Skip to main content
Biomedicine in museums

Manufactured animals in history — discourses of health and welfare

Veterinary history used to be one of these backward corners of the historical specialities occupied by happy amateurs (read: retired veterinarians). Not so much anymore. Younger professional generations are mobilising current historiographical tools to understand the history of domesticated animals and their health problems, including their relations with humans. And there’s of course also bioethical problems involved.  

As a token of this new interest the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) in Manchester is organising a one-day workshop on ‘The Health and Welfare of the Manufactured Animal’ together with the Veterinary History Society on Friday 19 September. “By focussing on the differing ways in which animal ‘needs’ have been constructed and understood over time, with particular emphasis upon discourses of ‘health’ and ‘welfare'”, says the organiser, Rob Kirk:

the workshop seeks to explore how animals have been determined by, whilst simultaneously determining, the environments, contexts, knowledge claims, and wider understandings within which they have existed in specific places and times. Papers draw upon a variety of historical and sociological approaches and are organised by three topographic themes: the laboratory, the farm, and the home. Our aim is to determine the extent to which historians can contribute to wider debates that see animals as co-constituents of the relationships within which they live. In so doing we seek to explore how far it is possible to move beyond the representation of animals as passive products of human material and intellectual processes.

Tentative speakers include:

  • Stephanie Eichberg (Durham University), “Pets and Scientific Subjects”: Considering the animal body in different environments
  • Rob Kirk (CHSTM, University of Manchester), “Living Spaces: Environment and welfare in the lives of laboratory animals”
  • Gail Davies (UCL), “Making Mice, Making Space: Tracing the geographies of transgenic mice welfare”
  • Richie Nimmo (University of Aberdeen), “Animal Mediations: Cows as contingent actors, co-producers and machines in the early 20th century British dairy industry”
  • Abigail Woods (Imperial College London). “‘No room for passengers!’: The construction of the fertile cow, 1930-50
  • Karen Sayer (Leeds Trinity & All Saints) “TBC”
  • Andrew Gardiner (University of Edinburgh). “How small animals made their medicine”
  • Mick Worboys and Neil Pemberton (CHSTM, University of Manchester), “Breeding, Feeding, Leading: Making the modern dog in Britain, 1870-1910”

And because this is a conference organised for intellectual purposes, there is no registration fee! 

For further info, contact Rob Kirk at or visit the website:

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

More posts by Thomas Söderqvist