Veterinary Anthropology is concerned with how culture and society are organised around and influenced by issues of animal illness, health and animal healthcare systems. Veterinary systems and society are mutually transforming forces, evolving together interdependently. Veterinary systems are culture-bound and geographically and diachronically relative. Normative practices and beliefs in one region may be unknown or inappropriate in another, depending on society’s relationship to and attitudes about different animal species. In addition, cultures of practice in different communities become codified into oral and textual lineages.
Veterinary anthropology can also be understood as the medical anthropology of the fields of animal sickness, health, and healing. Or the study of animal health and healing from an anthropological perspective.
Similarly, but with respect to humans, the field of Medical Anthropology draws upon social, cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors which influence; health and well being, the experience and distribution of illness, the prevention and treatment of sickness, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems. The discipline of medical anthropology draws upon many different theoretical approaches. It is as attentive to popular health culture as bioscientific epidemiology, and the social construction of knowledge and politics of science as scientific discovery and hypothesis testing. Medical anthropologists examine how the health of individuals, larger social formations, and the environment are affected by interrelationships between humans and other species; cultural norms and social institutions; micro and macro politics; and forces of globalization as each of these affects local worlds.
This summary of the field of medical anthropology can illustrate how using similar types of inquiry into animal health and healing, including the present day institution of veterinary science, can be very useful. This related but separate discipline is called Veterinary Anthropology.
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Continue on to read about the first academic meeting on veterinary anthropology.