Britain’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons position on homeopathy is that it is “not based on sound scientific principles”, but two homeopathic bodies believe that has “serious implications for the whole profession and the future of veterinary medicine”.
The RCVS position statement on Complementary and Alternative Medicines came after discussions in recent years within the veterinary community. The RCVS said: “We have recently been asked questions about complementary and alternative medicines and treatments in general, and homeopathy in particular.
In 2015, campaigners petitioned the RCVS to blacklist homeopathy from the treatments vets are allowed to offer animals and their owners.
“We would like to highlight our commitment to promoting the advancement of veterinary medicine on sound scientific principles and to reiterate the fundamental obligation on our members as practitioners within a science-based profession, which is to make animal welfare their first consideration.”
It continued: “In fulfilling this obligation, we expect treatments offered by veterinary surgeons are underpinned by a recognised evidence base or sound scientific principles. Veterinary surgeons should not make unproven claims about any treatments, including prophylactic treatments.
“Homeopathy exists without a recognised body of evidence for its use. Furthermore, it is not based on sound scientific principles. To protect animal welfare, we regard such treatments as being complementary rather than alternative to treatments, for which there is a recognised evidence base or which are based in sound scientific principles.
“It is vital to protect the welfare of animals committed to the care of the veterinary profession and the public’s confidence in the profession that any treatments not underpinned by a recognised evidence base or sound scientific principles do not delay or replace those that do.”
RCVS president Stephen May said that the “overwhelming majority” of council members agreed with the statement.
But the Faculty of Homeopathy, founded in 1844 and the registering body for statutorily regulated healthcare professionals who integrate homeopathy into their practice, believes the society’s position has “serious implications for the whole profession and the future of veterinary medicine”.
Veterinary dean Peter Gregory said The Faculty of Homeopathy was joining with the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons to outline their concerns with the RCVS.
“Firstly, the RCVS failed to consult with stakeholders actually involved in homeopathy and complementary medicine before considering and issuing its statement. This is contrary to the usual procedure followed by the RCVS when reviewing important matters relating to clinical practice.”
In a statement, Gregory said there was growing interest in homeopathy from animal owners, “as they see conventional medicines regularly failing or producing adverse side effects. This is especially true in livestock farming, where there is a drive to reduce the dependence on antibiotics in light of concerns about antimicrobial resistance”.
He said it was disappointing the RCVS “appears to be criticising vets who are best placed to offer advice on the appropriate use of homeopathy.”
“It is clear that by adopting this position in relation to homeopathy and other complementary therapies, the RCVS is limiting the clinical freedom the veterinary profession has always enjoyed.
“Moreover, in allowing a vocal minority to influence its policy on this issue, the RCVS has set a dangerous precedent where similar groups could, in the future, restrict clinical freedom further, as well as stifle innovation, research and the development of new treatments. This presents a far greater threat to animal welfare than homeopathy could ever be.”
he British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons said it was “deeply disappointed that the RCVS has chosen to step outside its remit and make such an ill-considered and misinformed statement regarding Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) in general, and Homeopathy in particular.”