History of HAWL: 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 with 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, 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’ (EBM) 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 EBM, have not been reconciled either in conventional or organic agriculture, and the issue needs addressing. Responsible farmers seeking alternative ways to address anti-microbial and vermicidal resistance, particularly those who must meet and maintain organic standards, are left with little or no guidance on where to find the information or support they seek.
Part of Chris Lees’ 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, and 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% consensus that homeopathy might be better for animal welfare; a serious contradiction to perceived wisdom at the time.
After this initial workshop over 60% of participants said they would like more advanced training, 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 (many still teaching the course today) came together to design a course aimed specifically at farmers, and in 2001 we ran our first official HAWL Course, attended by 15 farmers, from all over the UK.
This year, in 2018, HAWL is on course to teach its 50th course, having had its busiest year ever in 2017, which included running a successful, first ever, residential course for overseas students.
After each course, we gather feedback from students which, so far, unanimously indicates that farmers feel 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.