Friday, 13 May 2016

King (to be) Conned

'Let them eat sugar pills!'
We all have someone in the family who has slightly barmy ideas, and that's fair enough. But when that person has huge access to the media and aspirations to be monarch, it's a bit worrying. And what do you know, Prince Charles has done it again.

He has recently told the world that we ought to attack the antibiotic resistance crisis by using homeopathy instead. Specifically (though not solely) when treating animals.

Let's be absolutely clear. There is no significant scientific doubt remaining about homeopathy. It has no medical benefit other than the placebo effect. Homeopathic pills are sugar pills. They are not medicine.

Although the Guardian article linked above is primarily about use in animals it does say that Prince Charles 'proposed a solution to the growing crisis of antibiotic over-use in animals and humans'. Anyone suggesting using homeopathic treatments for illnesses requiring antibiotics is potentially putting lives at risk.

As far as the animal side goes, this is often used as an argument by those who support homeopathy to show that it can't just be a placebo effect, because the animals don't know they are being given medicine. (Clever animals - they aren't.) However, this ignores the good quality trials showing that veterinary applications are just as much placebo as human. The animal might not know it is being given a medicine, but the person who is applying it thinks it is, and this changes the human's behaviour, producing any actual effects. In many cases though, the 'effect' is simply imagined - either the animal would have got better anyway, or the person sees what they want to see.

When I wrote Ecologic, for the section on organic farming I interviewed an organic milk producer who was genuinely upset about the health of his cattle because the Soil Association forced him to use a homeopathic treatment first, and his animals were suffering as a result. Even though we may not be so concerned about the feelings of animals compared to humans, we still shouldn't be putting them through this.

I headed up this article with the word 'conned' rather than 'con'. I believe that Prince Charles is absolutely genuine about this, rather than being in the pay of the suppliers of Duchy Organics etc. However, it is entirely inappropriate for him to make this kind of intervention and shows again the less palatable side of the monarchy.

Image from Wikipedia:

This image was originally posted to Flickr by National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru at It was reviewed on 29 August 2011 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.


  1. Brian
    Leave him alone; he believes in God too but no one attacks him for that bit of ridiculousity. He's allowed his beliefs!!

    1. Ian, he is indeed allowed his beliefs. What I don't think he is allowed to do is try to use his unearned position of influence to try to sell his beliefs to others.