Established 1870
A Division of the British Veterinary Association

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The Beginnings

a historical note by Dr. H. E. Carter

In January 1870 Thomas James Poulton, a veterinary surgeon practising in Wrotham, wrote to the Veterinarian proposing the formation of veterinary medical associations in London and the surrounding counties.  He wrote, 'it is true we have one in London in connection with the College; what we want is one governed by ourselves, and independent of college control.'

In an editorial in the Veterinarian of March 1870 the editor, Professor Simonds, supported the proposal and wrote:

In 1828 Youatt succeeded in establishing a veterinary society, but his efforts were not well supported, and after a short time all attempts to keep it alive proved unavailing.  In 1836, when the present Students' Veterinary Medical Association was established, another effort for forming a central society was put forth, but proved ineffectual.  Since then little or nothing has been done, although several suggestions have been made  A few years ago some of the leading members of the profession got so far as the framing of rules and by-laws of such a society.

Farmers' clubs are even more plentiful than Veterinary Medical Associations, but they are all represented in great measure by the Central Farmers' Club, which, in its place, is the kind of society we desire to see established in the veterinary profession. The first step in the development of this scheme is to obtain a competent and energetic secretary who at the beginning must work 'for fame not fortune'.

Notices were sent to members of the profession and a meeting was held on 11th July in the Board Room of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons at 10 Red Lion Square.  George Fleming was called to the chair and George Armitage was appointed secretary.  A sub-committee was set up to prepare rules etc.  These were ratified at a meeting at the RCVS on 28th July and the Central Veterinary Medical Society was in business.  Members were to be known as 'Fellows' or 'Honorary Fellows'.

The first Ordinary General Meeting, chaired by George Fleming, was held on 4th October 1870 at 15 Lower Seymour Street, Portman Square, when Mr Mavor read 'a short but very interesting paper on thermometrical observations on the horse'.  Mr Mavor concluded, inter alia, that 'the normal temperature of the horse, as taken at the rectum by one of Mr Hawksley's Fahrenheit's thermometer [sic], is from 99░ to 100░.'

A decision of great significance was taken at an ordinary general meeting held at 10 Red Lion Square on 6th May 1897 when the president, Vet-Col. J. Kettle AVD, said:

Under the heading of 'any other business' I wish to call your attention to a motion that has been proposed by Professor Penberthy, and seconded by Professor Macqueen.  It was adopted by the Council at the meeting which they held tonight prior to this meeting.  The resolution, which will now be brought forward for your consideration runs:

"That this Society elect a committee to confer with other associations and veterinary surgeons, members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, with a view of forming a benevolent fund for the benefit of necessitous or indigent veterinary surgeons, or necessitous members of the families of veterinary surgeons."

The resolution was adopted nem con.  The committee began its work, took soundings and made its proposals.  On 6th January 1898, at an ordinary meeting chaired by J. A. W. Dollar, a committee was set up to proceed with the establishment of the Victoria Veterinary Benevolent Fund in commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee.

A preliminary meeting of the Victoria Veterinary Benevolent Fund was held on 27th January 1898 when an 'influential committee was formed  ....  The meeting at that moment cut itself adrift of the Central Veterinary Medical Society and became an autonomous body.'


The following were selected for 'major subjects for discussion' at the congress:
  1. The question of soundness and unsoundness in domesticated animals
  2. The influence of diseases of the lower animals on the health of man
  3. On cruelty to animals, from a veterinary point of view
  4. On effective legislation against contagious diseases of animals.

Plus ša change, plus c'est la même chose!

The above was written for the Central Veterinary Society by the late Dr. H. E. Carter, MRCVS.

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