Soil Association Trustees Resign over Homeopathy Attacks

cowThe Soil Association is the marketing organisation behind so-called Organic Farming.  It’s stated aims are to campaign for “healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use.” However, it is routinely criticised for embracing pseudoscientific and dogmatic ideas about farming and animal welfare.

Matters have now come to a head as four Trustees resigned from the Soil Association earlier in the month. In a blog post, one of them (Joanna Blythman – a food writer, campaigner against GM and ‘investigative journalist’), writes,

[T]he questionable presence on Management Committee (with an attendant reputational risk) of a non-organic farmer and a doctor who publicly attacks an important tool of organic animal husbandry (homoeopathy) seems not to concern a Council that purports to be committed to good governance.

Blythman appears to think that using superstitious forms of medicine can help animal husbandry. She says that “We think that the organic approach to food and farming is ecologically coherent, humane, scientifically responsible and potent”. Homeopathy is none of those things. Others around her may also have doubts. On another blog, one of the other Trustees and baker, Andrew Whitley, shows there are wider concerns about watering down the hardcore messages of the Organic movement.

The Soil Association was co-founded on ideas by Lady Eve Balfour, who in turn had been heavily influenced by the clairvoyant and occultist Rudolf Steiner. Indeed, Steiner’s own Biodynamic movement can be thought of as Organic Farming on Steroids, but without the steroids, obviously. Like Steiner’s own background, the movement had its own shameful racist and far-right underpinnings with initial support from another co-founder, Jorian Jenks who was the agricultural advisor to the British Union of Fascists. The movement is still underpinned by an anti-scientific agenda and people wedded to pseudoscientific and superstitious thinking.

The Soil Association is full of staunch defenders of homeopathy for use in animal husbadry. Somerset farmer, Oliver Dowding, sits on the Soil Association Council and I had the pleasure of hearing him address David Tredinnick MP at the Glastonbury Festival last Summer on the issue of using homeopathy on his cows.

However, at least one member of Council has very different views. Dr Gabriel Scally, a Professor of Public Health in Bristol, tweeted earlier this month on the subject of homeopathy and ebola,

Could this have been the tweet that split the Organic movement and caused massed resginations from the Board of Trustees? Maybe. Or something like it. His twitter exchange with Totnes MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston, shows he is quite clear that homeopathy is dangerous garbage. Ironically, Totnes is a town where it is near impossible to buy food on the High Street that is not grown according to astrological charts and labelled as organic.

Ideas that homeopathy can treat ebola are indeed downright dangerous. And ideas that homeopaty can treat illnesses such as Mastitis in cows are just downright cruel.

Let’s hope this shake-up can make a change for real progressive farming within the Soil Association where animal welfare does not take second place to pseudoscientific dogma. When industrial organic farmers like Yeo Valley stop treating their cows with homeopathy then perhaps we can start to take what the movement says a little more seriously. If indeed the Soil Association is not wanting to be seen to be promoting nonsense like homeopathy then it needs to come out and explicitly say so. Animals will suffer while they remain silent.



2nd December 2014

As reported on theis storify, one of the resigned Trustees gave this rather bizarre response to this story.


So, critcising an organisation for using superstitious medicine on animals in lieu of real medical treatment is seen as ‘group masturbation’.


A serious debate needs to be had about the guidelines the Soil Association issue to their members in this area. Some within obviously want that debate. The hardline quack-supporters are best out of the organisation.

13 Comments on Soil Association Trustees Resign over Homeopathy Attacks

  1. Oh, wow–that’s the backstory. I had seen a tweet about it but I didn’t know the full context. Defenders of homeopathy–wow. But this doesn’t surprise me. I still laugh every time I look at this course SA offered once: I mean, if you don’t know the skewering that Mitchell & Webb did of this idea, seek it out.

    But you know, what’s worrisome about this is that it’s only becoming more clear that the inmates are running the “organic” asylum in ways that are only pushing it to be more nonsense. In the US they are currently battling vaccines–really–and trying to figure out which one are products of “traditionally breeding” or something. . Total nonsense.

    And sadly, it seems these ideas spread like metastasizing tumors among the organic adherents. It might be coming to the UK.

  2. I hadn’t realized the Soil Association was packed full of fruitcakes. Less so now obviously. The only thing I knew was that they seemed a responsible organization-interviews and mentions in the media etc.
    I also recommend the Mitchell and Webb ‘Homeopathy A and E’ sketch. And the Dara O’Briain routine. And James Randi taking a fatal overdose of homeopathic sleeping pills. And then pointing out the ‘Emergency Phone Number’ on the bottle.

  3. Perhaps Waitrose can also change their policies. Their website still says the following, “Farmers are encouraged to use natural remedies and homeopathy to treat sick animals. The end result is that the meat produced from organic farms for Waitrose has the very best flavour.”

    When I first read this I thought it was Soil Association policy, but no, it appears to be something Waitrose is recommending. This is all part of demonstrating how they are “ahead on the field in organic”.

    • The use of homeopathy in organic food production is subscribed in FAO/WHO guidelines, see this document (page 14).

      phytotherapeutic (excluding antibiotics), homeopathic or ayurvedic products and trace elements shall be used in preference to chemical allopathic veterinary drugs or antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal and the condition for which the treatment is intended;”

      These guidelines have been translated into European guidelines, (page 13)

      “articel 24.2
      Phytotherapeutic, homoepathic products, trace elements and products listed in Annex V, part 3 and in Annex VI, part 1.1. shall be used in preference to chemically-synthesized allopathic veterinary treatment or antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal, and the condition for which the treatment is intended.”

      So organic farmers shouldn’t worry about losing the ‘organic’ label if they don’t use homeopaty as there is no solid evidence for any effective use of it in animals.

      • phytotherapeutic (excluding antibiotics), homeopathic or ayurvedic products and trace elements shall be used in preference to chemical allopathic veterinary drugs or antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal and the condition for which the treatment is intended

        The provision, of course, makes the clause unapplicable, since the only measurable effect would be in the owner of the animals, not in the animals.

  4. I wonder if Homeopaths are willing to fly planes fueled by homeopathic levels of hydrocarbons? It would be fun to watch them try. 🙂

  5. Sadly if you are gluten or lactose intolerant (or both like me) then you have effectively no choice about products being organic or not. Someone somewhere about 20 years ago now decided it all needed to be organic. Which of course also puts the price up.

    Around the same time all the tofu suddenly became organic and tripled in price. Things have become a little more sane wrt tofu recently but try finding non ‘organic’ tofu in your local supermarket. Chinese supermarkets are your best bet.

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