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THE SHORTHORN SOCIETY'S MALEDICTION OF TUBERCULIN.
IN reading the report of the recent meeting of the Shorthorn Society, admirers of the works of Thomas Ingoldsby cannot fail to be reminded of the" Jackdaw of Rheims." Apparently two lines from that immortal poem, with one or two words altered, might serve to describe the most important transaction at the meeting in question :-
" The breeder rose with a dignified look, He called for his candle, his bell, and his book.
In holy anger and pious spleen He solemnly cursed tuberculin."
The crime with which the object of this malediction is charged is that it has yielded results misleading and unsatisfactory to the breeders of pedigree shorthorns, and the Shorthorn Society has solemnly pledged itself" to resist the harassing, expensive, and unnecessary conditions imposed by certain foreign and colonial Governments, which greatly restrict the trade in pedigee cattle." Needless to say, the condition which, in the opinion of the members of the Shorthorn Society, deserves the strong epithets introduced into this resolution, is that animals intended for importation .into foreign countries must be free from tuberculosis, as indicated by the tuberculin test. One naturally wonders whether, in banning this condition, shorthorn breeders ground the denunciation mainly on the unreliability of the test for the object which importing countries have in view, or on the unwisdom of the Governments of those countries in availing themselves of the best means at present known of ascertaining whether an animal is the subject of tuberculosis or not.
If the members of the Shorthorn Society have really succeeded in persuading themselves that the tuberculin test is so unreliable that it ought to be abandoned-and upon the whole it appears to be probable that that is the opinion of the majority of them-one can only regret that they have arrived at a conclusion so absolutely opposed to the results of an experience which is already immense. No doubt it is for the moment a comfortable frame of mind for the breeder who has had the misfortune to have some of his apparently healthy animals condemned under the test when non-reaction to tuberculin is mad,e one of the conditions of the sale; but no one who
has made an unbiassed examination of the available evidence with regard to the general reliability of the test can doubt that it would be wiser for the owner in such circumstances to accept the verdict of tuberculin, and recognise that in all human probability his reacting animals are really tuberculous. Furthermore, we hope we may, without giving offence to the members of the Shorthorn Society, say that their own convictions on this matter, however loudly asseverated, will avail nothing to break down the opinion now held by all whose personal interests do not blind them to the truth-that the tuberculin test, when properly carried out, is one of quite remarkable accuracy.
Perhaps, however, the Shorthorn Society do not so much impugn the general reliability of the tuberculin test as the policy of importing countries in attaching any importance to freedom from tuberculosis on the part of imported animals, and in refusing to accept every outwardly healthy animal as absolutely free from that disease. If that is the ground which they take up, one can only say that, while the immediate advantage which would accrue to the owners of tuberculous herds if the tuberculin test were abandoned is perfectly obvious, we have nowhere yet seen set forth the benefits which an unrestricted trade in tuberculous pedigree cattle would confer on the importing countries. .
It is surely the merest foolishness on the part of breeders in this country to ignore the fact that the countries which insist upon the application of the tuberculin test to all cattle imported for breeding purposes thereby succeed in excluding many tuberculous animals that might otherwise gain admission and introduce the disease into herds previously free froll). it. In saying this we do not forget that on the tuberculosis question importing countries have also two hostile camps. That, however, is only what might have been expected, for in both exporting and importing countries the measures enforced in the general interests of cattle owners may seriously interfere with the business operations of a minority. Here, as in many other cases, ignorance and the bias of self-interest account for the diversity of optI11on. We think, however, that British breeders of pedigree cattle would do well to recognise that there is not the most remote probability that any single Government, either foreign or colonial, will ever be induced to admit cattle from a country in which tuberculosis is common without insisting upon the applicati.on of the tuberculin test.
In saying this we are reminded of the fact that at least some countries which insist upon the tuberculin test being applied to imported cattle make an exception in favour of animals from the Channel Islands. The fact is one over which the members of the Shorthorn Society might be advised to ponder. In the first place, they would do well to reflect why this concession was made to breeders in the Channel Islands.. It is well known that it was from no motives
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of generosity towards the breeders in these islands, nor was it granted because of any pressure which these breeders brought to bear on the Governments concerned. The exception in favour of Channel Island cattle was made simply because the information in the possession of the importing Governments convinced them that the cattle in question were free from tuberculosis, and that in their case the tuberculin test was therefore unnecessary.
But it is still more interesting to note that it was the uniform failure to obtain reactions to tuber·culin in Jersey and Guernsey which first brought to public knowledge the fact that among the cattle bred there tuberculosis is a practically unknown disease. We have ourselves had brought to our notice the results of tuberculin testing applied to hundreds of Channel Island native cattle, drawn from many different farms, and we have never yet known a case in which a decided reaction was obtained. It is known, however, that the opinion that these cattle are practically free from tuberculosis does not repose solely on the results obtained by testing large numbers of them with tuberculin. It is confirmed by the observations made by veterinary surgeons on the native cattle which die on the islands or are killed there for food.
As we have already said, these are facts which British breeders of pedigree stock might with much advantage to themselves take into serious comideration. J n the first place, let them endeavour to find an honest answer to the question why Jersey and Guernsey cattle remain free from tuberculosis as long as they are kept on their native islands. Would the members of the Shorthorn Society consider it safe or prudent on the part of the Channel Island authorities to admit cattle from other countries without demanding any guarantee of freedom from tuberculosis save that they are in good condition and display no outward sign of being infected?
In the second place,-and this question they will probably find even less palatable than the first,- if, as there seems to be good r eason to believe, Channel Island cattle are at present free from tuberculosis, how do they reconcile the non-reaction of these animals to tuberculin with their cherished belief that the tuberculin test is entirely untrustworthy? We venture to affirm that the two things are irreconcilable, and that the failure of Channel Island cattle to react to tuberculin is evidence so strong as to be almost conclusive that the tuberculin test is, as we have previously said, one of quite remarkable accuracy.