Thursday, July 1, 2010

A remedy of homeopathic vets...

As we drove back from the Quantock Hills in Somerset last Sunday night Vicky and I agreed it was the only time in our lives that we had ever been to a conference where we felt we really had to send a personal 'thank you for having us' note to the organisers. Attending the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons' (BAHVS) annual get together was like being invited to a family reunion. And a happy family at that. Even when delegates disagreed with each other during a session - and it didn't seem to occur very often - not a word was spoken in anger.

I am not quite sure what the collective noun for homeopathic vets should be. A remedy of homeopathic vets sounds good. A commune? A cure? A nest? A tincture? At any rate, they are an impressive bunch because homeopathy, unlike conventional medicine, has a strong psychological element built into it. The practitioner places great emphasis not just on the symptoms but also on the personality of the patient. This seems to attract professionals who are especially open-minded and inquiring. I can't remember when I last spent a weekend with such an interesting, lively and warm-hearted group of people.

As I follow a 'there are more things in heaven and earth...than are dreamt of in your philosophy' approach to life I have never had any trouble believing in homeopathy. The core concept, that it is possible to alleviate and cure symptoms by using a tiny quantity of the correct substance (a sort of 'hair of the dog that bit you' approach) seems perfectly logical to me. In life it is often the tiniest change or adjustment in something that brings the greatest results. Why should this not be true of our mental and physical health?

Although I may be open to homeopathy there are plenty of people who aren't. Several friends became quite worked up when I told them how I was spending last weekend and I had to endure quite a bit of 'it is all unproven and not based on science' ranting. I don't really know enough to counter these arguments effectively - but over the next few months I intend to learn more. I do have some of the answers, though. One of the charges against homeopathy is that it is really a placebo and that patients imagine themselves better. This line rather falls down when one considers homeopathic treatment of animals. (Unless one believes in animal communication, of course, which I do, but which anti-homeopaths most certainly don't.) No, to my mind successful homeopathic treatment of animals has to be accepted as evidence that there is something in this branch of medicine.

The idea that it is unscientific doesn't bear close scrutiny, either. It is ridiculous to imagine that the highly qualified vets at last weekend's event have thrown logic out of the window. For one thing, they spent most of the conference discussing research, trials, reference sources and - to my mind of greatest interest - case histories. Also, homeopathy's critics tend to be against it on principle: 'This shouldn't work, so it can't.' There are plenty of people who have experienced positive results from homeopathy - and I am amongst them - who believe otherwise.

One final thought. I am rather against conspiracy theories but it has to be said that the pharmaceutical industry does not like competition. For decades it has been attacking any form of medicine that doesn't require vast expenditure on the part of the patient. In particular, the industry has lobbied the EU and other major governments to restrict the practice of medicinal herbalism and homeopathy. The fact that both these branches of medicine offer inexpensive and effective treatment options must play a role in this. At Darling's we are currently experiencing low level harassment which we know must originate with a large pet food manufacturer (we know because the nature of the harassment is such that only someone within the industry could be behind it). So, I don't find it at all hard to believe that the pharmaceutical industry are out to get homeopathy. Part of this campaign is - undoubtedly - the spreading of misinformation. In a nutshell, one can't believe everything one hears or reads but should take the time to look at the facts.

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