Text presented by Dr. B Heude to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 5th July 2000 by request of the European Committee for Homeopathy.
1) What is the role of veterinary homeopathy?
Its efficacy in companion animal medicine.
There is an increasing demand for veterinary homeopaths. Although homeopathic medicine is called ‘non-conventional’, its results are well above the placebo effect. Would there be a regular demand for homeopathy if its successes did not match our clients’ demands? Certainly not, if it were only for pure economic reasons.
It is important to recognise that homeopathy is often used as a last recourse when conventional medicine has nothing further to offer. In such cases, often the ‘miracle’ expected by our clients can manifest itself. Homeopathy and conventional medicines are well and truly complementary.
It is clear that we cannot treat everything. But in many cases of devastating pathology we can obtain results. This is manifest in both acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis, renal failure, viral disease in cats, etc.
In my speciality, with a single dose, in some cases repeated once or twice over the following months, I can prove a faster result in a great number of phobias, anxiety and depression troubles in our pets than through the use of psychotropic medicines, the use of which I am very familiar with.
Is there a placebo effect in veterinary medicine? The question has been studied by many veterinary specialists: it has never been observed in companion animals and even less in farm animals. Dogs can only develop a ritual in relation to the administration of daily medicine. With homeopathic medicine, even a ritual cannot establish itself due to the infrequent administration of homeopathic medicines.
Proof of efficacy and an offer of hope for humans.
In our times of over-consumption of psychotropic medicines by people, the example of rapid and efficient cure of companion animals offers a point of reflection for owners. Often they ask us the address of a good homeopath for humans. It is later a joy for us to learn that clients have managed to wean themselves off the anxiolytic or other medicines they had been taking for years … often without experiencing their desired results.
In light of this, we homeopathic veterinarians can hope to contribute to the reduction of the over consumption of many medicines by people, another reason for us to persist in the practice of our medicine.
Its efficacy in farm animals.
My colleagues, active in farm animal medicine, experience the same constant results using homeopathy. In this environment there is even less room for critics to argue that homeopathy is equal to placebo. More so, the economic factor is even more important since, at the end of the year, the farmer needs to have made a profit from his undertaking. Why should he persist in using a medical technique that offers no efficacy or economic benefit?
Which are the diseases we can treat in the farm? Many viral and bacterial diseases can be treated efficiently such as respiratory infections in poultry farms, neonatal diarrhoea in calves, winter flu syndrome of cattle, infertility, etc. All of these afflictions cause major losses to the farmer. Conventional treatments are usually only palliative whereas homeopathy will offer better results without any toxicity.
In a competitive environment, the use of homeopathy is the preferred choice of many farmers. Before examining its benefits I would like to make an evaluation of today’s farming:
Evaluation of intensive farming condition:
The specialised press repeatedly highlights the catastrophes in modern animal production: dioxin in poultry food, BSE in cattle, antibiotic-resistances, all sorts of residues in meat, milk and eggs, tuberculosis in cattle, foot and mouth disease, etc.
The European commission is aware of these problems and makes many efforts to eradicate them.
Another aspect of industrial farming is the living conditions of the animals. Some animals live in prisons: laying hens in batteries, sows attached throughout their lives and use of psychotropic medicines to reduce cannibalism in groups of young piglets. In other cases cattle barely survive 3 years of milk production.
What is the nutritional value of the products of such an industry? What is their effect on our health? What will be the consequence of the introduction of GMO’s in animal and human food? Should we not apply the principle of precaution?
The economic pressures on farm production are such that they justify all sorts of deviations from common sense. Is it possible to act differently? Of course it is.
The answers are not simple. One should not refute progress but one should be cautious. Homeopaths are well aware that living creatures cannot bear all these ‘economic pressures’ without suffering the consequences.
What can a veterinary homeopath add to this?
*His competences and his natural vision on keeping animals.
With the economic development of the 60’s, the West omitted the all-important question of the welfare of farm animals, as if it were possible to treat them in any way that suited the economy. Many reservations arise from current assessments of farm animal practice and professionals are taking a step back.
The incorporation of engine oil and slurry from water purification into bird feed is characteristic of the drive to productivity. The feeding of meat powder to cattle to increase milk protein resulted in the appearance of BSE. Some had forgotten that cows are herbivores and that antibiotics do not cure all.
The race for productivity and desperate efforts to increase cost savings have created the appearance of new viruses and prions, not to mention bacterial problems like salmonella which are dangerous to man.
Homeopathy has a more natural vision of farming than most of our conventional colleagues. The veterinary homeopath joins the team of those who are seeking a biological and reasoned way of farming. The earth and animals will not tolerate malpractice with impunity. Natural cycles need to be respected, animal production needs to recognise and respect the elementary needs of the species concerned.
Animals have no rights available but we have to respect their needs and normal living conditions.
If we forget these vital conditions, they fall ill. Their meat, milk and eggs will be of poor organoleptic and hygienic quality, even though these qualities are poorly quantifiable by modern means.
…for the good of the animals.
Europe should make this one of its priorities; to promote good practice throughout the breeding cycle up to time of slaughter. Certain plans in the USA are worrying. It is important that to protect the environment and to protect the animals they are not copied in Europe. To give one example: there was a project to create the largest pig breeding unit in the world: ten units of 10,000 sows on one site necessitating the construction of a rail track and the deviation of a part of the Colorado canal for the provision of water. One veterinary surgeon would supervise the sanitary and zootechnic aspects of the business and 20 persons per unit would be employed. How can the well- being of animals be respected in such conditions?
In Europe, the keeping of hens in batteries will become illegal in 2012. This was decided in 1999. Although this was good news, homeopathic vets would have preferred it was implemented earlier. In the meantime, hens live in cages measuring 550 cm2 increased from 450cm2 (75 square inches). What a luxury; every hen has available to it a cage measuring 20 cm by 25 cm (8 ins by 10 ins) awaiting 2012. Veterinary homeopaths were not consulted of course.
All measures to improve animal welfare bear cost. The cost of eggs will increase by 15%. The consumers, according to research by the ministry of agriculture in France, are ready to take on this cost. I am sure all the consumers in Europe will follow. In any case, that part of the family budget allocated to food has reduced continuously over the last decades while the search for healthy and quality foods has increased.
Whether working in town or in the countryside, the veterinary homeopath has always recognised the relation between living conditions and disease. Through refined analysis of the small details and variations in the patient’s living conditions, the homeopathic vet chooses the remedy to cure the patient. The curious, bizarre and unusual symptoms are the ones that guide one towards the right prescription. Conventional medicine will decide its treatments based on the common or characteristic symptoms. Two different ways of looking at disease and two completely different types of medicines used, another sign of the complementarities of the two types of medicines.
The homeopathic veterinary surgeon, a privileged observer, should have a place in the commissions of study of animal well-being. This observer should not be in competition with the conventional colleagues but should be the source of a broadening of the comprehension and respect towards our animals.
… for the protection of the environment and the biodiversity.
Veterinary homeopaths fight to obtain living conditions for animals that are as close as possible to their nature. This will allow them to enjoy a better balance of health and suffer less disease. It is not impossible to imagine a lessening of the intensive farming practices in Europe where many millions of hectares of land are kept from being used for farm production when at the same time the results from over production do not find suitable outlets.
Take an example related to environment protection and biodiversity. Veterinary pharmacies market huge amounts of worm treatments that are more and more efficacious. They became so effective that they also killed off the insects that colonise their defecations, these being necessary for the recycling of the matter contained in them. By killing internal parasites, useful insects were also eliminated.
What are the alternatives to create a type of farming that respects biodiversity? Those veterinarians who respect the environment propose a rotation of livestock between fields in order to break the parasite cycle. This reduces the amount of parasites present and allows animals to develop efficient immunity to prevent their proliferation. The need for worm treatments then becomes anecdotal. The consumer and biodiversity benefit from such systems and there is a reduced cost for farmers.
My colleagues who work in farms choose to use the least possible conventional medicines and obtain equivalent economic success. Their determination to reduce the use of substances that remain potentially dangerous for the consumer and nature is one of their prime motivations.
…. For the health of the consumer.
Food security and medicine residues.
The quality of animal feed is determining the animal’s health and also that of the consumer. Scandals like dioxin incorporated in poultry feed have forced the European commission to outlaw the use of water purification slurry and industrial and urban waste to prepare animal feed. This was a big step forward towards better practice in farming.
Other point of contention is the presence of pharmaceutical molecules, even at very low doses, that remain in animal productions. Their effects are unknown. The principle of precaution forces the legislator to continuously increase the list of substances that are not allowed to be used in farming or has to determine waiting times between last use in animals and transformation of their products into food. This is a good thing. But are the waiting times long enough and are the laws always respected? Why not promote the use of homeopathic medicine which is free from toxicity and does not present the problem of residues?
The restriction of the use of certain medicines for the treatments and prevention of disease in production animals poses problems when conventional medicine is lacking in alternatives. The use of Metronidazole to control certain intestinal diseases in poultry was stopped. This left the farmers without treatment for some conditions and the drug was imported illegally from other countries.
In these cases, the veterinary homeopath has at his disposal safe and effective alternative treatments. Sometimes insufficient possibilities are available to develop the homeopathic alternatives due to the absence of the large financial help for homeopathic research from corporate pharmacies such as are made available for the development of conventional medicines.
The problem of resistance to antibiotics.
The immoderate use of antibiotics in human and animal medicine has caused serious problems of antibiotic resistances. This has become a major issue which often touches the most ill patients (MRSA).
There is evidence of transmission of antibiotic resistance from animals to people. A veterinary thesis has produced many references.(1)
It has become urgent to reduce the use of antibiotics in those cases that are justified. Dosage, duration of treatment and withdrawal periods should be respected. This is not always the case when it comes to the use of drugs on farms.
The veterinary homeopath will rarely use antibiotics. With the exception of large epidemics, the infectious agent is rarely the cause of disease. The infectious agent will appear when there is a gap in the animals natural defences (immunity), usually caused by outside influences like bad breeding, bad housing, bad feeding and other practices that do not respect normality in nature.
Many modern farming techniques are such that the use of antibiotics appears inevitable, both in timely treatments and administration throughout production cycles. Should we not search for better options?
The Council of Europe adopted in December 1999 a “future action in relation to the appearance of resistance to anti-bacterial agents.” This plan consists of:
– Rigorous controls of the sale, distribution and use as of anti-bacterial agents as well as the elimination of financial incentives and promotion of their use in an inappropriate way.
– The establishment and promotion of guidance of good practice for the use of anti- microbial agents in humans and animals.
– The implementation of plans to reduce the occurrence of infections in people and animals through vaccines, education and improved hygiene.
The Council wishes to explore the creation of a communal legislation controlling the surveillance of:
– the consumption of all anti-microbial agents (in people, animals and plants).
– transmission of diseases caused by micro-organisms resistant to antibiotics.
– the resistance to anti-bacterial agents in animals and food substances.
Decisions need to be made regarding the use of anti-bacterials as growth promoters in animals and plants.
All these decisions that are going to be taken in the future are very interesting indeed. It is imperative that this happens soon due to the continuous distribution of antibiotics in all intensive breeding programs like poultry and salmon that cannot thrive without them.
Nonetheless, homeopathy has proven its efficacy. A study into the protection of disease in pigs has shown that weak doses of antibiotics are inefficient in the prevention of respiratory disease. At high doses there was no statistical difference compared to the use of a homeopathic treatment. How is it then that we can still justify the use of antibiotics in industrial farms? (2)
I would like to repeat that there exist alternatives proposed by homeopathy under the form of the promotion of less intensive industries and in a number of situation treatments that rely less on the use of antibiotics. Europe can afford it due to its level of development and the demand from the consumer, not to forget the obligations we have to warrant the conditions for cures for all.
· Their help towards the development of organic farming.
In organic herds of milking goats, the results of treating udder problems with homeopathy are excellent. Without the use of antibiotics the results are not only faster, with a reduced loss of milk, but they are also of better quality with less loss of udder tissue and therefore a reduction in the cull of milking goats for loss of udders. No chance for the appearance of resistance to antimicrobials, no residues in the milk and cheese, resulting in an optimal protection of the consumer.
The interest in organic farming is increasing. In 1999, organic milk collection in France increased from 54 million litres to 96 million litres. The demand from the consumer is ever increasing. This demand is even greater in Germany.
These statistics indicate the greater consciousness of the consumer about the quality of food. There is an increasing market for prime quality foods, with a perfect safety record and good taste value. Many surveys show the preoccupation of the public with local sourcing of food and organic production. The veterinary homeopath appreciates these tendencies but is he supported by the European authorities to support the farmers?
They could play a role in advising farmers on the natural needs of animals and at the same time, through their prescriptions free of chemical compounds, participate in the production of healthy food and protection of the consumers.
Sadly there are not enough veterinary homeopaths to answer the increasing demands from organic farmers. Financial support and other measures in favour of the use of homeopathy would be very welcome.
2) What can the European Parliament do in favour of veterinary homeopathy?
The thoughts on this subject have arisen from my interest in my profession, even in the areas outside my speciality and through my contact with fellow homeopaths in the countryside who are passionate about their work and dedicated to their vocation.
A working group open to these professionals and to the leaders of homeopathic schools is required to educate you about our medicine, much criticised by many and unknown by the greater public.
· Recognising homeopathic medicine for animals as a reality.
Recognise veterinary homeopathy, a natural medicine which is efficacious and economical.
Homeopathy should find its role in medicine for all animals, whether farm animals or companion animals. Its efficacy has been proven and it creates no problems of residues in animal productions. Its cost is very competitive because homeopathic medicines are cheap. They are so cheap that homeopathic pharmacies do not make enough profit to promote homeopathy efficiently.
Homeopathy is perceived differently in different European countries. In some countries homeopathy barely survives due to continued attacks. It is saddening to find it being so marginal when it has proven efficacy and advantages.
A European recognition will favour its expansion, currently blocked by some poorly informed medical authorities or pressure groups with economic motivations.
Create evaluation structures.
Proof of efficiency of homeopathy in veterinary medicine is not required when its efficacy has been proven in human medicine. But it is important to continue to compare the economic consequences from homeopathy and conventional medicine. Protocols should be established by a multi-disciplinary group of homeopaths, statisticians, farmers and other professionals of animal production. Help from the European Union is indispensable because, as explained before, sufficient funds are not available to homeopathic pharmacies to support such research.
The need for veterinary homeopaths to be present in the European Commissions for farming.
We have examined all the advantages of homeopathy on the subject of human health, animal welfare and environment. Nevertheless, homeopaths are never consulted. Their opinion would be of value. They are independent and not under the pressure of any financial groups. They offer a different vision of the current economic conditions.
Create incentives for the use of homeopathy on farms.
Our medicine is only rarely mentioned in the agricultural press; homeopaths are partly responsible for this. There is rarely a mention of homeopathy in European texts. This is regrettable.
Would it not be judicious through financial incentives to promote a type of medicine of low cost, more natural and less toxic that could counterbalance European subsidies? Human health has a cost. All the more reason to act to improve the quality of food, without mentioning the advantages to the environment and the biodiversity, at a time when a variety of menaces present themselves? The GMO’s and the disappearance of rare breeds, carriers of interesting genetic patrimony, are good examples.
These preoccupations are at the heart of most veterinarians. Homeopaths are even more sensitive to these issues due to their specialist training and holistic approach in which the individual is an entity which needs to live in harmony with its surroundings.
· Harmonise homeopathy teaching.
The European Parliament understood perfectly the necessity to harmonise degrees to allow the free movement of homeopaths in the community through the certification of their qualifications. I would like to add that we should harmonise and not centralise. This would damage the dynamism and reduce the fertile initiatives of the various homeopathy schools.
Respect national sensitivities.
European directives are easily perceived as invasions of national liberties. For homeopathy, where teaching is dispensed in a number of independent units, it is certain that the way to harmonisation needs to be guided by subtlety and dialogue, in the wake of differences between nationalities.
Keep conventional training as a basis for study.
The basis for all should be conventional medicine. It is difficult to imagine the intervention in farms by people who are not veterinarians. This is an assurance that is indispensable for the farmer and the public.
Homeopathic training should intervene only at the end of the conventional training when all knowledge of diagnosis, prognosis and conventional treatment are acquired. Thus benefiting from the knowledge of two medicines, the homeopathic veterinarian can avail himself of a choice between the two techniques. It is not a matter of refuting the use of conventional medicine when it is indicated. This double competence of the homeopathic veterinary surgeon is a strength to be used to benefit economic, environmental and human health decisions.
Keep the principle of the specificity of the homeopathic schools.
Some veterinary schools offer an initiation into homeopathy. This is not sufficient for students to start using homeopathy after graduation.
This initiation should be followed by an important complementary education in homeopathy. This education is delivered by a number of independent schools whose reputation depends on the quality of their tutoring. The transmission of knowledge in these schools does not fully resemble the conventional mechanisms of medical training. Courses are held by practitioners who devote their time and experience to train veterinarians in a supportive manner. There are many advantages to this system but there are also inconveniences; there is a limit to the number of student places and there are not enough publications produced and or distributed due to lack of time and finance.
Establish a common platform for homeopathic studies.
There is a need for collaboration between the different partners of homeopathy teaching in Europe. It is not about harmonisation but building a common platform and allowing the space for additional teaching.
The establishment of a minimum curriculum is a necessity for the European Union.
An effort was first made in 1992, apparently without result, with the help of the IAVH (International Association for Veterinary Homeopathy). The IAVH proposed a minimum standard for the specialisation of veterinary homeopathy. This proposition needs to be re-examined with the help of teachers from the official veterinary schools, independent homeopathy schools and homeopathic pharmacies.
The harmonisation of veterinary homeopathy teaching is essential to guarantee the users a minimum level of competence, whatever the country of origin of the practitioner.
Recognise the existing schools.
Their level of teaching is often excellent but they are not subjected to any quality controls. They need to be recognised without being incorporated into the conventional teaching structures. The purpose is to maintain the original character of the homeopathic theory and practice. It has shown its value through transmission of knowledge by practitioners, recognised for their competence and merit. We should establish a system of control though cooperation between conventional teaching and the representatives of homeopathic groups.
* For veterinary homeopathy to be able to rise from its marginal position and render the services of which it is capable , it needs to be recognised as a medical technique by the European authorities. This recognition needs to lead to the harmonisation of teaching, to guarantee the quality of its practice and the satisfaction of the consumers.
* Veterinary homeopathy is also in need of support and promotion at all levels of the animal trade to allow it to find its deserved place where it will help in advancement towards good animal welfare, protection of the environment and consumer health which are important missions for Europe.
(1) StÃ©phanie Delporte, ‘Le problÃ¨me de l’antibioresistance’ Thesis, Maisons Alfort, 1999
(2) Henning, Albrecht and Achim, Schutte, Homeopathy versus antibiotics in metaphylaxis of infectious disease: a clinical study in pig fattening and its significance to consumers. Alternative Therapies, September 1999, Vol. 5, No. 5.