Monday, 27 December 2010

Toward bullshit-free organic farming.

Why is it that compassion for animals and pseudo-scientific hippy bullshit seem to go hand in hand so often? Well one possibility is that the Soil Association, who set and certify against the standards farms have to meet to put "Organic" on their produce, discourage "allopathy" and encourage homeopathic "remedies" as an alternative. Even DEFRA have seemingly bought into this idiocy and encourage homeopathy for organic farms.

I've decided I'd like to do something about it, and I think the first step is to try to find out where this requirement comes from. To that end, I've written an email to the press office* at the Soil Association.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to you as a consumer and meat-eater who is strongly concerned about the welfare of farmed animals. While I applaud much of the work of the Soil Association, and admire the ideals of the organic standard with respect to reduced pesticides, greater freedoms for animals etc, there is one area that troubles me strongly. Homeopathic treatments have no plausible scientific method of operation and have been demonstrated not to work time and time again. There is no properly controlled evidence from studies that cannot be biased by the opinions of the investigators that demonstrate its efficacy beyond the placebo (and yes animals are susceptible to placebo by proxy). The current state of the best scientific evidence available indicates that homeopathic remedies are worthless. I put it to you that using worthless "remedies" on animals is not compassion, it is neglect. Where an ineffective intervention is given in place of effective one animals suffer needlessly, whether it is given as treatment for an existing condition or as prophylaxis against a potential one. In addition to this, the cost of these ineffective medicines must of course contribute to higher price of organic produce, which is a significant barrier to adoption by some consumers. Of course you may say that they are cheaper than conventional medicines in some respects (although I suspect vets fees are similar), but since homeopathic preparations do nothing it would be cheaper and no less neglectful to give no treatment at all. 
I buy all organic produce where possible, but as a result of the discovery that you and the organic standards endorse the useless practice of homeopathy, I am having to strongly reconsider and may simply buy free-range where possible. I think that on-balance this may be more ethical, since at least there is a greater likelihood of these animals receiving adequate care.
I would like to know where this policy originates, and urge you to reconsider it. I would begin by reviewing the results of the recent government panel on homeopathy, which adequately sums up the best evidence available, and concludes that it is nothing more than a placebo and that sufficient testing has been performed to confirm this such that no more research need be undertaken to confirm it.
Please could you put me in touch with the best person with whom I should communicate on this matter, in the hope that I can convince them to have this policy changed, or at the very least understand why it is present. 

We'll see if I get anything back.

*They don't seem to have an address on their site where consumers can express their concerns or ask questions. If anyone knows of one, I'd love to hear from you.


Timmeh! said...

Had a response of sorts on Jan 5th from press officer Georgia Catt saying:

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your email. I've passed it on to our policy team who will be in touch.

Best wishes,

Timmeh! said...

Their full response is here: