MEPs vote to spend €2 million on homeopathy for animals

04.09.2011 - 22:50

The funds are intended to set up a pilot project to coordinate research by collecting data on what research projects have been set up by EU universities.

Leading scientist, Dr Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science criticized the move, “I'm a big fan of doing more research, but it's a basic rule of evidence based medicine that we need to be clear about where the uncertainties are, and what kind of research therefore needs to be done.”

He added, “ Homeopathy is one of the most well studied alternative therapies in humans, and when the best quality trials - the most fair tests - are all pooled together, they show there is no benefit. There is therefore no good argument for spending large amounts of public money on examining what are, after all, dummy sugar pills, which contain no ingredients at all, just the "memory" of an ingredient which homeopaths theorise - using 18th century arguments from before we even knew about atoms and molecules - is remembered by the water, and also remembered by the sugar in the pill.”

New Europe provided Dr Goldacre, who also writes for the British Medical Journal, with the amendment and he was amazed by the funding: "Lastly, it's worth noting that €2 million is an astonishing amount of money for a pilot project of something as simple to study as the effects of a pill in livestock.

“To reiterate, that's a pilot project, not even a proper trial that will give a useful answer, and it seems from the description you've sent that this is just a review of the existing literature. €2 million seems like an inexplicably large amount of money for someone to review what work has been done in this field. Large definitive randomised trials of pills are routinely done for a fraction of that cost. Something may be very amiss here."

Equally sceptical was British Conservative MEP, Richard Ashworth, who labelled the scheme as outrageous and an insult to taxpayers. He said: "Spending such a huge sum of public money on something so marginal and left-field would be bad at the best of times.

"When we are in the middle of an economic crisis, when governments everywhere are taking severe austerity measures just to balance the books, to waste millions on highly questionable new-age remedies for cows and sheep is sheer madness."

British Veterinary Association President Harvey Locke admitted that there was no evidence that homeopathy had any effect, saying: ““Millions of euro have already been spent on trying to prove the scientific efficacy of homeopathic medicines. To date we have not seen any data to prove they can be effective in the treatment of bacterial infections.

“Whilst it is unlikely that €2 million will be able to determine whether or not there is a basis for claiming homeopathic products can work, we welcome European investment in veterinary research and hope that the results of the pilot will be useful.”

In May 2011, the BVA decided that they “cannot endorse the use of homeopathic medicines , or indeed any medicine making therapeutic claims, which have no proven efficacy”. Critics maintain that alternative medicine has no greater effect than a placebo, and it is unclear whether livestock understand the 'placebo concept'.