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By Peter W.J. Bartrip

Myxomatosis, a viral disorder of the ecu wild rabbit, reached Britain in 1953. inside of a 12 months it had killed hundreds of thousands of rabbits from Kent to the Shetlands. Winston Churchill, the Archbishop of York and contributors of the general public raised at the stories of Beatrix Potter have been appalled, deploring the lack of an inexpensive dietary nutrition. Many farmers, however, welcomed the dying of a major agricultural pest and intentionally unfold the illness. the govt. resisted appeals to legislate opposed to the planned spreading of the ailment till passing the 1954 Pests Act, hence through 1955 a few ninety% of the united kingdom rabbit inhabitants were wiped out.Britain’s myxomatosis outbreak has hitherto attracted little old realization. within the first booklet devoted to this topic, Peter Bartrip examines how the illness reached and unfold within the united kingdom. He argues that it was once no longer the govt. who was once liable, as many suggestion on the time, yet for the 1st time Bartrip names the person who could have intentionally introduced myxomatosis from France. Bartrip tracks the reaction of presidency and different events and considers the impression of rabbit de-population on agriculture and the usual surroundings. The cultural importance of this illness increases topical and arguable matters that are very important if we're to benefit classes from newer animal affliction epidemics resembling foot and mouth, BSE and H5N1 avian influenza.

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Additional info for Myxomatosis: A History of Pest Control and the Rabbit (International Library of Twentieth Century History)

Sample text

He, in turn, contacted MAF’s divisional veterinary office and E. P. Thorne, a superintending veterinary officer, diagnosed myxomatosis. For further confirmation, two carcasses were sent for diagnosis to the Veterinary Investigation Office at Wye College in Kent. 7 Neal has left a slightly different account. In a letter dated 24 October 1953, he claimed that on 28 September Feeke, the gamekeeper ‘casually mentioned seeing one or two dead rabbits’. Neither man attached any importance to the sighting because ‘its [sic] not uncommon to find a dead rabbit occasionally’.

Third, although it was safe to eat the meat or utilize the pelts of gassed rabbits, the ani- 38 MYXOMATOSIS: A HISTORY OF PEST CONTROL AND THE RABBIT mals inevitably died underground and were in many cases irretrievable, at least without labour-intensive and hence expensive excavations. As a result, furriers were unenthusiastic about it. 98 Doubt about the legality of gassing wild rabbits was resolved at the end of the 1930s. 100 From 1941 landowners and farmers were able to purchase cyanide gas powder at subsidized rates and large quantities (over 79 tons in 1949) were used.

Accordingly, by the eighteenth century rabbits were ‘game’ only in the sense of being animals hunted for sport; in the eyes of the law they were private property. Those who took or killed them without permission were ‘treated as thieves, which is to say very harshly indeed’, the theft of an enclosed animal being punished far more severely than the poaching of game. The Game Reform Act, 1831 (1 & 2 Will. 32) made all game the private property of landowners. 17 During the medieval and early modern periods, rabbits appear to have been relatively uncommon in the wild, except in the vicinity of warrens, and hence not serious agricultural pests.

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