Argos

Nr. 19 (1998)

J.D. Blaisdell

Abominable and relatively unclean flesh: parasites and the prohibition against pork in Ancient Egypt and Israel

Despite suggestions to the contrary, the evidence strongly indicates the Jewish concern for the pig was a public health one. The association of the concern for this animal with concerns for clean water, the dangers of diseased carcasses and the problems of leprosy suggest the Jews believed eating or even just touching this animal could cause disease. Further evidence suggests this attitude came about as a result of the Jews living in Egypt.

There is no question but that the pig in Egypt did not rate the same considerations as other animals: no pigs were ritually embalmed and the only god associated with this animal was a god associated with evil and disruptive forces. Further evidence suggests the pig was considered unclean by the Egyptians from at least the Middle Kingdom, circa 2000-1700 BC. The reason for this lack of appeal among the Egyptians may have been the association of this animal with parasites such as round- and tapeworms. There is no question that such entities were considered major factors in disease causation; when this is factored into an equation that included the belief that pigs were unclean it can be suggested the Egyptians strongly associated pigs with these parasites. The fact that these animals were often associated with garbage collection around the residences of the working class only increased the possibility of this association.

Lastly, since the Jewish residences of new Kingdom Egypt, circa 1500-1100 BC, were associated with the working class and thus with the unclean, garbage-eating pig, no doubt these circumstances contributed to the aesthetic sensibility of these people to this animal, as well as to the dog. Thus, the abomination of pork by the ancient Hebrews is due as much to worms as to pigs.

J. Jansen

Some interesting subjects from a veterinary point of view in a manuscript from 1779

The author of the manuscript, Dirk Fontein, was a well educated landowner, industrialist and alderman living from 1735-1816 near Franeker in Frisia. He wrote a small treatise of 34 pages on farm management in his province with remarks on cattle diseases, especially on inoculation against rinderpest. The treatise was sent to the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture of Amsterdam, established in 1776, of which he was a honorary member.

The largest part of the ms. is devoted to the manner of plowing, sowing, harvesting and threshing in the clay region, followed by a description of grassland farming. After discussing the husbandry of several domestic animal species and dairying, he continues with observations on the course of rinderpest. According to the author the disease is to be considered as an infectious disease that became endemic. Only cattle that survived an infection proved to be resistant to contamination. The author participated in inoculation trials, set up by Petrus Camper and quite succesfully carried out by Geert Reinders, who had found that inoculation was only effective in calves of cows that had survived the disease. The results of Fontein et al. confirmed these findings.

R. Strikwerda

Cattle in the Dutch Paterfamilial literature. Veterinary folk medicine in the 18th century.

This paper refers to the author's book on the same subject which contains the outcome of an investigation into eight Dutch books of popular nature in the field of veterinary (especially bovine) medicine which appeared between 1725 and 1802. These books reflect the veterinary folk medecine in the Netherlands in the time before scientific publications became available. Three of them were completely or predominantly devoted to cattle diseases; the others deal as much with diseases of other domestic animals, especially horses. The study was limited to the diseases of cattle.

After a description of the source materials, the author gives abstracts of their contents. For each disease or condition the various prescriptions are recorded, and explanatory notes are added as far as thought necessary.

The largest part of the book consists of indexes.

In the first one all subjects [110 main items] are dealt with, mainly diseases and/or symptoms (together with their synonyms) and all the substances applied. Next to this alphabetic index the clinical items are categorized after organsystem and disease group.

In the second index all [294] component parts of the prescriptions are arranged, classified after their vegetable, animal, organic-chemical, mineral or compounded nature.

Altogether 515 prescriptions were found consisting of one to 17 components. More than half (58,5 %) of the prescriptions contained 2 to 5 ingredients.

As in the book, some characteristics of the various writings are reviewed. All seem to be free of superstition or magic. Most of the texts however are unstructured and show great diversity of terminology. Only two, one anonymous (J.W.) and the other written by a well educated farmer (PONSE) are composed after a certain scheme. Especially the latter (from 1802) contains influences of scientific writings.

Of the 294 different substances used in the prescriptions, 142 were present in three authoritative pharmacotherapeutic works of the 20th century. They were still in use up to the middle of this century, be it for a narrower field of application; and 91 of them still had an officinal status.

At the end of the book all of these 142 drugs are listed in an appendix. A second appendix presents all plants occurring in the texts, with their scientific names.

P.A. Koolmees

Veterinary Medicine in The Netherlands, 1940-1945

The occupation of The Netherlands in World War II brought consequences for veterinary medicine from social-economic, political, and psychological points of view. The primary goal of the occupying forces was "Verflechtung", that is to interweave all sectors of the Dutch economy with the German military. Regarding veterinary medicine, "Verflechtung" entailed caring for production animals and ensuring their health, the inspection of claimed horses, and the supply of safe food of animal origin. As a result of the "Gleichschaltungs"-policy, all democratic institutions were abolished or forced into line with the Nazi ideology. This applied to all veterinary institutions too. Jews were excluded while a national-socialist veterinary organisation and journal were established. Many veterinarians, especially those in public service, found themselves faced with the moral dilemma of "resistance or collaboration?". Like the majority of the Dutch population, most of the veterinarians followed a strategy of survival, which meant that they partly cooperated in order to prevent worse things from happening.

Since they considered veterinary medicine an important discipline, the policy of the Nazi's was to continue veterinary education undisturbed in order to secure future veterinary potential. Nevertheless, the veterinary faculty was confronted with the nazification of academic education. This led to student strikes and, because of the threat of the "Arbeitseinsatz", many students and teachers went underground. Despite policy to the contrary, veterinary education was actually disrupted in the summer of 1943. It became more and more difficult to carry out a veterinary practice over the course of the war. Livestock numbers had decreased and, due to strict rationing, it was hard to obtain food, fuel, petrol, disinfectants and veterinary drugs. Cars and motorbikes were replaced by horses and bicycles. Because of increased mobility and contacts between domestic and foreign horses, numbers of diseased horses increased.