Vanessa Feltz and Other Mangy Foxes

This morning on Vanessa Feltz’s BBC Radio London show, the discussion was about London’s urban foxes. Nothing is more likely to split opinions in the UK. For city dwellers, foxes are a common sight for early rising suburban commuters, occasionally upturning bins, but mostly tolerated and even enjoyed. For us country folk, they are vermin. They need to be destroyed along with rats, rabbits, otters, red kites, swans and unwanted litters of kittens.

One caller phoned into the radio show to warn listeners about the destructive nature of urban foxes. In particular, she was worried about foxes with mange. This is a rather distressing disease, where mites infest a fox causing severe itching, open wounds, fur loss and eventually death. The mites can be transferred to domestic dogs, and even humans, causing scabies. In the olden days, the only way to treat mange in foxes was with lead therapy. Nowadays, common urban sensitivities mean that many people try to treat them with medicine, and not with shotguns.

The next caller talked about how the National Fox Welfare Society will send out free treatments to people who spot foxes with mange in their gardens. The only problem is that the Fox Society appear to believe that homeopathic treatment is the way to deal with this.

The National Fox Welfare Society is monomaniacal about mange in foxes. This is their reason for being. They want you to report the poor foxes and then they will send you their special medicine. The NFWS is quite clear that it does not want to use real medicine on foxes. There may well be good reasons for this. The standard treatment for mange is Ivermectin. It is not licensed, however, for canids. It can also be dangerous for some species of dogs, apparently.

What the NFWS uses is homeopathic remedies. As with Derbyshire Fox Rescue, they recommend Arsenicum Alb and Sulphur 30C, a homoeopathic treatment for Sarcoptic Mange. Details at the delightfully named http://www.mange.org.uk/. What we are seeing is a difficult and distressing problem, with non-perfect medical treatments, being solved with magical thinking.

Vanessa Feltz did not challenge the caller about their magical homeopathic cure. I still believe most people do not know just how ridiculous homeopathy is. The belief is that it is herbal. It is not – it is witchcraft. And helping distressed foxes with witchcraft is not going to help.

The NFWS is quite clear though. 99% of cases can be cured with homeopathy:

The mange treatment we send out, through questioning people who have used it, letters back etc, we have found it to work in almost 99% of the cases where foxes have had up to or less than 50% hair loss. We have even had great results with foxes suffering over and above this amount of hair loss, although the results are greater in the former. Please help us by reporting back your results. If for whatever reason the treatment doesn’t seem to be improving the foxes condition please let us know

They then provide a handy web form to provide feedback. Tick the box that applies to you. Homeopathy works for me – and my foxes.

Of course, this is hardly proof. The BBC provide a web site on mange in foxes. They report that moulting foxes are often mistaken for mangy foxes. Obviously, a couple of weeks later, the fox is going to be looking better, if it was just moulting. People will of course not know if the healthy fox they see now is the same as the ill one they saw earlier. 99% is pushing it, even for homeopathic claims.

It is all rather distressing that people believe they can treat sick animals with magical fairy water. What people ought to be doing is contacting a local vet, or a animal rescue charity, so that real medicine can be applied – and that is if anything can be done at all.

But what is most shocking is the depth this homeopathic myth has penetrated. Even the BBC fox mange site tells us,

Possible treatments
The conventional treatment is Ivermectin, either injected or given orally. But no product is approved for use with canids – the products used on foxes are designed for farmstock. The other approach is a homeopathic treatment consisting of sulphur and arsenicum. This requires no veterinary approval and there are fewer risks to pets when you treat foxes in your garden. Severely affected foxes are taken into captivity for treatment.

At least they go on to say that “Nor is there any firm evidence that either treatment really works.”

I, for one, am very happy that homeopaths appear to want to spend more time publicising what they are and what they do. I do not think they are aware that the biggest threat to homeopathy is that people find out the true nature of it and the magical thinking required for belief. Until more people are aware, like our radio presenter above, delusional healing beliefs will undoubtedly lead to more suffering for urban vermin, I mean, wildlife.

On this theme…

15 Comments on Vanessa Feltz and Other Mangy Foxes

  1. Wow! 😯
    And are the normal veterinarians and sanitarians absent in London, eh?! Have died out?
    What are they doing? I wonder…

  2. On radio 4 last Wednesday there was an interesting discussion on group think. One of the guest speakers Rose Shapiro said that Bach rescue remedy was watered down brandy – is this true? She apparently has a book out called Suckers that dicusses alternative medicines, it looks like an interesting read.

  3. The more and more angry you get with homeopathy the less and less effective your rants become.
    I think that you must be entangled with it somehow. Maybe Lionel Milgrom could help untangle all this homeopathic string tying you down.
    All good entertainment though.

  4. Hi I was brought up in the country side my father was the local rat catcher but he could tolerate rats more than foxes, he also made a living in catching rabbits as during the last war that was and still is today good grub.Cheers Tony.

  5. What the hell is wrong with you people? Oh, I forgot, there is no Rabies in Britain.

    Honestly, half of you believe in Allah and the other half are homeopaths.

    Those of you who can still think for yourselves, turn out the lights and come to the States.

  6. Dear Dr Kill
    Bistmillah! 50% of the UK population into homeopathy!
    I prescribe you Hyperbole in the
    10M homeopathic potency. Take 1 pill of this remedy 3 times daily until improvement- This may however be for rather a long time.

  7. Wait a minute, you mean every fox gets the same
    homeopathic remedy, without considering the individual character of the fox in question? Doesn’t sound very homeopathic to me. I thought the whole point of homeopathy was to give individualised remedies, you know: the “holistic” approach.
    This probably accounts for the less than 100% succes rate.

  8. If the worst thing the foxes do is upturn garbage cans, they can’t possibly be any type of vermin worth worrying about (and you obviously have never encountered a North American raccoon). I don’t exactly get what you have against minor nuisance animals in urban areas (or rural areas, for that matter). Do you just like killing things or something?

    Where I live, I’d be worried about spotting a fox in a genuinely urban environment, because we don’t have urban foxes, and abnormally-behaving animals are frequently rabid. On the other hand, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources vaccinates wildlife by laying vaccine-laden bait. It’s certainly less of a hassle (and better for the local ecosystem) than to attempt to solve the problem with shotguns (and results in fewer accidental shootings).

  9. I agree with one of the other commentators. You seem to be one of the people who fly off the handle at the merest glimpse of a wild animal in the presence of humans.

    Please don’t attempt to speak for other(former)rural dwellers like myself. Rabid shoot-anything-that moves gun nuts and people hysterical about the harm done by fox, etc, *create* more problems than actually existed before.

    Too bad. This site actually has common sense about other things.

  10. I think I will have to add to my list of vermin that need to be shot – anonymous posters with no sense of irony.

  11. I have been treating foxes with the homeopathic treatment. I can also tell the difference between mange and moulting ( we are not fools!) As for ‘vermin ‘ your definition is very different to mine! The treatment has helped in my opinion and,I will continue using it ,until ‘ You’ can think of anything better besides ‘disposing of them! Its our fault they are in cities, land building, takeaways food wasted or discarded, we draw them in! Us you, me ,everyone but,you only see destruction from them,I see them as cleaners and probably much nicer to look at than a ‘Grouch’ !

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