MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The UK petition to ban homeopathy for animals has so far achieved well over 3 000 signatures. Remarkably, it also prompted a reaction from the Faculty of Homeopathy which I reproduce here in full:

Response to petition calling on the RCVS to ban homeopathy

Homeopathy has a long history of being used successfully in veterinary practice for both domestic and farm animals. The EU recommends its use in its regulations on organic farms and is funding research into veterinary homeopathy as a way of reducing antibiotic use in livestock. It is nonsense to suggest that responsible pet owners and farmers are unable to distinguish between effective and ineffective medicines; they continue to use homeopathy because they see its benefits.

Membership of the Faculty of  Homeopathy (VetMFHom) is bestowed on qualified veterinary surgeons who have completed a minimum of three years study of homeopathy and after a rigorous examination procedure. It differentiates the qualified veterinary homeopath from an unlicensed healer.

In a statement, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons said “… homeopathy is currently accepted by society and recognised by UK medicines legislation, and does not, in itself, cause harm to animals”. Before going on to say it could see no justification for banning veterinary surgeons from practising homeopathy.

In an age when antibiotic resistance is such an important issue, veterinary surgeons and farmers who have found they can limit the use of these drugs by using homeopathy should be applauded and not attacked.


Peter Gregory
BVSc MRCVS VetFFHom
Veterinary Dean, Faculty of Homeopathy

 

Such sentiments resonate with those of the UK’s most influential supporter of homeopathy, Prince Charles. Speaking at a global leaders summit on antimicrobial resistance, Prince Charles  recently warned that Britain faced a “potentially disastrous scenario” because of the “overuse and abuse” of antibiotics. The Prince explained that he had switched to organic farming on his estates because of the growing threat from antibiotic resistance and now treats his cattle with homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medication. “As some of you may be aware, this issue has been a long-standing and acute concern to me,” he told delegates from 20 countries at The Royal Society in London. “I have enormous sympathy for those engaged in the vital task of ensuring that, as the world population continues to increase unsustainably and travel becomes easier, antibiotics retain their availability to overcome disease… It must be incredibly frustrating to witness the fact that antibiotics have too often simply acted as a substitute for basic hygiene, or as it would seem, a way of placating a patient who has a viral infection or who actually needs little more than patience to allow a minor bacterial infection to resolve itself.”

It seems that both Prince Charles and Peter Gregory believe that homeopathy can be employed to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals. So, let’s analyse this hypothesis a little closer.

The way I see it, the belief must be based on one of two assumptions:

  1. Homeopathic remedies are effective in treating or preventing bacterial infections.
  2. If farmers administer homeopathic remedies to their life-stock, they are less likely to administer unnecessary antibiotics.

Assumption No 1 can be rejected without much further debate; there is no evidence whatsoever that homeopathic remedies have antibiotic efficacy. In fact, the consensus today is that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos.

Assumption No 2, however, might be more plausible and therefore deserves further scrutiny.  If we do not tell the farmers nor the vets that homeopathic remedies are placebos, if, in other words, we mislead them to think they are efficacious medicines, they might give them to their animals instead of antibiotics. Consequently, the usage of antibiotics in animals would decrease. This strategy sounds plausible but, on second thought, it has many serious drawbacks:

  1. The truth has a high value in itself which we would disregard at our peril.
  2. One might not be able to keep the truth from the farmers and even less able to hide it from vets.
  3. If we mislead farmers and vets, we must also mislead the rest of the population; this means lots of people might start using homeopathic placebos even for serious conditions.
  4. Misleading farmers, vets and the rest of the population is clearly unethical.
  5. Misleading farmers and vets in this way might not be necessary; if there is abuse of antibiotics in farming, we ought to tackle this phenomenon directly.
  6. Misleading farmers and vets might be dangerous for at least two reasons: firstly, animals who truly need antibiotics would not receive adequate treatment; secondly, farmers and vets might eventually become convinced that homeopathy is efficacious and would therefore use it in all sorts of situations, even for serious diseases of humans.

Whichever way I twist and turn the assumption No 2, I fail to arrive at anything remotely sensible. But this leaves me with a huge problem: I would have to conclude that both the Veterinary Dean, Faculty of Homeopathy and the heir to the throne are bonkers… and, surely, this cannot be right either!!!

 

23 Responses to Homeopathy as a way of reducing antibiotic use in livestock ?

  • They never let up with this dishonesty do they? No, the EU does not “recommend its use”, the organic industry has written this delusional bullshit into the EU’s rules on organic farming, is all.

  • So lets have some balance on this debate

    Vets’ vaccine alert after claims of dog deaths

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/02/dogs-dying-after-having-protective-vaccine-owners-claim/

    I didn’t find Danny to be very convincing in the following interview

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36748693

  • Here’s a better idea: how about we just grind up everyone who has “VetFFHom” after their names and use them as pigfood instead? That’ll both end to their criminal animal abuse and make them genuinely useful for the first, last, and only time in their worthless squandered lives.

    ..

    Sorry if that’s a bit harsh, but many a fluffy puppy was saved a messy end the day I crashed and burned out of vet premed on account of being utterly bugnuts insane, and even I have never been anywhere close to being as screamingly delusional and lethally incompetent as these nutballs. If adults want to kill themselves with their own stupidity then that’s their funeral, but as soon as they perpetrate it on kids and animals then an extended stay in a 6-by-8 is the absolute least they deserve.

  • Antibiotic: a medicine (such as penicillin or its derivatives) that inhibits the growth of or destroys microorganisms.” (OED).

    If an animal needs the benefit of having microorganisms destroyed – antibiotics should be used.
    If not, then not.
    There is no evidence homoeopathically prepared remedies can destroy microorganisms.
    Therefore HP remedies cannot “reduce the use of antibiotics” as Homeopath Gregory claims.
    Vets who use homeopathic remedies when antibiotics are needed are unethical and might be determined to be unfit to practice by withholding necessary medication from dumb animals.
    Of course, if the antibiotics were not necessary, this issue does not arise.
    End of.

    Farm animals respond to care and attention just as human animals do.

    Surely Homeopath Gregory knows that?

    • I can think of one way in which homeopathy can reduce antibiotic use: ABs are used as a growth promoter. Replacing this with homeopathy won’t promote growth, but it will reduce AB usage without materially endangering the animal. That is about the only scenario I can think of where homeopathy use is defensible, and even then it’s only defensible if you ignore the fraudulent claim of effect.

  • The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about replacing antibiotics with the “magic” water was anthrax ….

  • “It seems that both Prince Charles and Peter Gregory believe that homeopathy can be employed to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals. So, let’s analyse this hypothesis a little closer.”

    Beliefs can be converted into data for reality check.

    Details of stock of animals, over years treated with antibiotics and compared with treatment with homeopathy would provide result. The longer the period, the better the comparison.

    You think this is possible? What do you believe the result will show?

    In humans, the antibiotics have ended up creating a serious crisis. These are becoming ineffective for most interventions, and are being seen as a reason for most diseases: cancer, diabetes, asthma etc.

    What is the status in animals?

      • I read your comment on R Hahn regarding his evaluation of the Lancet article. Your name figured in his write up. Because of this, you commented on this blog. Surprisingly, you only tried to potray Mr. Hahn in poor light as a person. You completely avoided to address the points he raised.

        Can you be specific in your comments about the below study.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1475939/
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14960098 something similar to the newzeland study.

        • It’s up to Edzard whether or not he responds to your comment. But why do you link to two reviews that provide zero evidence for an effect of homeopathy in animals? Last line of the abstract of the first paper: “Despite a few encouraging observational studies, the effectiveness of the homeopathic prevention or therapy of infections in veterinary medicine is not sufficiently supported by randomized and controlled trials.” Last line of the abstract of the second paper: “Definitive conclusions are premature due to the limited number of observations and lack of control group.” Pathetic!

          • “But why do you link to two reviews that provide zero evidence for an effect of homeopathy in animals?”

            ‘Cos throwing random links at the wall is how you waste people’s time do Science, right?

          • “It’s up to Edzard whether or not he responds to your comment.”

            I agree. You reply on his behalf as?

            Last line of the abstract of the first paper:

            Finally, the principle of similarity could be re-evaluated as a way of designing therapeutic strategies, according to two main lines, i.e. either by administering the ‘simile’ as a substance belonging to a known pathogenetic mechanism of the disease or administering the ‘simile’ as a compound that causes similar symptoms. The first line corresponds to the approach which historically has been called ‘isopathy’ or ‘therapy by nosodes’ and whose current updating consists in the utilization of a series of agents that are pathogenic when used at high doses in healthy people and therapeutic when used at low doses in sick people: cytokines, bacterial products, specific antigens, nitric oxide, cancer cells modified by genetic engineering, etc. The second line is followed by classical, individualized, homeopathy. The effectiveness of these approaches in human medicine is under increasing debate and their applications in the immunopharmacological field will be the object of a further publication of this series.

            “Last line of the abstract of the second paper: “Definitive conclusions are premature due to the limited number of observations and lack of control group.” Would it not be unethical to allow the infected animals to suffer” Pathetic!

          • @Iqbal Krishna

            You said:

            “It’s up to Edzard whether or not he responds to your comment.”
            I agree. You reply on his behalf as?

            Your arrogance is astonishing! Do you imagine this thread is a personal correspondence between you and its author? The blog is open for the public to read: I made it very clear I was not responding on anyone’s behalf other than my own.

            The remainder of your post is incomprehensible. I merely followed the links you supplied and quoted from the papers they linked to. Goodness knows where your mind was when you put together the rest of your comment. The content is entirely unrelated to the two links. Did you mean to link to two different papers?

          • “The remainder of your post is incomprehensible.”

            The bias in line with all. You did not even bother to read and made a standard reply.

            What you see above is a copy and paste of THE LAST PARAGRAPH of the first article.

          • @Iqbal Krishna

            I’m sorry, but you originally said: “Last line of the abstract of the first paper”, which is what I already copied and pasted. Now you say: “What you see above is a copy and paste of THE LAST PARAGRAPH of the first article.” Do you not see how difficult it is to understand what the heck you think you are driving at? I’m out. I can’t hold a sensible discussion with a person who says one thing and means another.

        • It is trivially easy to produce a positive result for an inert treatment in a trial. So easy, in fact, that even a homeopath could do it, despite their lack of basic understanding of the principles of science or medical evidence.

          It is much harder to produce a positive result in a robust, well designed trial.

          The evidence shows that robust, well designed trials are much more likely to deliver a negative result. Some homeopaths misinterpret neutral results as positive, but scientists doing meta analysis tend not to fall for that rookie error.

          The correct question for any study is: are these results definitely inconsistent with the null hypothesis? P=0.05 is a measure of how likely it is to be inconsistent, but that measure was designed for treatments with a plausible mechanism if action and is not valid for a treatment like homeopathy, where there is no reason to suppose it should work, no way it can work, and no good evidence it does work.

          Now go back and look at the two papers. Do they show unambiguous evidence of effect? No, they do not. In fact they state that the trial evidence is of poor quality.

          You’ve had 200 plus years, and you’re still coming up with weak and ambiguous evidence in sloppy trials and failing robust ones. Time this stopped.

          • “You’ve had 200 plus years, and you’re still coming up with weak and ambiguous evidence in sloppy trials and failing robust ones. Time this stopped.”
            As I see it, 1200 years.
            My grandfather was a homeopath doctor. I am not aware of the reason why he became one. My father and uncle were trained by him. My brother went through 4 year course with the government college for homeopathy and is now attached to a government hospital. All 4 practiced/practice medicine. For 3 generations (my parents, my and our children) we have never required a single dose of allopathic drug. There would be over 40 people in the extended family, with over 1200 years between us for a period of over 90 years now. (Exclude mandatory vaccinations for the generation of our children with adverse reaction in case of my elder son).

            Our family started in Multan (Pakistan) and shifted to Lucknow in India. No clean air and water and our earlier generation spent a lot of their years on farms in close contact with dogs, fowls and dairy animals. I have been seeing illness in our generation and our children and cure from homeopathic medicines as a routine activity. In 3 generations, we lost no child and average age at death in much higher than the India average.

            Among the patients of my brother are many of his allopathic colleagues in the hospital. Many patients of my father were also practicing allopathic doctors and army officers who had free access to army hospitals.

            So, a test of medicine for 1200 years, over many persons and many diseases not good to prove homeopathy? Here the risk was much larger: our own family members. And we all continue to depend upon homeopathy only.

          • Iqbal Krishna said:

            So, a test of medicine for 1200 years, over many persons and many diseases not good to prove homeopathy?

            No.

      • These are summary of your notes. Cherry picked!

        What is the fact? Quoting Dr. R Hahn:

        ” The reader of this literature must be aware that ideology plays a part in these meta-analyses. For example, Ernst [7] makes conclusions based on assumed data [6] when the true data are at hand [3]. Ernst [7] invalidates a study by Jonas et al. [18] that shows an odds ratio of 2.19 (1.55–3.11) in favor of homeopathy for rheumatic conditions, using the notion that there are not sufficient data for the treatment of any specific condition [6]. However, his review deals with the overall efficacy of homeopathy and not with specific conditions. Ernst [7] still adds this statistically significant result in favor of homeopathy over placebo to his list of arguments of why homeo­pathy does not work. Such argumentation must be reviewed carefully before being accepted by the reader.”

        And a lot of cross references: Science based medicine, Quackometer…..

    • Details of stock of animals, over years treated with antibiotics and compared with treatment with homeopathy would provide result. The longer the period, the better the comparison.

      Only if all potential confounding factors can be eliminated. For example, if all users of homeopathy were small farmers with pedigree herds then their infection rates would be expected to be lower anyway.

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