Bored to death?

Published 22 May, 2018

Welcome to Cutting Edge

the veterinary newsletter benefiting from no commercial relationship or political links to the veterinary industry and ruling bodies.

Ready to be bored and exasperated?

Another article on homeopathy. Who cares? What's this got to do with me?

Its to do with you because you are a member of the RCVS, as are all the homeopathic vets, and they aren't bored and exasperated. They are persecuted, humiliated, denigrated, mentally ill, trolled, suppressed, bullied and losing their livelihoods.

As a member of the RCVS you need to know the history of the persecution of your fellow vets, and the sort of behaviour shown by some of the most senior members of our profession. It has been shameful, and has brought our profession into disrepute.

The story begins at the beginning of this century. A charitable trust 'Sense About Science' was formed in 2002/3 with one remit being the lobbying for GMO acceptance. SAS was well funded by donors including BP, Glaxosmithklein, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pfizer, and had powerful connections in the media and government.

It quickly turned its connections and wealth on homeopathy and other CAM. In 2015 the Times revealed funding of over £20,000 from Coca Cola, whilst SAS published criticism of the negative research into the health effects of sugary drinks. Whether the direction SAS was taking had any bearing on this, but a new 'scientism' group was formed in 2012 by SAS member Simon Singh, science author. This group is amazingly named 'The Good Thinking Society'. Those of us who read Orwells 1984 will remember 'newspeak' and the word 'goodthink', which meant thoughts that are approved by the party, and follow the party's policies, ideals and interpretations.

It has been in this climate that the highly organised, well funded and successful propaganda campaign against homeopathy has occurred.

So what about the vets?

Criticism of veterinary homeopathy began around the beginning of this century. This was unfair and also highly hypocritical with the lack of evidence for much of the vast veterinary industry being ignored, while the handful of homeopathic vets were singled out.

This led to a group of 21 homeopathic vets writing to the VT about the absence of evidence for annual vaccination. Rather than acknowledging this fact, the council accused members of bringing the profession into disrepute. When the press became interested the charges were dropped, and the vaccination guidelines subsequently changed.

The first serious abuse of power by a senior vet occurred in 2011

Despite promising trials and outcome surveys in veterinary homeopathy, two published in the VR, the attacks continued. The first serious abuse of power by a senior vet occurred in 2011.

2 million euros

2 million euros was available from the eu for research into complementary medicine for use on farms in an attempt to reduce antibiotic use. Harvey Locke was president of the BVA, whose statement at the time was: 

We cannot endorse the use of homeopathic medicines, or indeed any medicine making therapeutic claims, which have no proven efficacy. As with any medicine, we believe that veterinary medicinal products must be evidence-based, with any medicinal claims made by a manufacturer supported.”

Mr Locke did all he could to prevent this money becoming available to fund research into homeopathy in the UK, including appearing on Farming Today on Radio 4 to claim incorrectly there was no evidence for homeopathy. He had never studied, qualified in or practiced homeopathy and had absolutely no knowledge of the subject (this has been the case with all the sceptics who have continued his campaign). He did not contact a homeopathic vet before his media appearance. Why did he do this, who put him up to it and why did he not respond to the two letters subsequently written to him by members of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons (BAHVS)?

Most importantly, how could his conscience have allowed him as the head of an organisation saying 'there is no evidence', to then do all he could to prevent evidence being produced?

The suppression of information continued

A member of the BAHVS was invited to speak at the South West Veterinary Conference. Four weeks before the event the invitation was reversed because two of the main sponsors said they would remove their financial support if a homeopathic vet was allowed to speak. A storm of disgusted letters to the organisers led to the talk going ahead.

The identity of those sponsors who felt they could control veterinary education by their profits was never discovered.

Fast forward to February 2017. The Bristol One Health Conference, where a member of the BAHVS was asked to speak. Shortly before the event there were moves to prevent the talk, coming from unknown parties. A compromise was reached where there would be a talk by an anti-homeopathic vet before the talk. This was happily accepted.

However this sceptic speaker became 'unavailable' and another couldn't be found. Great pressure was applied to Richard Hammond, senior vet at Bristol, and the talk was cancelled. In this whole débâcle not once was the homeopathic member contacted. Again senior members reared their heads in an ugly way, with past president of BVA Robert Hargreaves posting on Facebook;

“Disappointed and alarmed to see pseudo science given a platform here. Homeopathy in cancer treatment is at best deceptive as it is charging for proven lack of efficacy and at worst dangerous if someone is tempted to avoid an effective alternative. Not a high point for a respected educational establishment. Debate and controversy have a place but this is damaging propaganda. I hope this nonsense is robustly challenged. I was proud to speak at this event previously. I'm not sure I would agree to share this platform."

At no point did any of the detractors, including Hargreaves, contact the BAHVS or the invited speaker. The propaganda was coming from detractors, not the BAHVS.

Then in November 2017 the RCVS council issued their statement on complementary medicine.

At no point did they involve any homeopathic vets, researchers or academics, despite claiming on the release of the statement “The statement comes after long-standing discussions within the veterinary community about the efficacy and ethics of complementary and alternative medicines".

In fact the statement was complied by a group of vets who had never studied, qualified in or practiced homeopathy, influenced by sceptics. A vigorous rebuttal of the statement was issued by the BAHVS, and the advice to members currently, as stated at, is:

“The BAHVS has carefully considered the Position Statement of the RCVS (of the 3rd November 2017) concerning CAMs and particularly the use of homeopathic treatments. Having taken legal advice, including Counsel’s opinion, we are of the firm view that the RCVS Position Statement has no legal standing or effect. Further, it does not in any way form part of the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and Supporting Guidance. For the avoidance of doubt, the use of homeopathic treatments is enshrined in law, supported by EU regulation and the Veterinary Medicine Regulations.

The council has consistently stated that their statement does not constitute a ban on homeopathy and CAM, but says that CAM can only be used alongside pharmaceuticals. The fact that owners seeking CAM are trying to avoid a life-time of pharmaceuticals, with their attendant cost and side-effects, makes this ridiculous. However their real intentions are made clear by two statements made by council members:

“Perhaps a little clarification to help... Homeopathic remedies have a recognised legal status under the Veterinary Medicine Regulations, courtesy of an EU Directive. However much we may disagree with this nonsensical 'equivalence', it sits there enshrined in current Law, and thereby restricts the freedom of the RCVS, as regulator of our profession, to act; it cannot declare their use illegal. There will be the opportunity post-Brexit for representation to be made to the Veterinary Medicine Directorate to require the remove of this anomaly”and secondly;

“No-one in the RCVS council supports the use of homeopathy, and all agree it is ridiculous, even as complementary to conventional treatment. (note – none of them have any experience whatsoever of the subject) However we took repeated legal advice and this is as strong as it could possibly be. Its not within the power of the RCVS to ban VMD licensed products from being used. This statement does mean that all vets are accountable for any suffering caused due to using homeopathy and could be subject to disciplinary action”

This statement implies that ALL vets are now subject to disciplinary action and potential prosecution under the animal welfare act for using any procedures or medicines without good evidence of their efficacy. This includes much of the financial pillars of the veterinary industry.

At the RCVS council meeting in June 2017 it was pointed out by a past president that issuing such a statement could have 'unintended consequences' – ie the lack of evidence for much of what we do.

Whether we will thank our council for this statement if vaccination, hard sell 'scientific' kibble feeding, neutering for health, pouring huge amounts of pesticides over our pets and many other practices gets put into the public spotlight as complementary medicine has been.

Further, the attempts by the RCVS to marginalise the use of homeopathy on the basis that it is potentially harmful to animals, has recently been rejected by George Eustice MP, the Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) who during parliamentary questions on the 28th of March 2018, confirmed the department's official position:

“The Department does not have any evidence that shows that homeopathic vets are a risk to animal welfare by using homeopathy as an alternative treatment to conventional medicine options....”

In the Parliamentary debate on Veterinary Homeopathy on 09/05/2018 David Tredinnick stated that the RCVS failed to consult any organisations who knew the subject prior to issuing the November 2017 Statement. DT stated that the RCVS reply to his letter contained 3 glaring errors.

First it cited the 2010 report of the Science and Technology Committee which it said “concluded that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious”. It never did anything of the sort. It found only that there was no evidence; it did not make any findings about effectiveness.

Secondly, the RCVS claims: “we have not sought to remove choice as this remains”. It does not. Choice has been removed because before these guidelines came out, homeopaths could practice without using homeopathy and conventional medicine together.

Thirdly, the RCVS made claims about animal welfare issues.

DT asked a parliamentary question of George Eustice, the reply was “The Department does not have any evidence that shows that homeopathic vets are a risk to animal welfare by using homeopathy as an alternative treatment to conventional medicine options”. DT further stated that the EU Directive on organic products came about because of the great worry about the overuse of antibiotics. The WHO says that homeopathy is the second largest medical system in the world with 300,000 doctors treating 200 million people annually. DT stated that of 189 RCTs up to 2014 41% were positive for homeopathy compared with 44% for conventional medicine. George Eustice clearly outlined the role of the RCVS. He said:

“It is not the role of the RCVS to make decisions on veterinary medicines or indeed veterinary treatments. The VMD is a Government agency that makes evidence-based assessments of veterinary medicines. Homeopathic products are not formally assessed for their efficacy, but they are assessed for their quality and safety. Their use is therefore lawful.”

The sources quoted by the RCVS council in their attacks upon homeopathy include: 

The 2010 Parliamentary Evidence Check on Homeopathy by the Science and Technology Committee.

This was produced by the small group of MPs to present the findings of their ‘evidence check’. One of which was Evan Harris, member of the Advisory Council of SAS. It is not a scientific document and should not be used or viewed as such. No systematic scientific method was applied, it was not carried out by experts in the field and the choice of evidence allowed into the consultation showed a notable bias.

Such fundamental flaws have been widely acknowledged and 70 MPs expressed their concern about the entire process by signing an Early Day Motion (EDM908). In addition, an independent critique by Earl Baldwin of Bewdley concluded that the report was, “an unreliable source of evidence about homeopathy.” Neither the Government nor the Department of Health acted on the recommendations of this report. Antis continue to cite this although it was an embarrassment to EBM.

The 2015 Australian Report on Homeopathy by the The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

This was subsequently criticised, leading to a formal complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman detailing inaccuracies, mishandling of evidence, and conflicts of interest.

The Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) released extensive analysis of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)’s misleading 2015 report.

An anti-homeopathy effort scored an own-goal when NHMRC review violated the very scientific standards it sought to promote.

The fiasco was highlighted in Just One Drop, a new film on the controversy over evidence for homeopathy’s effectiveness. The NHMRC did the review twice. They rejected the first report, despite it being undertaken by a reputable scientist who is an author of NHMRC’s own guidelines on how to conduct reviews. The existence of the first report has never been disclosed to the public – it was only discovered by the Australian Homeopathic Association following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

The NHMRC said the results of their 2015 report were based on a “rigorous assessment of over 1800 studies”. In fact results were based on only 176 studies. The NHMRC used a method that has never been used in any other review, before or since. NHMRC decided that for trials to be ‘reliable’ they had to have at least 150 participants and reach an unusually high threshold for quality. This is despite the fact that NHMRC itself routinely conducts studies with less than 150 participants.

These unprecedented and arbitrary rules meant the results of 171 of the trials were completely disregarded as being ‘unreliable’ leaving only 5 trials NHMRC considered to be ‘reliable.

Professor Peter Brooks, Chair of the NHMRC committee that conducted the 2015 review, initially failed to declare that he was a member of the anti-homeopathy lobby group 'Friends of Science in Medicine'.

In violation of NHMRC’s own guidelines there was not one homeopathy expert on the committee. Rachel Roberts, Chief Executive, Homeopathy Research Institute, stated: 

“NHMRC’s review is just bad science. Decision-makers and the scientific community rely on these kinds of reports and need to trust their accuracy. This is not about anyone’s personal opinion as to whether homeopathy works or not. It is about the importance of evidence being reported objectively, whatever it says, and the NHMRC did not do that.”

FOI requests have brought to light that two independent experts also raised concerns over the report’s conclusions during peer review, prior to final publication. The Australasian Cochrane Centre commented that for some conditions, “…. 'no reliable evidence' does not seem an accurate reflection of the body of evidence”; a second expert felt “uncertain of the definitive nature of the Report’s conclusions”.

Subsequently In Australia The Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2017 Measures No.1) Bill, which passed Parliament on 15/02/2018, supports positive claims for complementary medicines based on traditional evidence, and abolishes the current complaints system. In New Zealand too there has recently been a ruling saying that CAM medicines are allowed to be sold in pharmacies.

The above is totally typical of the biased and prejudiced behaviour of well connected and funded anti-homeopathic sceptic groups.

The 2017 VR 'metanalysis' of homeopathy. Three of the six authors were acknowledged anti homeopaths. This article was not peer reviewed by any qualified homeopath or homeopathic vet and as such should never have met the VR’s own criteria for publication. It disparagingly describes homeopathy as magic and supernatural. No mention was made of the HEEL range of products which are homeopathic complexes which are licensed with indications in the medical and veterinary fields, one leading product has been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs in the treatment of OA with far fewer side effects.

Unsurprisingly it makes no reference to Hahnemann and his Cinchona experiment which was the foundation of homeopathy. Homeopathy is not the only therapeutic modality which uses “like cures like”, so does herbalism. Given that many modern drugs were developed after studying which herbs indigenous tribes used to cure specific ailments and that these themselves were often based on the “doctrine of signatures” maybe this is another case of “pot calling kettle black”?

There has been a total failure by the RCVS Council to prevent vets, including council members, and Mr Guthrie of, bullying and denigrating fellow members of the RCVS. The recent report on the second march by owners and vets from the Houses of Parliament to the RCVS HQ protesting about our council's statement, blazed “Vets March for Killer Medicine”. This was immediately after Minister George Eustice's confirmation there is NO evidence of harm done by homeopathic vets. Such ridiculous prejudiced reporting is standard.

So where does this leave us? Conspiracy theorists beware.

Firstly a group of experienced veterinary surgeons now have no faith or trust in our current council. Secondly if this behaviour continues then our entire profession is going to be subject to an 'evidence check' conducted in the platforms favoured by the veterinary sceptics. Facebook, The Red Tops, and other social media outlets. What has our profession come to, and where are we being led?

What has our profession come to and where are we being led?

Copyright 2018, British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons