Thinking forward through the past: Linking science, social science and the humanities to inform the sustainable reduction of endemic disease in British livestock farming

  • Woods, Abigail (PI)
  • Holloway, Lewis (CoPI)
  • Kao, Rowland (CoPI)
  • Hanley, Nick (CoPI)
  • Proctor, Amy (CoPI)
  • Sayer, Karen (CoPI)

Project Details


Livestock disease today is a complex and pressing problem that threatens the development of more
sustainable, ethical and efficient farming methods. This project will devise a fundamentally new
approach to its investigation that advances understandings and informs responses. Cutting across
the traditionally separate realms of nature and culture, science and society, human and animal, and
past, present and future, experts in veterinary history, environmental economics, epidemiological
modelling, human and animal geography, rural sociology and cultural history will work
collaboratively across six institutions, and in close conjunction with stakeholders to investigate two
major endemic health problems: Bovine Viral Diarrhoea in cattle, and lameness in cattle and sheep.
Experiences of these problems in Britain since 1947 will be examined within four contrasting
farming systems - upland and lowland ‘beef and sheep’, and indoor and pasture-based ‘dairy’ – to
reveal how perceptions of, and responses to disease co-evolved with farming systems and
communities, human-animal relationships, expert knowledge-practices, consumer attitudes, and
wider political, economic and cultural contexts. Findings will inform - and be informed by - the
development of epi-economic models that better predict the future incidence of, and farmer
responses to disease, generating suggestions for how to mitigate its effects.

Layman's description

Better ways of understanding and managing livestock diseases are urgently required. These
diseases undermine animal welfare, productivity and farming sustainability. Threats are rising with
antimicrobial resistance and Brexit-driven changes to the regulation of health and trade. The search
for solutions is hampered by traditional disciplinary silos which separate the biological analysis of
disease from the human factors that shape its effects. This project breaks new ground in
developing an inter-disciplinary approach to disease that cuts across the realms of nature and
culture, science and society, human and animal. A 14-strong team of experts from four disciplines
will collaborate across six universities in Britain to work out the past and present effects of two exemplar
endemic livestock diseases, and how they relate to changes in farming systems, communities, and
the wider world. These insights will be used to develop better predictions of disease in the future,
and to advise on its management.
Short titleFarm-level Interdisciplinary approaches to Endemic Livestock Disease
Effective start/end date3/09/1831/08/23


  • Livestock
  • Sheep
  • Cattle
  • Endemic


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.