How and Why We Started
The HAWL course emerged out of founder Chris Lees’ studies at the Royal Agricultural College (now RAU) when she combined a childhood love of cows and three years study of homeopathy into a dissertation on ‘The role of homeopathy in the treatment of the farm animal‘. Her research at this time revealed that, for farmers who chose to explore or use homeopathy, their success was limited as support was more or less non existent, and there were no courses available to help them learn about the subject.
Why the need for a farm homeopathy course? Farmers receive conflicting advice; the government is anxious about food chain contamination and antibiotic resistances and asks conventional and organic farmers alike to reduce their dependence on chemical drugs, while vets cry welfare issues if antibiotics are withheld. Meanwhile farmers are bombarded with advertising supported by pharmaceutical companies, and vets practise ‘evidence-based’ medicine while deriving a large percentage of their income from the sale of these products (**Marsh Report 2001).
These conflicting requirements, to reduce the use of antibiotics and at the same time to rely on evidence-based medicines, have not been reconciled either in conventional nor in organic agriculture, and the issue needs addressing. Responsible farmers seeking alternative ways to address anti-microbial and vermicidal resistance, are left with little or no guidance on where to find the information or support they seek.
Part of Chris’ original research included running a workshop for farmers who might be interested in using homeopathy. This attracted 32 farmers and a vet. Seven were not farming organically (which is probably a fair reflection of the ratio on HAWL courses today). Only two had a homeopathic vet. The only common factor within this group was that they were farmers and they were all prepared to put time and money into improving their animals’ health. Asked why they had come, 88% voiced concerns about antibiotics, 22% thought homeopathy was cheaper, although at that time no-one thought it was more effective. But what was surprising was that there was a 100% agreement that homeopathy might be better for animal welfare; a serious contradiction to perceived wisdom.
After this initial workshop over 60% of participants said they would like a more advanced workshop, and from this interest, the seeds of the HAWL Farm Homeopathy Course were sown. This encouragement, plus that of farmers, vets and homeopaths Chris had met during her research, led to discussions with the Prince of Wales’ farm manager, David Wilson. David felt there was a real need for a comprehensive course; that while there were introductory days on offer, there was no proper training in farm homeopathy, which he likened to constant hors d’oeuvres and no main course. Thus inspired, several homeopathic vets, homeopaths and educators (still teaching the course today) came together to design a course aimed specifically at farmers, and in 2001 we ran our first course, attended by 15 farmers, from all over England, of every type and every ability.
Now in 2017, HAWL is about to teach its 43rd and 44th courses which will see over 530 students graduating. After each course, we gather feedback from students which, so far, unanimously indicates that these farmers felt the course was fun, worthwhile and useful. When surveyed some time later these same farmers report that longterm the course improved their observation, that herd/flock health has improved and that vet and med bills have reduced.
Andrew Brewer, Farmer, Cornwall
“Cost and reward are big benefits to me. It is rewarding to know you can take early action and we have less losses, lower vet bills but then we run a simple system. We use homoeopathy in stressful situations and we see the animals recover faster.”
In the UK only a vet or an owner may treat an animal with homeopathy. But, there are only about 250 homeopathically qualified vets and of those fewer than a dozen are in farm practice. A programme* funded by the United States Department of Agriculture reports ‘the conventionally trained health-care professional’ as not being trained, ie unable, to help farmers reduce dependence on chemical treatments, or advise the farmer on the promotion of health as opposed to treatment of disease.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the Lowe report observed that while many companion/small animal veterinary practices offer alternative therapies, farm practices offer no alternative expertise at all.
All this leaves the farmer struggling, encouraged to use a system he does not understand, yet discouraged and unsupported by conventional vets and helped only by a few books and on-line articles.
The HAWL Course, is designed to educate and empower farmers to take an holistic approach to their health management. Holistic, means to look at the bigger picture and take a proactive and considered approach to health, rather than just reacting to problems. Using homeopathy to improve health is only one part of what the farmer can do to avoid disease. Good husbandry and management is really what it is all about, but homeopathy is a powerful tool within the general strategy, which is how we teach homeopathy, not to take the place of the farm vet, but as a daily part of good farming. A sick animal is not a profitable animal; much better to avoid problems.
**Report of the Independent Review of Dispensing by Veterinary Surgeons of Prescription Only Medicines. Min of Agriculture, Fishing and Food. MAFF (Now DEFRA) May 2001.