How Homeopathy Lost to Pharmacy

Recollections of a Veterinary Homeopath

Jack Hoare  


It was in 1965 when I went to Liverpool Veterinary School.

Our year was the last one to use the horse as the type animal for anatomy, and also the last year to have a practical pharmacology exam.

How Homeopathy lost to Pharmacy

We were given prescriptions and then made the appropriate medication: pills using a pillboard, cutter and cup; a lotion; a cream and a medicine. Points were gained for using the correct bottle or other container, sticking the labels on two thirds of the way up the bottle, and also for incorporating the correct materials. The Sub-dean called it ‘applied alchemy’. It will come as no surprise to you that homeopathy was never mentioned officially. If the topic was ever raised it was as a source of humour.

Extremely effective
without any side effects

Although the use of antibiotics and steroids was firmly established in veterinary practice by the time I qualified, the use of Galenicals and herbals had not died out. I still remember using tabs digit leaf. They were small white tablets in which small pieces of leaf material could be seen quite clearly.

They were extremely effective and could be given to dogs of all sizes without any side effects being noticed.

However a pure glycoside was isolated in 1875 and declared to be “the active principle”. It’s full structure was not determined until 1962 when pharmaceutical chemists were able to manufacture it. That is when things started to go wrong for the medical professions.

‎Digitalis purpurea

Chemists claimed that digitalis leaves varied

The chemists claimed that digitalis leaves varied, one from another, and contained a multiplicity of ingredients so that each batch would be chemically different from each other.

In contrast, their compound (digitoxin) was pure and so each batch could be standardised. So in spite of there being no practical troubles or “side effects” with the use of the natural leaf, the artificial chemical ought to be a much better choice even though it had the effect of causing vomiting in 1% of users.

Not realising its full implications

The professions bought into this argument, namely that artificial but standard chemical medicines were better than natural but slightly variable ones, even though they caused more adverse reactions. These were swiftly renamed “side effects” which sounded less damaging to the patient.

The medical professions bought into this new scientific – sounding approach to medicine production, not realising its full implications, i.e. you couldn’t patent a naturally occurring substance but you could patent a manufactured equivalent of an active principle. It was this ability to patent their products that lead eventually to the development of the modern powerful pharmaceutical industry

The initial injection followed by a 5 day course of tablets began to emerge

In the 60’s most medical cases were given a 3-day course of Streptopen injections, i.e. a penicillin/streptomycin mixture, usually in conjunction with Betsolan. 

The rationale was that the antibiotics would deal with any infection, whilst the steroid would stop any serious inflammation developing; or if inflammation was the prime concern the steroid would prevent infection developing whilst the immune system was suppressed.

In the late 1960s oxytetracycline began to replace Pen and Strep and the initial injection followed by a 5-day course of tablets began to emerge.

During the 70s and 80s not only did more, stronger antibiotics come on to the scene but so did more powerful and longer acting steroids appear.

In spite of this my clinical results barely improved at all

But the treatment costs were beginning to grow

This was when I began to get disillusioned with my career, particularly with respect to chronic inflammatory conditions.

It was all quite depressing

I could suppress symptoms by giving increasing doses of steroids, but the symptoms returned soon after the steroids were stopped. 

I sort of fell into a cycle of periods during which I gave high doses which diminished the symptoms but caused a high thirst to develop followed by a low dose period in which the thirst disappeared but the symptoms only vanished for a relatively short period.

Then when the stronger, longer acting steroids appeared, we began to see adrenal gland malfunctions. It was all quite depressing.

It was at this stage of my career that I began to associate anal gland impaction with ear trouble. I discovered that almost invariably dogs with otitis external also had impacted anal glands and that the ears improved quicker if the glands were expressed. I also noted a progression of itchy skin going to recurrent A/G trouble and then onto ear problems. I couldn’t explain it then, but then I had not heard of Hering.

Then the food industry began to see the profit from pet foods

In the late 1960s, the American food company brought the Science Diets to the UK . “We will only sell it through vets, not supermarkets” they said. “It will help you to make more money”. Then when the profession had built up sales sufficiently, it began to be sold in shops but other varieties of Science Diet were offered to veterinary surgeons and a similar cycle established.

The profession acted as super-salesmen for Hill's

In the 1960s veterinary surgeons would say:

“If I wanted to sell dog food I would open a pet shop. I am a professional...

“I do not buy paper from my accountant, nor pencils from my accountant”. But in the 1970s the profession’s waiting rooms began to look more like a pet shop, selling everything a pet owner could want.

The next stage in the debasement of the profession came in the 1990s.

Veterinary surgeons were becoming wary of investing in Practices. Non-vets were allowed to own practices, and companies were established to cream off any profit that a practice could make.

  • Hard business principles were applied
  • Sales targets set
  • Large chains were built up
  • Veterinary surgeons lost control of the profession
  • Its debasement complete

In 1998, at a meeting in Belgravia House, a big wheel from Banfield – a chain of over 500 practices in the USA – said that all the branches were to be connected to a central computer.

The veterinary surgeon would make an examination and take the history. He/ she would then feed the details into a computer, which would tell them what tests to make.

When the test results were fed back into the computer it would announce what the diagnosis was and what drugs should be prescribed.

This he maintained was “Best Practice”.

When asked what would happen if the veterinary surgeon disagreed with the computer, the answer was that the veterinary surgeon was free to diagnose and prescribe whatever he/she wanted to, but if their results were not as good as those achieved by those, who followed the computer’s advice, then they would be sacked. Unfortunately no one thought to ask what ‘good’ was in this instance: clinical effectiveness or financial profit.

Recently however, the profession has started to fight back.

The promotion of Raw Meaty Bones began to affect the pet food industry…

… while the “Don’t Over-vaccinate” movement has begun to have an impact on the pharmaceutical industry’s profits.

This has of course initiated a response by Big Business, which resents loosing its profits. Unfortunately because it is the holistically based practitioners, the attention is focused on them. Because the homeopaths have been most vocal (and in my opinion the most effective in their opposition to the current order of things), they have been singled out for the first onslaught by Big Business.

The veterinary homeopaths are being attacked on all fronts…

… both inside and outside the profession.

I do not usually subscribe to conspiracy theories, but the profusion of apparently coordinated attacks by units such as the Good Thinking Society and the Campaign for Rational Veterinary Medicine plus the Council RCVS leads me to think that it must be organised.

That means it needs financing. There is no prize for guessing where the money is coming from.

I ask you, how can a part-time Veterinary Surgeon afford to organise and run a nationwide series of meetings at which homeopathy is mocked​?

Don't be too dismayed.

It is my opinion that if we hold firmly to our principles and are not afraid to shout them from the rooftops, then homeopathy will be recognised as the force for good that it is, and homeopathy and the BAHVS will come out on top.

Keep the faith

Shout it from the rooftops