convinced that ‘to improve the food supplies of protein origin for people in different parts of the world … we must increase animal production; and if we can increase and can better the health of animals, then we will have gone quite a long way towards increasing that animal production.’Footnote 117 Certainly, the health of animals needed improving. Third-world cattle were burdened with all manner of disease: major epizootics such as rinderpest and foot-and-mouth disease were a constant threat to herds; scores of parasitic infections presented chronic problems across the world, rarely killing animals but seriously reducing their productive and reproductive abilities; finally there were the zoonoses , which undermined the health and strength of animals and the humans they infected.Footnote 118 Dalling’s branch supported an exhaustive array of activities aimed at each of these types of disease. The most high-profile was its campaign to eradicate rinderpest, but its work on parasitic and zoonotic diseases was no less important.Footnote 119 The Branch provided veterinary expertise together with tools such as vaccines , antibiotics and diagnostics . By 1957 it had a field staff of more than 40 veterinarians, most of whom were highly experienced and had taken leave from established positions to be assigned to a particular country or region for a year or two.Footnote 120

While each country presented its own needs, field veterinarians adopted a shared approach to planning veterinary programmes.Footnote 121 First, they worked with government officials to evaluate the nature and extent of existing veterinary services , including available laboratories, equipment and materials. Second, they helped formulate general programmes of disease control, which included prioritizing diseases according to their burden and available means of control. Third, they instructed local people in how to diagnose livestock diseases, prepare biological products (diagnostic tests, therapies and vaccines ), and develop and deliver veterinary education . As Kesteven explained in 1961:

[Control over animal diseases] can only be done by setting up veterinary services in the countries which now lack them, strengthening services in the other countries, and establishing effective international co-operation and co-ordination … Only by such international effort will man be able to control and perhaps ultimately eradicate animal diseases.Footnote 122

In its efforts to create new experts capable of transforming unproductive bovine bodies into plentiful sources of human food, the FAO worked closely with the Veterinary Public Health (VPH) unit of the WHO, which was created in 1948 within its Division of Communicable Diseases .Footnote 123 It had been proposed by James Steele, who as chief of the United States Public Health Service’s newly created Veterinary Division had overseen the 1945 creation of a specialized VPH programme at the US Communicable Diseases Centre.Footnote 124 A key proponent of bringing veterinary expertise into public health, who had a particular interest in zoonotic diseases, Steele envisioned that the WHO’s unit would collect information on zoonoses , distribute data, provide seminars and consultancy services to physicians and veterinarians, conduct investigations, and promote research on the control or elimination of zoonoses. It would also cooperate with the national and international agencies responsible for animal and human health. The unit’s first head was the American, Martin Kaplan, who had degrees in veterinary medicine and public health .Footnote 125 Having worked for the FAO and as a veterinary consultant for the UNRRA in Europe at the end of the war, he was convinced of the value of veterinary medicine for human health. His unit spelt out this aim in its working definition of VPH as: ‘all the community efforts influencing and influenced by the veterinary medical arts and sciences applied to the prevention of diseases , protection of life and promotion of the well-being and efficiency of man’.Footnote 126

The VPH unit forged close relations with other organizations that were similarly drawn to study and improve unproductive bovine bodies—the FAO, other UN agencies and the World Organisation for Animal Health—leading to collaborative programmes on zoonoses, meat hygiene and veterinary education, which drove the integration of veterinary with public health and agricultural services.Footnote 127 For example, Kaplan’s unit worked in partnership with Dalling’s Animal Health Branch under a Joint WHO/WHO Expert Committee on Zoonoses, which was established in 1950 in response to the World Health Assembly’s identification of zoonotic diseases as key threats to human health in newly independent and developing agrarian nations.Footnote 128 The Committee was tasked with identifying zoonoses that were evident ‘world problems’ and for which effective control measures had already been developed.Footnote 129 Over the next decade, it agreed a standard definition of these diseases, which brought over 100 different infections under one general category, creating fertile terrain for veterinarians to expand their international role in human health.Footnote 130

Perceptions of zoonotic disease threats had shifted significantly in the context of the world hunger campaign. Previously, the animals affected had been regarded as costly impediments to agricultural production , and as transmitters of infections to humans. However, their promotion as food sources for hungry humans led to the realization that, in addition, these animals produced less food for humans, thereby posing dual threats to human health. This was highlighted by one of the Committee’s leading experts, the Swiss-American veterinary scientist Karl Meyer , in a technical paper on ‘The Zoonoses in Their Relation to Rural Health’ that he presented, on Kaplan’s invitation, to the Seventh World Health Assembly:

One need only to consider all of the adverse effects of the zoonoses to realize the urgency of control: loss of life, acute and chronic illness of inhabitants of rural areas, loss of life and impairment of productivity of farm animals with all of the social and economic implications, and loss of life and acute and chronic illness of city dwellers to whom the zoonoses may spread … These infections unquestionably have far-reaching economic aspects; they may mean mere loss of profit or they may mean critical want. In some areas they preclude the raising of livestock altogether … in others they make an already poverty -stricken group poorer still and deny food supply to undernourished populations . In their destruction of food supply alone they are major economic problems. Some of the diseases … are detrimental to rural populations because of their direct effects on health of farm people, making habitation in rural areas impossible or hazardous; some are more important in their effect on the world’s food supply.Footnote 131

Pointing to the complex challenges that zoonoses posed, Meyer laid out an agenda for positioning veterinary public health as integral to their control. Tackling zoonoses in developing countries would require extensive technical assistance, close ‘co-operation between physicians, health workers and veterinarians’, and between veterinary and agricultural agencies. Kaplan’s VPH unit sought to implement this agenda. It coordinated epidemiological studies and basic laboratory research on zoonoses, including the development and standardization of diagnostics , treatments and vaccines .Footnote 132 It invested in technical assistance to resource-poor countries that helped them to build or expand veterinary laboratory services , and to train local veterinarians and technicians in how to make and administer biological products for zoonotic disease control. As with Dalling’s Animal Health Branch, veterinary education formed an important part of its strategy.Footnote 133

In all of these efforts, international experts remained acutely aware of local contingencies. Kaplan was especially adamant about avoiding one-size-fits-all approaches (which many of his WHO colleagues were to take in campaigns against malaria and other human infections).Footnote 134 This approach probably stemmed partly from these experts’ experiences of working in different countries, which alerted them to how specific environmental, cultural, agricultural and economic contexts shaped livestock health and production.Footnote 135 The results of their own surveys also revealed that cows came in many different shapes and sizes, with varying physiologies, genetic traits, nutritional needs and biological capacities. There was also great diversity in how they were bred and fed; the natural and built environments in which they were housed, milked and slaughtered; the ways in which they were managed; and the customs and cultures through which they were valued. Therefore, while the principles and aims of livestock improvement might have been universal in kind, in practice there was no single technological fix or magic bullet that could transform them into more efficient suppliers of protein . Programmes had to be modified according to the particular livestock bodies and cultures affected.

Turning the aspirations of expert committees in Rome or Geneva into bovine bodily realities was made more difficult by the shortage of veterinarians and veterinary assistants: ‘We estimate that there are about 1000 million cattle and buffalo in the world … [But] there are not more than 200,000 qualified veterinarians to cope with this vast general practice and many fewer specialists in husbandry and nutrition .’Footnote 136 Moreover, most of these experts were based in developed countries. To overcome this problem, the FAO and WHO committees envisaged the creation of a new kind of veterinarian, which Cockrill referred to as the ‘international veterinarian’. This was a trained professional who would be concerned not with the treatment of individual sick or injured animals, but with ‘prophylactic, curative or management methods designed to apply collectively to national herds and flocks’.Footnote 137 The goal was to foster ‘the healthy animal and the means by which it can live its life in a state of health and productivity’.Footnote 138 These aspirations reveal, once more, the perception of bovine bodies as analogous to humans, whose health was defined by the WHO in 1948 as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.Footnote 139 The general strategies for creating these healthy bodies were also analogous: population and disease control were seen as first measures, which would lay the ground for others.

What this meant for many cows was, in the first instance, culling .Footnote 140 In countries such as India , overstocking and overpopulation were viewed by veterinary and livestock planners as the foremost obstacles to improvement.Footnote 141 Cattle competed for land with humans, and, as Indian agricultural policy promoted increases in crop production for human consumption, the production of cattle fodder declined, resulting in rising numbers of malnourished cattle.Footnote 142 The Indian statistician and influential director of the FAO’s Statistics Department, P.V. Sukhatme , pushed for population control in both humans and cattle as key to India’s modernization, but the cow’s sacred status protected it.Footnote 143 In other parts of Asia and in Africa , it was not so fortunate. Old, ‘useless’ and surplus young cows were slaughtered to improve stock quality, alleviating pressure on pastures , grazing lands and water supplies, and reducing competition with hungry humans for grains and other crops. Surviving cows—which were deemed potentially productive—had their bodies scrutinized by veterinary services, the exact nature of their examination and manipulation shaped by everything from available funding and technical assistance to whether they were owned by large dairies, cooperatives or subsistence farmers .

At the Anand dairy cooperative, a flagship initiative for the FAO and the WHO, the bodies and lives of cows were significantly transformed over a twenty year period.Footnote 144 These were mostly Gir cows, the most famous and widely used breed of Zebu dairy cattle in India.Footnote 145 When the project began in 1946, they were housed in ‘villagers’ dwellings or in filthy annexes’, but by 1966 they had ‘hard standing and comfortable quarters’.Footnote 146 Some 30 veterinarians monitored all aspects of their health. Their health and productive capacities were preserved by vaccination against rinderpest and brucellosis ; regular monitoring for symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease and bovine tuberculosis ; antibiotic treatments for bacterial infections such as mastitis and metritis (inflammation of the uterus); and antihelminthic treatments for chronic parasitic infections. Every village centre was supplied with a veterinary kit containing simple remedies and antiseptics, which was used by trained animal health assistants to treat minor infections and ailments.Footnote 147 Feeding had also become more regulated and routinized. No longer reliant on limited grazing and pastures , cows received fodder grown with added nitrogen to improve its nutritional quality, and a daily portion of a vitamin-enriched feed mix to improve the quality and quantity of their milk . A feed-mixing plant, supplied by OXFAM, processed 100 tons of this mix each day for the cooperative’s dairy cows and buffalo. Cow genetics were also being modified. With FAO support, the cooperative built an artificial insemination centre run by Vergehse Kurien, who had studied nuclear physics in the USA but returned to India in 1946 to manage the cooperative’s dairy operations.Footnote 148 Trained by the FAO in veterinary and animal science, he worked with FAO experts to develop a breeding programme that would ‘increase the genetic potential’ of dairy cows and buffalo. Gir bulls were used to improve other native dairy cows, and cows were crossbred with high-yielding Friesian and Jersey cattle. These transformations in the material conditions and biological capacities of the cooperative’s cows radically transformed their productivity. In 1946 they were producing between one and two thousand gallons of milk a day. By 1966 this had risen to 25,000 gallons a day.Footnote 149

Kesteven and his colleagues regularly referred to the Anand cooperative as a successful example of how improving the general health of dairy cows could improve the production and supply of milk , leading, in turn, to improvements in human health and productivity.Footnote 150 Throughout the 1960s, the APHD vigorously pursued the development of dairy cooperatives as a crucial strategy for getting more protein out of animal bodies and into human bodies.Footnote 151 However, translating the local successes of Anand into other parts of India and beyond proved a formidable challenge.Footnote 152 The sheer variability of cow bodies and the contexts in which they lived generated equally variable sets of interventions, with varying implications for the lived experiences of cows, and the health and nutrition of their human consumers.

4.4 Conclusion

International concern with protein malnutrition reached its apex in the mid-1960s. Reports issued by the FAO, the WHO and other UN agencies warned of an ‘impending protein crisis’ in the developing world .Footnote 153 Increasing supplies of animal protein —particularly from milk and milk products—lay at the heart of their recommendations and solutions.Footnote 154 The FAO’s Third World Food Survey , issued as part of its Freedom From Hunger Campaign in 1962, concluded that, because in developing countries ‘the level of animal protein intake is only one fifth of that in the more developed areas, world food supplies would have to rise by 50% by 1975’.Footnote 155 Two years later, the FAO characterized protein shortages as being ‘at the heart of the world food problem’. While acknowledging that proteins could be derived from certain vegetable foods, its official view was that it was ‘far easier to build satisfactory diets , particularly for these vulnerable groups, when good supplies of animal protein are available’. Meeting the challenge meant that ‘much greater resources [had to] be expanded to increase production of such protein-rich foods as fish, meat , eggs and milk’.Footnote 156 Such increases could only be achieved by increasing the efficiency of livestock production: healthier, better-nourished cows were key to the creation of healthier, better-nourished humans.Footnote 157

As we have seen, while nutrition experts trained in human medicine played vital roles in characterizing the nature and extent of the crisis, they did not work alone. The belief which emerged through and after the Second World War , that the state of human bodies was deeply dependent on, and also analogous to that of bovine bodies, resulted in a campaign against world hunger which integrated medical expertise with that of vets and animal scientists, under new institutional structures created by the FAO and the WHO. Veterinary and animal experts brought crucial knowledge and skills that derived from their own relationships with food animals. At one and the same time they highlighted the essential roles of animals and of animal experts in meeting the urgent and growing needs of a protein -hungry world. If, ‘in a world where so many people go hungry, any menace to the health of man’s food-yielding animals is a menace to the health of man himself,’Footnote 158 then, according to Kesteven and his colleagues, ‘in the forces which are fighting protein lack, the veterinarian and the animal production specialist are [the] vanguard.’Footnote 159

While experiments and fieldwork on livestock animals had been essential to the development of ‘new nutritional knowledge’ since the turn of the century, veterinary and animal production experts generated new understandings of the complex and intimate connections between animal health and nutrition, and human health and nutrition, and applied them to the production of more animal protein , especially cow’s milk . Since the interwar period, nutritionists had pointed to the miraculous properties of milk in improving the health and efficiency of children , mothers and workers, in their own nations and in colonies stricken by kwashiorkor and other deficiency diseases . After 1945 they recognized and promoted its significance for both human health and the economic health of farmers and agrarian societies in the so-called developing world . Thus, milk, and the bovine bodies that created it, represented a material site in which veterinary and nutritional expertise could be integrated for a common purpose. With the formation of new international organizations, most notably the FAO and the WHO, and the making of protein malnutrition into a new field of international action, their formerly loose associations under the interwar ‘marriage of agriculture and health’ were transformed into institutionally embedded connections and incorporated into the international campaign to feed the world.

All of the human activities described in this chapter were inspired and shaped by cows, in their various roles as producers of food for humans, transmitters of infection to humans, victims of poor health and husbandry , and producers of agricultural profit. While, as we have seen, these roles could inspire quite different responses mounted by different groups of experts , under the campaign to feed the world they began to be considered together. The millions of cows identified in Asia , Africa and Latin America as diseased, malnourished, overpopulated and poorly bred were seen as a key reason why so many humans suffered ill health and poor nutrition: they did not produce enough food for humans and they could also transmit infections to them. It was in order to address these issues—and thereby enable cows to perform better as sources of human food as well as agricultural development—that WHO and FAO experts came together in the 1950s and 1960s to survey, evaluate and work out how to improve bovine bodies.

Yet, while part of the solution was to create new healthy cows by scientifically controlling their diseases , nutrition, breeding and management, doing so involved creating new animal experts —veterinarians, animal scientists, technicians and many more—along with an array of services, facilities, laboratories and clinics that would provide the infrastructure for their work. Therefore, in responding to, and reshaping perceived connections between bovine and human bodies, the incorporation of veterinary medicine and agricultural science into international health agendas had profound and far-reaching impacts. It changed the bodies, surroundings and lived experiences of cows, and brought them into new relationships with a new type of local expert and the facilities and technologies they employed. It also created new opportunities for vets and animal scientists to participate in, and shape, human health agendas. As the next two chapters will reveal, this context proved crucial to the development of self-conscious philosophies of One Medicine, and subsequently One Health .