Veterinary homeopathy regulation in the UK – a cause for concern

Abstract

Practitioners of homeopathy claim to treat illness by manipulation of an undetectable healing force or energy. The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 allow homeopathic products to be registered without proof of therapeutic efficacy, as required by EC Directive 2001/82. Under the UK Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, only veterinary surgeons may practise homeopathy on animals. In the UK, approximately 80–100 veterinary surgeons do so. The profession’s regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), has long held the position that veterinary surgeons should have the clinical freedom to choose those therapies they believe to be in the patient’s best interest, no matter how irrational or non-evidence based the “therapy”. Therefore homeopathy is acceptable professional practice. Yet treating ill animals with homeopathy raises serious ethical concerns. In November 2017, rising concern within and beyond the profession, and the continuing accumulation of evidence indicating that homeopathy is ineffective, led the RCVS – in order to protect animal welfare – to modify its position: the practice of nonscience based, non-evidence based complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) remains acceptable professional practice, but only if used alongside, not in place of, proven effective (conventional) medicine. This change resulted in ongoing protests by the CAM community, including questions in Parliament and marches at the RCVS headquarters. This article provides context for these events by explaining the regulation of veterinary homeopathy in the UK

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    This paper was published in RVC Research Online.

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