This EU Council Regulation from 1999 argues about organic livestock production regulation:

(..) when animals become sick or injured, they should be treated immediately by giving preference to phytotherapeutic or homeopathic medicinal products and by limiting to a strict minimum the use of chemically-synthesised allopathic medicinal products (..)

Note 1: Homeopathic products are mentioned several times throughout the document.

Note 2: The regulation went out of effect in 2008, and the new one can be found here.

However, there seems to be animal welfare issues related to homeopathic products, as indicated by this BBC article:

About 1,000 of the UK's vets have signed a petition calling for a ban on homeopathy being prescribed to animals.

The petition calls on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to stop vets from offering homeopathy on animal welfare grounds.

Question: Why did the EU Council recommend homeopathic products despite criticism from the scientific community?

  • 1
    Do you mean this regulation? It says No longer in force, Date of end of validity: 31/12/2008. If this is the regulation you mean, you might want to change your question to ask about the past instead of the present.
    – tim
    Jul 25, 2018 at 6:51
  • @tim - damn, you are right. I have fixed the question. Thanks.
    – Alexei
    Jul 25, 2018 at 6:53
  • 9
    Big homeo? There's a lot of profit in selling water in little bottles. ;-)
    – RedSonja
    Jul 25, 2018 at 10:56
  • 1
    depends how you interpret it. Generally, the word homeopathic is rather arguable, as it can be interchange with supplement sometime. The original intention is actually to reduce abuse of antibiotic on livestock.
    – mootmoot
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:16
  • 3
    @agc placebos don't exactly work as a concept on most animals.
    – user1530
    Jul 25, 2018 at 15:03

2 Answers 2


The current regulation 2018/848 has: Where animals become sick or injured despite preventive measures to ensure animal health, they shall be treated immediately. Disease shall be treated immediately to avoid suffering of the animal. Chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products, including antibiotics, may be used where necessary, under strict conditions and under the responsibility of a veterinarian, when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate. In particular, restrictions with respect to courses of treatment and withdrawal periods shall be defined. Feed materials of mineral origin authorised pursuant to Article 24 for use in organic production, nutritional additives authorised pursuant to Article 24 for use in organic production, and phytotherapeutic and homeopathic products shall be used in preference to treatment with chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products, including antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal and for the condition for which the treatment is intended.

This regulation describes when meat can be described as "organic". The term "organic" originally referred to produce that was farmed using fertilisers derived from animal or plant sources (such as manure) instead of mineral sources (for example mined phosphate). The intent is to create better food by using less intensive farming methods.

This term is regulated, as consumers are prepared to pay more for "organic" produce. The regulation is required to prevent unscrupulous producers profiting by selling non-organic food under the "organic" label.

For meat production, the regulation requires that antibiotics are not used on healthy animals for promoting weight gain. It further recommends that phytotherapeutic [herbal] or homoeopathic [not containing active ingredients] are preferred over drugs derived from fungal, bacterial or mineral sources. This is in line with the notion that organic food should be produced using less intensive farming methods and without the use of synthetics.

This is controversial as there are good animal welfare reasons for using the best medication available.

There is a homoeopathic lobby in the EU, and they would no doubt oppose removing the references to homoeopathy from the directive.

  • 28
    "There is a homoeopathic lobby" = I think that's the answer. :)
    – user1530
    Jul 25, 2018 at 15:05
  • 8
    "homoeopathic (not containing active ingredients)" -- If the EU recognized that, why would they pretend that giving an animal sugar water for an actual disease is considered "treat[ing it] immediately"?
    – anon
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:34
  • 1
    Hmmm; how can I sell an effective drug on the market w/o the regulators getting wise to it? I know. I'll take advantage of the homeopathic nonsense and use the real drug as the solvent.
    – Joshua
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:17
  • @NicHartley See my last paragraph
    – James K
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:18
  • I was asking more rhetorically; the way your paragraph is laid out makes it seem, at least to me, like the EU acknowledges that homeopathy is ineffective. That's of course contradicted by the rest of your answer,.
    – anon
    Jul 25, 2018 at 20:23

Homeopathic products are essentially water (or some other solvent). While they don’t do anything useful beyond a possible placebo effect (which may or may not exist for animals), they aren’t directly harmful either; in particular not to humans who eat meat or dairy from animals “treated” by homeopathy. This food safety aspect is probably all the regulation cares about.

  • 2
    Yes, that is correct. I am not sure, but I think placebo effect works much better for humans than animals. Anyway, an important drawback for placebo is that not doing harm directly might also mean doing it indirectly by delaying an effective treatment. AFAIK, a treatment is considered effective if it provides significantly better outcome than placebo.
    – Alexei
    Jul 25, 2018 at 7:27
  • 11
    It's not even clear it relates to "food safety". The regulation is with regard to labelling the food as "organic"
    – Caleth
    Jul 25, 2018 at 9:12
  • 1
    @Caleth yes and the opposite being something like treating animals with excessive amounts of antibiotics could no longer be called organic food under this regulation.
    – Communisty
    Jul 25, 2018 at 10:47
  • 7
    Well, this isn't entirely true...using an ineffective treatment for a disease on a food-animal can be harmful to humans as the disease still exists.
    – user1530
    Jul 25, 2018 at 15:04

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