Peter Gregory (BVSc Cert IAVH VetFFHom MRCVS) is a veterinarian practicing homeopathy in the UK. He lectures extensively in UK and overseas, and is a Fellow, and Veterinary Dean, of the Faculty of Homeopathy in London. He is also Ex- president of the International Association for Veterinary Homeopathy. Peter is author of ‘Insights into Veterinary Homeopathy’, co-author of ‘Textbook of Veterinary Homeopathy’ and has contributed to several other publications.
This is Dr. Peter Gregory’s second interview with Soulknights. You can read the first one here: http://soulknights.info/homeopathy-interviews/peter-gregory/
AS: In your Dec 2007 interview in this journal, you talked about the importance of opening student’s minds to homeopathy and increasing their awareness of the shortcomings of conventional medicine. Is that something best done in medical school? Are the veterinary schools offering any holistic perspective these days?
PG: I have changed my opinion on this within recent years: I used to believe that young vets should get experience in conventional medicine first, before learning homeopathy. I thought it was most important they became clinically competent as vets first, and that trying to learn homeopathy might just confuse them. However over the last few years I have been involved in teaching a course in Latvia. Our organiser there, Juris Tolpeznikovs was involved with the University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and he persuaded some of the students to attend the course. This is now the norm. I have found students are perfectly capable of coping with the two differing philosophies, and they still pass the conventional exams, yet some then go out and work in homeopathic practice. Unfortunately, UK students do not have the same opportunity. I give a lecture to the Royal Veterinary College at London University once a year on alternative therapies, in which homeopathy gets an hour. I don’t think other UK universities follow suit, though elsewhere in the world courses are delivered within the University framework; examples include Switzerland and Colombia.
I now believe it is important for young vets to be taught about homeopathy before they qualify. This gives them the opportunity to make their own minds up about it before they are completely indoctrinated into the conventional way of thinking. My experience is that modern students are well informed about homeopathy and many wish to know more. There are still a few who have been influenced by the ‘antis’ but they are in the tiny minority. Nevertheless it is important they hear the truth. In the final analysis, learning about homeopathy makes them into more perceptive and more clinically aware veterinarians who have an advantage over their ‘orthodox’ colleagues.’
AS: It sounds as though you’re optimistic for the future. Not long ago the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) floated a resolution condemning homeopathy as “ineffective in treating or preventing any disease”. In 2011 the junior doctors of the British Medical Association voted to ban the teaching of homeopathy to trainee doctors. Are these the last gasps of a dying system, or are the forces of reaction gaining ground?
PG: Yes I am optimistic about the survival of homeopathy but I’m not sure what form it might take. The opposition always comes from a base of ignorance, and homeopathic history is littered with doctors (and vets) who started off ridiculing homeopathy but, having then investigated it properly, became convinced of its validity. The AVMA resolution was soundly defeated in the face of a white paper1 created by the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy which set out the evidence base for veterinary homeopathy, and it is significant that in the UK it was the junior doctors who voted against homeopathy.
I am fortunate enough to be invited to deliver a lecture annually to the Royal Veterinary College (London University) on homeopathy to the third year students. Everyone who attends has already heard about homeopathy and many are already using it. A few have already been ‘got at’ by the so-called skeptics (I continue to be irritated by the way the word has been usurped by the ‘antis’) but last time I delivered the lecture there was no word from them. On the other hand our veterinary homeopathy student numbers in UK have fallen massively over the last 10 years and I suspect this is due to the vociferous (and frequently highly unprofessional) opposition in the veterinary press. However, my guess is that the profession as a whole has become tired of their behaviour and are generally disinterested.
That said, the opposition has shifted into the political arena, so we have to be aware of the machinations which go on in governmental bodies. As vets we face more of a threat from the progressive regulation of homeopathic medicines, particularly in the EU, and at present we at the IAVH are formulating an approach to try and mitigate the forthcoming proposed tightening of EU regulations on their use. In spite of all this, veterinary homeopathy continues to grow and develop worldwide – every couple of months the IAVH receives an application for membership from a group in a different country.
Nevertheless, the future may see a shift in the personnel who deliver homeopathy to animals. For instance, homeopathy is not permitted for vets in Sweden and this has spawned a raft of ‘animal homeopaths’, a route which is also legal in Germany and New Zealand. If it becomes too difficult for veterinarians to practise homeopathy it will simply transfer to such practitioners. This would be detrimental both to homeopathy and to its patients, because for the best treatment the practitioner needs a profound knowledge of veterinary disease as well as homeopathy. It is also important to be able to recognize at what level to prescribe – the classical ‘unicist’ approach is to my mind the gold standard and provides the most spectacular ‘cures’, but there are times when a combination of low potency ‘local’ remedies is appropriate.
If serious veterinary homeopathic education falls by the wayside we may be still left with a large number of vets practicing it and keeping it alive, but who may only be capable of using it at a basic level. The same may also be the case if the role is taken over by ‘animal homeopaths’, though this could be prevented if their education was sufficiently rigorous. In global terms I have every confidence in homeopathy’s survival. Even totalitarian regimes such as the USSR failed to extinguish homeopathy, so I don’t see it ever disappearing. The general public are becoming increasingly aware of the inadequacy and the dangers of conventional chemical medicine and they are looking for alternatives, of which homeopathy is at the forefront. There is a growing realization that the orthodox paradigm simply doesn’t provide a tenable form of ‘health care’.
In the veterinary sphere, clients are becoming more and more suspicious of the profession’s dependence and insistence on selling commercial foods, routine anti-parasiticals and unnecessary vaccinations, and they are consequently looking for other ways to treat their pets. In the farming arena, antibiotic resistance has those in authority seriously worried and even the EU is starting to look at homeopathy as a way of reducing their use.
Despite all this, I don’t see orthodox medicine dying. It is too entrenched in the political and financial system, and there will always be a place for some form of chemical medicine, but one day doctors will look back at the century after my birth (in 1950) with the same incredulity that we share with Hahnemann about blood letting and purging. By then someone will have reinvented homeopathy (and no doubt patented it). Perhaps people will also say ‘how could they have been so stupid as to not see what was there all the time in the form of homeopathy?’
AS: Can you address the issue of vaccines in veterinary medicine? What are the legal issues, at least where you practice? How long do particular vaccines actually last? Are they being repeated too often? (if so, why?) Is there a place for homeoprophylaxis?
PG: One of the many ignored gifts of homeopathy to the medical and veterinary world is the understanding of the effects of vaccination on health. Compton Burnett described the symptom picture which can develop as a result of smallpox vaccination and identified Thuja as a simillimum. Since then vaccines have been developed for a range of diseases in humans and this has been paralleled in the veterinary field. It is difficult to believe that vaccination did not play a major part in controlling such diseases as Canine distemper and Feline panleucopaenia in mid 20th century UK, and having lost my own dog from distemper when I was a teenager makes me wary of advising against the use of vaccines altogether. However my homeopathic training made me look critically at the issue and combining my homeopathic knowledge with the information freely available in the veterinary literature I have reached the following conclusions:
- For the last 40 years at least, vaccines for animals have been seriously over used. The ‘annual booster’ shot for the majority of diseases has no justification in science or logic. According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, a single live vaccine given after an animal’s immune system has reached maturity (probably between 6 and 12 months in dogs) confers lifetime immunity. I expect the same applies to dead vaccines such as leptospirosis, but as antibody response to the vaccine is very short lived it is more difficult to be certain. The reason for this over vaccination can only be commercial. If it is advised by the vaccine manufacturer, the veterinarian is unlikely to complain, and in fact vaccinations are an essential source of income for nearly every veterinary practice in UK.
- Adverse reactions to vaccinations are grossly under reported and go completely unnoticed by all but a few veterinarians.
- In particular, atopic dermatitis, chronic colitis and other such diseases, and epilepsy are usually triggered by vaccination.
- Even if adverse effects are recognized, conventional medicine offers little in the way of effective treatment and in fact virtually always makes matters worse.
- If treated early, homeopathy can completely resolve the problem. Even if the patient comes after a long period of suppression by conventional medicines, they can be aided by homeopathy. And with the early cases it really is so easy. Thuja is still number one remedy, but the wide array of vaccines means that a number of remedies may be indicated, depending on the antigens in the vaccine or indeed any of its constituents, such as adjuvants and preservatives.
So how do we deal with this issue?
Homeoprophylaxis (I prefer to use the expression ‘isopathic prevention’) appears to be very effective, but there is very little experimental or observational evidence of its efficacy. However, nosodes have been shown to be effective in controlling various endemic diseases in farm animals, such as mastitis in cattle.
They also appear to be effective when given in the face of an outbreak of disease, such as kennel cough in boarding kennels. Whether they can provide effective protection when used routinely as a substitute for vaccination is less certain, but I have provided nosodes to many dog-owning clients over the years and found them to be as effective as conventional vaccinations. However, there are legal implications if I actively discourage vaccination, so I do not actively recommend nosodes. So my policy in dogs is to discuss the issue with owners and then support them in whichever option they may choose. If they wish to use conventional vaccines I recommend measures to mitigate the harm, such as vaccinating later than is normal, not repeating boosters after the first year, and treatment with a tautode of the vaccine before and after the event. Happily we in the UK do not have to deal with compulsory rabies vaccination.
I think the main issue is awareness – if we are aware of the consequences of injecting a vaccine into a living being, then we are better placed to offer suitable advice and treatment. I always remember George Vithoulkas at a seminar on Alonyssos in 2000 saying that vaccination is a valuable concept but there is a downside which we should always bear in mind. Unfortunately veterinarians without the benefit of homeopathic training are completely unaware of the issue and cling to the mantra that vaccination is beneficial and has no significant side effect – it is a ‘good thing’.
AS: Another important issue is diet. What are your thoughts on raw food for cats and dogs? How important is it to feed organic rather than GMO containing foods?
PG: From a homeopathic point of view, poor diet represents one of the most common obstacles to cure. I don’t necessarily believe that the remedies won’t work, but any response or potential shift towards health will inevitably be impaired by a suboptimal diet.
The food may be sub-optimal for a variety of reasons, for instance: it may be deficient (or over –rich) in a nutrient or nutrients; the nutrients may not be in a form which makes them accessible to the digestive system, either due to the ingredients used or due to processing; the ingredients may be inappropriate for the species; the physical form may be inappropriate.
This means the vast majority of processed foods are sub-optimal, but particularly the dried foods. The ingredients almost always include grains, and vary depending on the world market, and the process which turns them into a hard pellet almost certainly destroys many of the nutrients. Added to this problem is the fact that the whole concept of a ‘complete diet’ is flawed – we really know so little about the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats we cannot possibly create an adequate diet artificially. This situation is further exacerbated by the practice of feeding the same food every day – it only takes one micro-nutrient to be in imbalance for the resultant effect to be compounded into a significant issue.
This whole process is of course caused by the simple reality that pet food companies exist not to make pets healthy, but simply to make profits, and the pet food industry is one of the biggest in the world – it takes ingredients bought cheaply on the world market and turns them into a commodity which is easily shipped and easily handled in the supermarket or the veterinary surgery, and which is purchased by a massive customer base who , once convinced by the advertising (or recommendation of their trusted veterinarian) remain loyal for several years. It’s an ideal industry. The perfect introduction comes by giving the lectures in nutrition to veterinary students.
So what’s the alternative? It doesn’t take much thought to realize that dogs and cats are designed to eat raw foods, usually in big chunks. Wild carnivores kill and eat wild herbivores. Theoretically dogs are omnivores, so they can deal with a certain amount of vegetable matter but cats are obligate carnivores so need animal protein. However both species benefit from diets of raw meat and bones; in dogs this can be supplemented with a few vegetables and they can even cope with a few grains if it’s all that’s available. They have probably evolved a little over the thousands of years of their domestication to cope with scraps from the table, and leftovers can provide a significant part of the diet. However it’s also important to vary the food – this provides a diet which covers a range of nutrients which over a period of time will balance up.
Nearly all my patients get the recommendation of a change to a raw food diet – the exceptions may be patients who have food sensitivities, but even then I find after a period of treatment such sensitivities can sometimes disappear. Ideally they eat raw meaty bones; the exercise of the jaws (and the forelimbs) and the cleansing effect on the teeth are beneficial and I believe the texture is also important for bowel function. However there are now several companies who sell packs of minced meat and bone and this is OK too.
I also want to reduce the chemical load on my patients, so I always recommend organic produce, where possible. However this is not always available and can be prohibitively expensive, and I think using organic produce is less important than the change to raw foods. Theoretically GMO food is not an issue in UK but I am given to believe there is no way of distinguishing GMO imports such as soya, so we may already have them in our food chain. So the only way to be sure is to eat organic. I actually try and promote organic foods for other reasons than health; I feel the environmental benefits of organic farming are enormously important – and conversely the environmental and political issues associated with GMOs concern me just as much as the threat to the health of humans and their animals.
I usually suggest to my clients that feeding raw, organic food is the ideal and something to aim for, but any shift from commercial towards raw is beneficial. I tell them not to get too ‘hung up’ on it, that variety is the key – I try and convince them that it’s actually very easy and the diet doesn’t need to be perfect – it will be heaps better than the dried food they’ve been giving exclusively so far. And finally, I tell them that my dogs live on raw foods – but if I’ve run out of everything else, they get a few pellets of a (carefully selected) dried food, with a little milk, as a treat after their morning walk. When I stop drinking beer and coffee I’ll do better!
AS: Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Our readers always appreciate straight talk about important topics.
- AVH White Paper