Article from Honey’s newsletter Autumn 2019
‘A great many things keep happening,’ remarked the sixth-century Bishop of Tours in the introduction to his History of the World, ‘some of them good, some of them bad.’
He could have been describing the state of British veterinary medicine.
One of the good things that has happened is that a growing number of vets have been questioning the way in which they treat their patients. To offer just two examples, many vets now accept that there are risks associated with over-vaccination and that domesticated animals need to eat a species-appropriate diet. Even more importantly, there is much greater acceptance of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) such as homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, herbalism and osteopathy plus all the other body works such as Bowen Therapy, and Galen Myotherapy.
One of the bad things that has happened is that the bodies representing the profession are, for the most part, not open to change. Worse, there are clear signs of ignorance and determined efforts to stop progress. The actions of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are typical of the problem. In November 2017, the RCVS changed their position statement on complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) including homeopathy. In effect, the RCVS banned the use of alternative therapies because although these therapies are allowed, they must be used only if conventional treatment is given before or alongside.
As you may imagine, there was something of an outcry to this, not least from the animal loving public. A petition attracted some 22,000 signatories and two protest marches were organised to the RCVS Headquarters. Then in January 2018 CAM4animals was formed with a view to providing a professional, reasoned and passionate voice for animal guardians, farmers, vets and CAM practitioners. In a nutshell, CAM4animals is campaigning for the recognition of the role of CAM in sensible and fully integrated veterinary healthcare. Its supporters are not against drugs and conventional medicine, but simply wish to protect access to alternatives and to support the appropriate use of complementary therapies. The organisation also wants to encourage new vets and nurses to consider holistic health options as an add-on to their veterinary qualifications.
One of the actions CAM4animals has carried out is an audit of the evidence used by the RCVS to ban alternative modalities. It found that the RCVS had relied on flawed documents and a series of social media posts. All of their
‘research’ related to homeopathy, and no research at all was done on any of the other CAM included in their statement.
There are many reasons to be worried about the attack on CAM, not least the overuse of antibiotics with its consequent risks to both animal and human health.
In effect, we now have a crisis in veterinary medicine mirroring that in human healthcare. The factors driving the two are similar, with big pharma dominating the market, which severely inhibits access to what are often safer and frequently cheaper alternatives. This is exacerbated by conglomerates such as Vets Now and CVS Group which are aggressively buying up independent vet practices further increasing the pressure to push certain drugs and brands of food.
It could also be said that veterinary medicine is losing its ability to cope with major issues such as the problems inherent in overprescribing, and the often polluting and unsustainable lifestyle that animals (like humans) are exposed to.
Just recently an assault has started on those owners who choose to feed their dogs raw food. This has been brought into public focus recently by the same group of vets who supported the banning of alternative veterinary medicines
There are potentially serious animal welfare implications to the RCVS’s position statement. Ultimately, animals will be denied gentler alternatives which have no toxic or adverse effects. Some animals are entirely reliant on alternative modalities due to their inability to cope with harsher drug treatment options. Our ability to optimise our animal’s health, our own health and that of the environment we all live in is at real risk of being compromised
If you would like to know more about the vitally important campaign work being done by CAM4animals and – maybe – to support it, please visit their website: www.cam4animals.co.uk
Reproduced with kind permission by Honeys Real Dog Food
Photo courtesy of Jamie Smith