The case for
By Geoff Johnson. Vet, Tauton, Somerset
Homeopathy is being increasingly used.
There are now more than 150 vets – about 1% of those in the UK – who have studied homeopathy.
Nearly 50 of them have obtained the high standards of the VetMFHom examination.
I practice homeopathy because it can actually cure chronic disease which conventional medicine fails to.
It acts to stimulate animals or people to heal themselves – our bodies have been doing that effectively for millions of years before drugs came along.
However, there is still considerable resistance to homeopathy within the vet profession.
This is based on two points of contention.
First, that there is no evidence for homeopathy.
In fact this is incorrect.
There are numerous trials demonstrating its effectiveness, mainly in humans, but also in animals.
On the farm side, positive trials include the prevention of anal prolapse in pigs and mastitis in cattle, improved journey recovery time and meat quality in cattle arriving at the slaughterhouse, reduced scours in calves and increased fertility in dairy cows.
The second presumption is that homeopathic medicines use the active substance in extreme dilution.
Admittedly, it is highly unlikely when you give a homeopathic pill there is any of the original active ingredient left in it.
According to many conventional medics, homeopathy is impossible because of the extreme dilutions used, whatever any trials say.
Homeopathy really comes into its own in the prevention of and treatment of chronic disease.
It addresses the causes of disease, rather than simply suppressing the symptoms chemically or killing the opportunistic bacterial invaders.
Why might a group of bullocks develop pneumonia after being transported, weaned or mixed with another group, or after a sudden weather change to foggy, humid, or cold and windy conditions?
Is it because the infection has suddenly appeared, or is it really nothing to do with the bacteria at all?
Of course not – yet antibiotic treatment is the standard answer.
These beasts are suffering from the stresses of fear, grief, bullying or adverse environment and some of them are unable to deal with this and become ill.
The bacteria grow only in fertile soil.
Homeopathy has remedies for most mental or environmental stresses.
These remedies stimulate the animals’ immune systems, so they are not susceptible to disease, or can recover using their ancient and effective natural systems.
Homeopathy is also effective at treating acute disease and has the advantage due to its high dilutions of no residues or side effects.
Conventional medicine is about the bug, while homeopathy is about the beast.
The case against
By Simon Baker. Vet, Ingatestone Essex
Homeopathy does not work.
That much is clear.
The evidence shows it relies on wishful thinking and coincidental recovery of patients.
So why do otherwise sensible people believe that water or sugar can be magically imbued with healing properties?
Our overfed and wealthy society has encouraged the rise of organic farming, with its ambitions of a more natural approach to animal husbandry and vet care.
A contemporary flight from science and reason has also sought to legitimise non-conventional medicine.
Homeopathy seeks to fill these gaps in the market.
Homeopathic remedies are packaged to look modern and professional, but really homeopathy is a branch of sympathetic magic.
Once a remedy has been empowered by the mother tincture it can be diluted numberless times provided it’s given a little shake each time.
Homeopathic remedies are sometimes likened to dilute herbal remedies, but this is misleading.
Finding any molecules of the remedy substance is often less likely than randomly picking a single atom in the whole universe.
Some homeopathic notions are simply bizarre: Grafting miraculously energises tablets just by putting them in the bottle with one remedy tablet; merely placing a remedy near an animal makes it work its magic.
Why does homeopathy persist?
Homeopaths depend on so-called clinical evidence, crediting the remedy for any subsequent improvement in the patient.
This problem becomes obvious when confronted by the incompatible views held by different homeopaths.
When two homeopaths contradict each other the one thing they never question is why the other continues to report successful treatments.
They can’t see the problem because homeopathy is more a set of excuses than a system of medicine.
Any outcome can be justified.
If a patient gets worse it is an aggravation, the remedy is working.
No change means you should wait or change remedies.
If the condition improves then clearly the remedy has cured the patient.
Homeopathy means you’re never wrong.
The ideas behind homeopathy may be ridiculous, but if it worked then science would take a deep breath, accept the results and work out how.
But there is no need.
When controlled trials are examined, some do show positive results, but ones that properly exclude cheating and mistaken interpretations are less likely to find that homeopathy works.
Homeopathy in animals supposedly shows it is more than a placebo.
However, outcomes are assessed by owner and vet.
They most certainly do know what has been given and can view the results through thoroughly rose-tinted spectacles.
Have homeopaths ever produced a set of convincing vet cases with objectively verifiable outcomes?
There have been only four controlled trials of vet homeopathy.
It failed in each of them.
It is no wonder that a recent British Veterinary Association submission on homeopathy described it as an offence to animal welfare.
On the farm
By Graham Mackay. Herdsman, Shrops.
Before coming to England from South Africa to work on an organic dairy farm, I had never heard of homeopathy for animals.
Introduced to this form of treatment by my employers, J Downes and Son, I was initially sceptical.
But the Downes’ sent me on the Homeopathy at Wellie Level course and I started using homeopathic remedies regularly.
In a short time I was convinced of the value of homeopathy.
Over the last 12 months I have treated 49 cases of mastitis using various homeopathic remedies.
The most dramatic case was cow number 11.
She came in one morning with a violently swollen and painful quarter.
She was uncharacteristically nervous and fidgety and lashed out as I approached.
I applied one squirt of belladonna, resigning myself to weeks of arduous treatment and possible loss of that quarter.
However, that evening the swelling was down, there were a few clots, the cow was her normal placid self.
I applied sulphur, silica and carbo veg (SSC) for the clots and the following morning she was clear on the California mastitis test.
A week later this cow tested 16 on somatic cell count in the monthly milk recording.
We have of course experienced cases where the initial treatment failed to have the desired result, but with a change in remedy success has been achieved.
Two cows have been culled due to continuous infection and little or no success in treatment.
Furthermore, we have lost one quarter on four cows where treatment was either ineffective or where some underlying sustaining cause meant repeated infection.
But we have not once resorted to antibiotics to treat lactating cows.
Nor have we used any intrusive injections.
This has meant a minimum of milk withdrawal.
Furthermore, we have many occasions to use homeopathy for the wellbeing of our stock.
Aconite is used routinely for stressful operations such as dehorning, castrating, transport and freeze-branding, and ignatia for removing calves from their mothers and caulophyllum for calving cows.