I thought my post on Reiki Healing for Hedgehogs was going to be a one-off. But a recent trip to the garden centre has opened up a whole new compost heap of prickles. Now, I live in hedgehog country. I have a hedgehog hospital within feather spitting distance of my pond, and I see them around me all the time. I am fond of them. My prickly, vespertine friends come out to see me on Summer evenings while I am enjoying a bottle of wine in the garden until it gets too dark to see.
So, I open a book called ‘The Natural Hedgehog’ by by Lenni Sykes and Jane Durrant with a forward by Virginia McKenna (Born Free remake? Elsa the Hedgehog?). Lenni and Jane appear to run the Welsh Hedgehog Hospital and so should know a great deal about looking after Mrs Tiggywinkle. Anyway, nice pictures but, shockingly, the book is full of hedgehog quackery – mostly homeopathy this time – on how to treat injured hedgehogs with sugar pills and shaken water, with suitable warnings about taking care not to touch the tablets.
I’m quite shocked by this. Now quackery might just about be justifiable on humans on the account that the placebo effect might give some relief (although I would argue against taking this position). But an animal cannot experience the placebo and will gain no benefit whatsoever from homeopathy, reiki, or ear candling for that matter. The only person who will gain is the carer, thinking they are doing good for the prickly little fellow. Placebo Effects work on humans. It’s a cultural thing. Hedgehogs do not cotton on to the significance of the psycho-suggestive shamanistic healing rituals involved in homeopathy. They would just prefer to curl up into a pin cushion. Many go on about homeopathy tests on animals proving the case for homeopathy think they do not need to have randomised blind controls, since animals cannot have a placebo effect. But this dodges the fact that it is their carers and owners are reporting the animals’ health improvements – the placebo works on the carers. Blinded trials on animal medicines are still absolutely necessary. For more details on homeopathy, placebos and animals see the excellent British Veterinary Voodoo Society.
Doing a bit of web research uncovers shocking new levels of hedgehog quackery. Most comprehensively dealt with here. (6 canards)
Everything from colour therapy, purple plates (the mind boggles), aromatherapy, crystal healing, bach flower remedies, reiki and massage therapy (Ouch!!!).
Now being an awkward bastard, my initial thinking about colour therapy is to question if hedgehogs even experience colour? Nocturnal mammals, on the whole, tend to have poor colour vision. The cones in the retina for colour vision require adequate light to function and so animals rely on their rod cells for night vision and see in black and white – juts like humans. From a google search, it would appear that most placental, nocturnal, mammals (like hedgehogs, bats and moles) lack cones altogether – they have no colour vision. An insectivorous nocturnal mammal is going to be heavily dependent on other senses such as smell and touch, so colour therapy and purple plates (can hardly type that without laughing) are out, but aromatherapy might just be in. Although I doubt your aromatherapist is going to have the hedgehog re-assuring essence of rotting leaves, earthworms and cat shit in their kit bag.
I find this quackery an appalling derogation of responsibility to these animals. The people who take injured hedgehogs to animal hospices expect the resultant duty of care to be upheld. Thinking that you can relieve pain and suffering by putting your poorly hedgehog on a purple plate is animal cruelty. The woolly thinking that leads to giving hedgehogs aromatherapy, colour therapy and homeopathy is an abuse of the responsibility to care for these creatures. The same people who do this would report kids to the RSPCA for kicking a curled-up hedgehog across the street. Maybe the RSPCA should take interest in this too?
The hedgehogs in our care deserve evidence-based medicine too. Like hedgehogs, I’m going to do some shnuffling around to see how widespread this nonsense is.