The British Empire Library

Far Away Cows: Veterinary Vignettes from the Third World

by Patrick Guilbride

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Dr John A Hammond (Tanganyika/Tanzania 1951-1965: Kenya 1967-1969)
The title of this book rather perplexed me. However, the secondary title "Veterinary Vignettes from the Third World" gave a much clearer picture of this autobiography by Patrick Guilbride, describing his career as a veterinarian in the Third World, first in the Colonial Service and later in the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

The book is divided into five parts with a useful map at the beginning of each. Part One describes how after graduating in 1942 he was 'grabbed from the jaws of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps' and sent to Northern Rhodesia where he served until 1946. Life was much more primitive than in Tanganyika on my first appointment as a Veterinary Officer there in 1951. Much of his time was spent on safari in charge of a very large district. There are amusing accounts of many characters and adventures, and he describes vividly and light-heartedly the wide range and scope of his work.

In 1946 (Part Two) he was posted to Jamaica. He was initially engaged in clinical practice and later, on promotion to Senior Veterinary Officer, disease control, research and administration for the whole island. Again, this is written with a light touch and does not become too technical so that those with only a superficial knowledge of animal diseases will find it interesting. He highlights the problems and difficulties encountered and the characters he met. He also enjoyed a marvellous and hectic social life and got married there.

Part Three describes his time as Deputy Chief Veterinary Research Officer, Uganda, from 1952-1963, where he carried out disease investigation and research under rather primitive conditions. He had to check several hundred hippos for anthrax when they were culled in the Queen Elizabeth Park.

He left the Colonial Service and joined F.A.O. in 1963 as Project Manager of a proposed Veterinary Institute for Tropical and High Altitude Research in Peru, as described in Part Four. He was there for 10 years and there were some spectacular results under his guidance, including development of the poultry industry in the sierra, the reproduction of alpaca, and pasture and milk production at high altitude and in the jungle.

He moved to Brazil in 1973 (Part Five) for 3 years to take over the livestock production project in Recife. However, the project never got off the ground because the Brazilians constantly revised policies which made it impossible to plan or execute the simplest research.

His last posting before retirement was to Mozambique in 1982 as Project Manager. He arrived soon after the Communist Frelimo government had taken over from the Portuguese He notes that civil strife is the greatest problem of disease control and livestock development in the Third World, and this occurred when RENAMO the FRELIMO guerrilla movement, increased its activities, killed two FAO personnel and other staff and destroyed the recently established trypanosomiasis research station. A feature of life in this Communist state was the succession of lengthy, unproductive meetings that were called at all hours without notice or agenda. The Cubans who arrived at this time had their 'Little Blue Book' that gave procedures to be followed in all animal health situations. However, this was compiled for use in Cuba and entirely ignored the devastating diseases which might be encountered in Mozambique.

Although the book has 653 pages it does not seem so long, as it is very well written, always interesting and contains vivid descriptions of each country and the people he met, the problems encountered and his rich family life with 8 children and Freak the pet vervet monkey which 'wrought havoc with our lives'. It will appeal to a wide range of people, including those who have served or wish to work in any of the six countries, especially if concerned with livestock development. I enjoyed it immensely.

British Empire Book
Patrick Guilbride
The Book Guild Ltd.


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