European politicians yesterday voted to spend £1.8million on research into homeopathy for farm animals.
The European Parliament’s agriculture committee agreed to spend two million euros – part funded by British taxpayers’ money – on investigating whether cattle, sheep and pigs can benefit from the alternative therapy.
Homeopathy, which counts Prince Charles among its fans, claims to treat and prevent disease by using greatly diluted forms of herbs and minerals to develop resistance.
Therapy: The EU has decided to spend £1.8m on research into homeopathy treatment for farm animals, including cows, to see if they can benefit
But scientists say homeopathy is a crank medicine – and the only way it could have any beneficial effect would be due to the placebo effect, whereby people can get better because they believe they have been given medicine that works.
Animals cannot benefit from the placebo effect because they won’t realise they have been given the treatment, say critics.
Socialist and liberal members of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee yesterday backed a move to call upon the European Commission to set up a pilot project to co-ordinate research on the use of homeopathy in livestock farming.
'Madness': Tory MEP Richard Ashworth attacked the plans to spend the money on something so marginal
Richard Ashworth, Conservative MEP for the South East and spokesman on agriculture and rural affairs, said the scheme was outrageous and an insult to taxpayers.
‘Spending such a huge sum of public money on something so marginal and left-field would be bad at the best of times.
‘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.’
The website of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons lists 34 vets offering homeopathy for pets and livestock in the UK.
But in May, the respected British Veterinary Association issued a statement, saying: ‘The BVA cannot endorse the use of homeopathic medicines, or indeed any medicine making therapeutic claims, which have no proven efficacy.
‘As with any medicine, BVA believes that veterinary medicinal products must be evidence-based, with any medicinal claims made by a manufacturer supported.’
The Commons science and technology committee has called for homeopathy to be no longer provided for humans on the NHS, and last year Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, described homeopathy as ‘witchcraft’.
Last night Andrew Miller, chairman of the Commons committee, said: ‘It seems to me absurd to spend money in an area where there are no proven benefits, when there is such a shortage of money around.
‘This is an area which I believe has no proven benefit and is therefore not a sensible use of public money. If they have 2million euros to spend, I would prefer they spent it on animal welfare.’