Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Soil Association Replies

Here's what I've been sent in response to my email (and Ben's Tweets presumably)

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your letter regarding the use of homeopathy in organic standards.
The trust and support you have given the Soil Association is much appreciated and I am sorry you feel this issue may make you re-consider buying organic produce given our ongoing commitment to, and highest level of engagement with, animal health and welfare.
The welfare of animals is central to Soil Association organic principles - No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare standards than organic farms working to Soil Association standards and Compassion in World Farming believes the “Soil Association's welfare standards are leaders in the field.” (Joyce d'Silva).
Under organic rules, all aspects of animal health and welfare are tightly controlled, including rearing, shelter, feeding, transportation and slaughter. We do however believe that ensuring good health is better than relying on drugs to treat disease, which is why we put so much emphasis on practices that encourage healthy farm animals. Organic farmers do this in many practical ways, such as keeping numbers down to reduce stress, providing appropriate nutritious feed and ensuring easy access to the outdoors. Organic animals cannot be given growth promoting hormones, regular doses of antibiotics or genetically modified (GM) feed.
Encouraging healthy farm animals also means using complementary therapies where appropriate. Under our standards, sick animals are treated using complementary remedies- of which homeopathy is one part of- where these can be shown to be effective, unless a vet says an animal needs antibiotics or other medicines; in which case they must be given. When this happens organic standards require a set period of time has to pass before the animal can produce products for sale as organic. These are generally three times as long as those required by law for non-organic food. 
For all complementary therapies our standards specify that they are used 'with professional veterinary guidance and provided that their healing effect works for the species and condition you are treating'. This affords farmers and their professional advisors the freedom to make choices for the animals under their responsibility, in full knowledge that they will lose organic status if we find that they have not met their overriding duty to ensure good animal welfare. 
The underlying philosophy of homeopathy will support the farmer to be more observant and empathetic stockman, which has to be a good thing. For more serious problems, conventional treatments, such as antibiotics, may also be needed to help return an animal to good health. The important thing is that we actively encourage each and every organic farm to create a model for optimum health and vitality, that sees disease as a reflection of something deeper in the system that needs correcting, and that uses conventional drugs when genuinely needed, rather than as substitute for poor husbandry. 
We have much collective experience that for many routine problems homoeopathic and herbal treatments will be do the job very well, without any compromise to animal welfare, and put simply, many farmers and vets find that the homoeopathic approach works - which is why they continue to use it. The choice of treatment is ultimately down to the livestock keeper. This blog from Yeo Valley talks about use of homeopathy on their farms if you're interested in reading more -http://blog.yeovalleyorganic.co.uk/alternative-treatments-for-our-cows/
We do not shy away from the debate that surrounds this therapy with both sides of the argument receiving regular airings in our own membership publications. I would encourage you look at some more sources of information on this large and in-depth field – I have included these below.
I hope this explains our position sufficiently and that you feel able to continue to support our work. 
Best wishes,Georgia Catt
To see our standard on complementary veterinary medicines, including homeopathic treatments see section 10.9 of our organic standards onlinehttp://www.soilassociation.org/Certification/Standards/tabid/353/Default.aspx
A wide range of treatments and debate about their use can be found in the proceedings of the SAFO workshopshttp://www.safonetwork.org/index.html These present a balanced perspective from across Europe and show that veterinary professionals are on both side of the debate.

Georgia CattPress & e-Communications Officer
Hats off to them for bothering to respond. Needless to say I still disagree and will be responding in the not too distant future.

1 comment:

Timmeh! said...

My response to this response is here: http://lapsedpagan.blogspot.com/2011/01/another-attempt-to-make-soil.html