MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Apparently, Hahnemann gave a lecture on the subject of veterinary homeopathy in the mid-1810s. Ever since, homeopathy has been used for treating animals. Von Boennighausen was one of the first influential proponents of veterinary homeopathy. However, veterinary medical schools tended to reject homoeopathy, and the number of veterinary homeopaths remained small. In the 1920ies, veterinary homoeopathy was revived in Germany. Members of the “Studiengemeinschaft für tierärztliche Homöopathie” (Study Group for Veterinary Homoeopathy) which was founded in 1936 started to investigate this approach systematically.

Today, veterinary homeopathy is still popular in some countries. Prince Charles has become a prominent advocate who claims to treat his own life stock with homeopathy. In many countries, veterinary homeopaths have their own professional organisations. Elsewhere, however, veterinarians are banned from practicing homeopathy. In the UK, only veterinarians are allowed to use homeopathy on animals (but anyone regardless of background can use it on human patients) and there is a British Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy. In the US, homeopathic vets are organised in the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.

If this sounds promising, we should not forget that, as discussed so often on this blog, homeopathy lacks plausibility the evidence for veterinary homeopathy fails to be positive (see for instance here). But, hold on, there is a new study, perhaps it will change everything?

This ‘study‘ was aimed at providing an initial insight into the existing prerequisites on dairy farms for the use of homeopathy (i.e. the consideration of homeopathic principles) and on homeopathic treatment procedures (including anamnesis, clinical examination, diagnosis, selection of a remedy, follow-up checks, and documentation) on 64 dairy farms in France, Germany and Spain.

The use of homeopathy was assessed via a standardised questionnaire during face-to-face interviews. The results revealed that homeopathic treatment procedures were applied very heterogeneously and differed considerably between farms and countries. Farmers also use human products without veterinary prescription as well as other prohibited substances.

The authors of this ‘study’ concluded that the subjective treatment approach using the farmers’ own criteria, together with their neglecting to check the outcome of the treatment and the lack of appropriate documentation is presumed to substantially reduce the potential for a successful recovery of the animals from diseases. There is, thus, a need to verify the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments in farm practices based on a lege artis treatment procedure and homeopathic principles which can be achieved by the regular monitoring of treatment outcomes and the prevailing rate of the disease at herd level. Furthermore, there is a potential risk to food safety due to the use of non-veterinary drugs without veterinary prescription and the use of other prohibited substances.

So did this ‘study’ change the evidence on veterinary homeopathy?

Sadly not!

This ‘study’ is hardly worth the paper it is printed on.

Who conceives such nonsense?

And who finances such an investigation?

The answer to the latter question is one of the few provided by the authors: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No 311824 (IMPRO).

Time for a constructive suggestion! Could the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme with their next research project in veterinary homeopathy please evaluate the question why farmers in the EU are allowed to use disproven therapies on defenceless animals?

25 Responses to Veterinary homeopathy: why are farmers allowed to use a disproven therapy on defenceless animals?

  • Why not, some governments have approved same nonsense for humans?

  • This blows my mind, how do people, especially educated people fall for this voodoo? College students should be trained in snake-oil. Admit, not college educated but my spider senses are at least PHD level, compared to my peers who have obtained a degree. Maybe “common sense 101” should be first class.

    • We are programmed to place a higher value or personal experience (ourselves or others) because support from your social group is of great value and reliable evidence techniques are a very recent development.

      Also know as “If it works, who cares?”

  • Vets (and doctors) are allowed to use such treatments as they may on their clients, within bounds set by their regulatory authorities. In the case of UK vets: the RCVS.

    Quite why any vet should believe a homeopathic preparation (HP) can have an effect is a mystery, but ‘perceptual errors’ are considered here: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/research/news/general/scientists-at-royal-veterinary-college-show-homeopathy-only-appears-to-work-because-of-perceptual-errors.

    I also recommend: https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170501a.aspx

    Under ‘Ethical considerations’ this article considered the petition to the RCVS to prevent vets from being allowed to recommend (or sell!) homeopathic remedies.
    I was particularly taken by a contribution of David Ramey:

    “Dr. Ramey says veterinarians must consider another indirect harm from homeopathy, which is the cumulative harm that is being done to the veterinary profession.
    “If it becomes known veterinarians only care about doing stuff to animals, and it doesn’t matter what that stuff is, that the only thing that matters is that veterinarians get paid and that clients are happy, that doesn’t speak well for a profession that purports to care for people and animals,” he said.
    “The only things we have to stand on is our ethics—which says we’ll do the right things for the animal—and science, which says we’ll use a scientific system to get rid of ineffective treatments and use good ones. You give people a reason to use you and keep using you if you do the right things and use the right stuff. But if you say, ‘It’s all veterinary medicine, and we’ll do it no matter what,’ the system will break down.”

    That having been said, the answer as to why governments do not restrict use of HPs is: ‘lobbying by vested interests’ – including the MP for Unicorns and Fairies, Mr David Tredinnick.

    Unlike humans, other animals cannot give consent of any sort, and it behoves the RCVS to demand its registrants provide plausible evidence of the benefit of HPs or desist from using them. That is the RCVS position, but it must be applied more robustly.

    I have debated this issue with farmers using HPs (not ‘remedies’ – HPs do not remediate anything), it is clear they lack critical thinking skills and are deluded. They are not even prepared to treat half their sick herd with HPs and half without – and see how things turn out (the animals randomised of course, and their treatment and outcome recorded by independent observers).
    And given that homeopaths with human patients insist ‘remedies’ (sic) are ‘individualised after a consultation’, quite how a farmer selects the ‘correct HP is even more mysterious.
    And unethical.

  • See
    Germany
    Tierverbesserungsgesetz (TierVerbG)
    Changes in BGB
    BGB 90
    BGB 251 Abs. 3
    BGB 903
    Changes in ZPO
    Changes in Tierschutzgesetz
    20a

  • “Randomized, blinded, controlled clinical trial shows no benefit of homeopathic mastitis treatment in dairy cows.”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28342609

    Homeopathy is not new, it has already been exhaustively tested. If it had worked it would have been Nobel prizes all around, but it didn’t. When will its promotion end?

  • Anyone care to comment on the content of this article about the use of homeopathy in the Delhi, India zoological park?

    https://homeopathyplus.com/delhi-zoo-uses-homeopathy-for-its-animals/

  • How are symptoms like “weepy and craves consolation” supposed to be useful in animals?

  • Vets (and doctors) are allowed to use such treatments as they may on their clients, within bounds set by their regulatory authorities. In the case of UK vets: the RCVS.

    Quite why any vet should believe homeopathic preparations (HP) can have any beneficial effect is a mystery, but ‘perceptual errors’ on the part of the vet are considered here: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/research/news/general/scientists-at-royal-veterinary-college-show-homeopathy-only-appears-to-work-because-of-perceptual-errors.

    May I also recommend: https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170501a.aspx

    Under ‘Ethical considerations’ this article consideres the petition to the RCVS to prevent vets from being allowed to recommend (or sell!) homeopathic remedies. I was particularly taken by a contribution of David Ramey:
    Dr. Ramey says veterinarians must consider another indirect harm from homeopathy, which is the cumulative harm that is being done to the veterinary profession.

    “If it becomes known veterinarians only care about doing stuff to animals, and it doesn’t matter what that stuff is, that the only thing that matters is that veterinarians get paid and that clients are happy, that doesn’t speak well for a profession that purports to care for people and animals.
    The only things we have to stand on is our ethics—which says we’ll do the right things for the animal—and science, which says we’ll use a scientific system to get rid of ineffective treatments and use good ones. You give people a reason to use you and keep using you if you do the right things and use the right stuff. But if you say, ‘It’s all veterinary medicine, and we’ll do it no matter what,’ the system will break down.”

    That having been said, the answer as to why governments do not restrict use of HPs is “lobbying by unethical vested interests” – including the MP for Unicorns and Fairies, Mr David Tredinnick.

  • As a layperson in medical field, I have been amazed at what people do with themselves and their pets with pseudoscience. It doesn’t matter if they are highly educated or just completed 1st grade, they believe quackery. WHY?

    • there is no simple answer to your question; there are dozens of reasons – in my view, misinformation is one of the more important ones.

      • Two days ago, my classmate who became a chiropractor from 80’s posted how he saved an infant from death, He personally snook in hospital and adjusted his neck, kid survived from his magic on his deathbed. He has 80 congrats on facebook for his miracle adjustments. Some of the congrats are from people who hold a PHD and at least one teacher. Why do educated people believe in this crap?

  • ” It doesn’t matter if they are highly educated or just completed 1st grade, they believe quackery. WHY?”

    This is true for both the practitioner and the patient. For the practitioner, I would say the reason so many “believe” in quackery are that they have invested into its study, spent lots of time and money learning the machine or modality but have too much ego on the other side of the purchase or learning course to be truthful of the true reality of the end product.

    As an example I will use Low Level Laser or cold laser use in veterinary medicine. Sales people are great at marketing and building enthusiasm for a product selling the devices for upwards of $$ 25,000.00 plus for what is essentially a glorified laser pointer with no evidence that it is more useful than a warm water bottle (frequently use the example of a warm bran mash in a palpation sleeve) . Well, once you have invested such enormous sums of money into such a device are you really going to admit it was a bad or pointless decision…no, you will become married to the device and sell it to recoup your investment… Becoming married to a device or useless but expensive training and the subsequent bias it creates is imo a major cause of the perpetuation of scam.

    Dr. Ernst is one of the few people I know who has shed his ego , readily admitting to having embraced pseudo science but emerged on the other side willing to admit although not useless as a learning tool, his foray into the homeopathy and such was a trip down a blind canyon. Not too many people are capable of this kind of honest self assessment and for that , he is to be lauded.

  • The main body representing UK veterinary homeopaths is the British Association of Veterinary Homeopaths (BAHVS – https://www.bahvs.com/). The British Academy of Vet Hom as far as I aware is an educational thing, mainly the brainchild of Sue Armstrong (who once said how depressing it was to read my name in print again in a veterinary journal – what an accolade!).

    They are a bunch of irresponsible quacks who, amongs other things, claim to be able to treat cancer with homeopathy. As you would expect, like their people-med counterparts, they are incapable of properly assessing proper scientific evidence, especially when it doesn’t confirm their preconceptions.

    There are an excellent couple of websites devoted to addressing their nonsense in the UK – https://rationalvetmed.net/blog/ and http://www.rationalvetmed.org/, both run by me as it happens! But way and by far the best website countering vet homs’ craziness is Brennen McKenzie’s, in the US – http://skeptvet.com/Blog/.

    And thanks for the link to the RVC press release, Richard, I’ve done a commentary on the paper they mention here – http://www.rationalvetmed.org/papers_k-l.html#Lees2017(1) . I’ve included relevant links to this open access paper (parts 1 and 2), it’s a great read.

    Cheers,

    Niall

  • There are multiple factors that lead to belief in pseudoscience, including misinformation. However, would it not have a genesis similar to that of superstition, mysticism, belief in the supernatural? I know a homeopath who has taken MBE courses and is also a law graduate. He also believes in supernatural! I have no scientific data to make any statement, but here’s a good topic for research. But it is a fact, by deduction, that these people are potentially the cause of harm and social backwardness.

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