On Monday 16 April 2018, a group of pet owners, farmers and animal therapists, accompanied by David Tredinnick MP (pictured above), Anna Webb the BBC Radio London reporter and Jenny Seagrove, many members of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons (BAHVS), and of the Faculty, marched on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) calling for a retraction of its November 2017 statement on the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The statement particularly singles out homeopathy, claiming it does not have a ‘recognised evidence base or scientific basis.’
The march was a colourful and noisy event with some people dressed as animals accompanied by dogs and led by a bagpiper. On reaching the RCVS, a delegation went inside led by Chris Day, president of BAHVS, and including Ilse Pedler, junior Vice President, Peter Gregory, Veterinary Dean to the Faculty of Homeopathy, David Tredinnick MP and Chris Gosling, an organic dairy farmer, to meet Stephen May, President of RCVS and Lizzie Lockett, CEO. The meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes but actually lasted 1 hour 45 minutes. A frank exchange of views took place and the delegation presented the RCVS with over 100 testimonials from animal owners and also evidence of the harassment that homeopathic vets have had to endure over the last few years. The statement was discussed at length including the effect that it was having on members’ health and wellbeing and livelihoods where uncertainty remained over prescribing homeopathy as a first line treatment. It became apparent that there was a total lack of understanding of the principles of homeopathy on behalf of Stephen May and Lizzie Lockett and it was difficult at times to find common ground. They were invited to see practice with the homeopathic vets to greater their understanding. There was also discussion on types of evidence and it was emphasized that consultation should have occurred with the appropriate bodies on the existing evidence base before the statement was produced.
David Tredinnick pointed out that the RCVS has not been able to provide any evidence that CAM has caused harm to any animal and have brought no disciplinary proceedings against any member for welfare issues caused by alternative treatments - their position is further undermined by a recent statement by Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), George Eustice MP, who responded to a written Parliamentary question on 28 March 2018 saying, "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."
Peter Gregory comments: This was indeed a frank exchange of views which served to highlight the huge gulf in understanding which exists between the Faculty and BAHVS on the one hand, and the RCVS on the other. However the discussion, though sometimes passionate, remained on a professional level and all parties shook hands on its conclusion. It is to be hoped that this meeting represents the beginning of a dialogue, something which has been sadly lacking up to this point; indeed, I took the opportunity to deliver by hand separate copies of my letter addressed to the President and CEO in December and to which I have never had a reply.
RCVS will receive another delegation in early May, this time comprising three representatives of the animal owning public, Rachel Roberts from Homeopathic Research Institute, and Tony Pinkus, the Faculty’s new Pharmacy Dean. The RCVS as a body may well require some time to reflect on these meetings and the information they will receive and we can only hope that they then come up with some constructive suggestions as to how this dispute can be resolved. Meanwhile there is no doubt the pressure on them will be maintained, but as was articulated in the meeting, it could all have been avoided if they had sought proper consultation with the experts in the field, before composing the statement, instead of being swayed by a minority who consistently misrepresent homeopathy and harass anyone involved in it.
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