01 May, 2011

Hammurabi and the Veterinariansحمورابي و الطب البيطري

April 30th saw celebrations to mark the World Veterinary Day and the 250th year since the establishment of veterinary medicine as a profession. As I returned home from the celebration held in Erbil I found myself recalling a reference to veterinarians in the Code of Hammurabi and thinking that veterinary medicine is older than 250 years.
The Code of Hammurabi was recorded 4,000 years ago in Babylon and consisted of 282 individual laws which were carved on a black stone stele and clay tablets. The black stele was carried away from Babylon at some time by Elamites, (my ancestors) and was discovered by archaeologists at Elam. The laws were used throughout the region with modifications made by successive rulers and two laws, number 224 and 225 refer to the veterinarian.
Law  224: if a veterinary surgeon performs a serious operation on an ass or an ox, and cures it, the owner shall pay the surgeon one sixth of a shekel ( a Babylonian silver coin) as a fee.
Law 225:  if he (the veterinary surgeon) performs a serious operation on an ass or an ox, and kills it, he shall pay the owner one fourth of its value.

So, it can be said that the veterinary profession has been in existence for at least 4,000 years and while it did not change much for most of that time it certainly has markedly changed in recent years. When I did my training some 47 years ago there was still a stigma associated with being a veterinarian and veterinary students were often those who did not do well in secondary school. I studied public health for a year and then made the decision to become a veterinarian much to the annoyance of my father. He could not understand why I was turning from a respectable profession to become ‘a donkey doctor’ such was the stigma associated with veterinary medicine. The opinion today is greatly different and the veterinary student can follow a career in drug development, immunology, disease control, reproduction and breeding as well as species specific surgery and medicine. The role of the veterinarian is vital in food production and food safety, and in combating transboundary animal diseases (TAD) and zoonoses  (animals and human and vice versa). They are no longer regarded as ‘donkey doctors’ but as respected, scientific professionals who have a major role in helping to provide food for the world’s population.

No comments:

Post a Comment