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How did I not know this about Organic farming?

Just read some tweets by Matt Parker, who’s speaking at Winchester Skeptics in the Pub  on Thursday 24 February,  which left me dumbstruck.  He tweeted,

That’s also why I don’t buy organic: theSoil Association’s insistence on homeopathy for livestock.

I’ll reword that: the Soil Association insist homeopathy is a valid option for suffering animals in need of medical treatment.

I will continue boycotting organic food as long as the @ continue promoting homeopathy in their Standards for Producers.

Matt parker @standupmaths on Twitter 10/01/11

I was so surprised I rushed to read the Soil Associations standards for organic certification of livestock production (don’t you just love the internet!) and found that they had this to say,

10.9 Veterinary treatments
If you need to use veterinary treatments you must use complementary therapies and trace elements, preferably with professional veterinary guidance, and provided that their healing effect works for the species and the condition you are treating.
I don’t usually buy Organic anyway and certainly will be avoiding Organic meat now I’ve read that.  I’ve seen Matt doing “Stand Up Maths” a couple of times and I was wondering what he’d talk about at Skeptics in the Pub… maybe it’ll be this.

13 comments to How did I not know this about Organic farming?

  • Pamela Lee

    Wow. Just wow. I also usually try to avoid Organic due to its negative impacts on the environment (Brian Dunning did a good Skeptoid episode on ‘organic’ food). I will also be making even more of an effort to avoid it now.

  • William

    Complementary implies it is used to complement something else. What exactly in this case?

    Conventional pharmaceuticals? Surely not.

  • Hi William,
    Prompted by your comment I went and looked up what “complementary medicine” actually means and found this definition at

    Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine

    The Soil association however promotes homeopathy as the first line of treatment for organically farmed livestock. If homeopathy fails then conventional veterinary medicine will be used but the animal may lose its organic status.

  • Hi Pamela,

    Brian Dunning did a good Skeptoid episode on ‘organic’ food

    Can you give me any more info on that?

  • William

    A splendid Orwellian example of doublethink. Or the Soil Association redefining terms to their own ends. Treatments are only “complementary” if they actually complement something. If they are being used initially to the exclusion of conventional medicine then they are not complementary they are alternative.

    Re Suzanne’s quote from the Soil Association’s standards above “provided that their healing effect works for the species and the condition you are treating.”

    If it is medicine that works it is not alternative or complementary.

    Oxymoron anyone?

  • Gammidgy

    Does anybody know how this is affected by the recent ruling by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate? See Evan Harris’s article in the Guardian:

  • No, I was wondering the same thing. I know the Guardian article you mention has “pets” in the title so I don’t know how it applies to livestock. Any farming types out there who could help us out?

  • Clio

    Pamela, how is organic environmentally bad? I don’t buy it as I couldn’t see the point – but didn’t realise that might be right about something without knowing it?!

  • Suzanne

    Hi Clio,
    I think this might be the piece Pamela is talking about

  • James

    So pleased to see everybody up in arms about this; not just because of the obvious distress an animal being treated with sugar would go though but because of the really poor science behind much of it. The HDRA and Soil Association have kind of hijacked the general public concern over the welfare of the meat they consume and I’m just wondering if we need to try and push the main advocates of ‘compassionate’ animal rearing to make this point publicly? Right then, I shall try and get in contact with Fearnly-Whittingstall, Oliver and Doherty and see what they have to say?

  • Suzanne

    Excellent James, I look forward to hearing how you get on!

    I am trying to find whether the Veterinary Medicines Directorate ruling on not using homeopathy on pets will extend to organically farmed livestock. So far I’ve asked Evan Harris, who wrote the Guardian article which Gammidgy refers to above. I’ve also addressed the question to the VMD themselves.

  • I didn’t get anywhere with Evan Harris and a polite reply from the VMD at Defra said they couldn’t comment on what the soil association would do.

    I am today however, completely in awe of Simon Perry who managed to get this reply from Defra by sending them a short email.

    The man is awesome!

  • More excellent work from Simon Perry

    It’s nice to know that Defra “does not regard homeopathic remedies as being appropriate for control of disease”.