Hit a Nerve: Dr. Andrew Jones’ Followers Attack

In early 2010, I wrote a post listing warning signs of quack therapies, and in this post I made brief reference to Dr. Andrew Jones, who has created a successful business marketing books, DVDs, newsletters and other sources of “secret” wisdom about animal health that less enlightened veterinarians don’t want clients to know about. Then in November of last year, I reported that Dr. Jones had been repeatedly sanctioned and fined by the veterinary licensing authorities in British Colombia for unethical and illegal marketing activities. On several occasions he acknowledged these violations in writing and vowed to comply with the authorities’ guidelines, but he repeatedly violated these promises. Eventually, Dr. Jones gave up his veterinary license so that he could continue his aggressive marketing business without being restricted by the rules other veterinarians must follow.

Like many alternative medicine practitioners, Dr. Jones offers advice that ranges from routine and well-accepted principles of well-care and nutrition, which all veterinarians offer their clients despite his claims that his insights are somehow special secrets the veterinary profession wishes to suppress, to unproven assertions about benefits from untested therapies (such as herbal remedies), to outright quackery such as homeopathy.

Dr. Jones recently Googled himself and found my article, and while none of the information can possibly be a surprise to him, it apparently hit a nerve. Not surprisingly, he made no effort at all to provide a factual defense of the “secret” remedies he recommends or any justification for his behavior. Instead, he simply rehashes the irrelevant issue of anonymity, which I have addressed in detail before. Here’s his response.

It appears that Dr Skeptvet, if this person really is a veterinarian, has a strong dislike of me.

We are all entitled to our opinions, but when they become public on the internet, I feel that the author should be public.

So this is an entire blog dedicated to bashing and discrediting alternative veterinary medicine, yet the author is anonymous.

Hmmm

I could have started my Internet business anonymously, and never had to deal with all of the ‘challenges’…in fact I would likely then still be practicing.

But that goes against all I believe in…

You have always known who I am, what I do, and even where I live

I have been very transparent and truthful.

Do you have to agree with me?

No

Do you have to buy anything from me?

No

But do I at least have ‘the balls’ to put myself out there?

Yes

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew Jones, DVM

P.S. Ultimately it comes down to results..not what is said on the internet, but whether or not some of what I discuss actually helps dogs and cats.

My book, Veterinary Secrets Revealed literally has over 1000 testimonials from ‘real’ dog and cat owners.

So what does this boil down to?

1. Since he cannot begin to imagine why I,  the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA) for that matter, would disagree with what he does, the only motive must be personal dislike for him.

2. He is a brave man for publically selling unproven or even clearly bogus therapies under his own name, and internet anonymity is far worse than selling therapies that don’t work or branding the rest of the veterinary profession as greedy tools of Big Pharma who want to deny their patients access to his treatments.

3. He can provide testimonials that claim his treatments work, so they must actually work and science is irrelevant.

Despite the fact that facts are of no interest to Dr. Jones, including the fact that he has been repeatedly judged guilty of violating the law and of reneging on promises to abide by the rules governing veterinary licensure in his country, he is still required to put his personal version of the Quack Miranda Warning.

DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational
purposes only and is not intended to replace the
advice of your own veterinarian. Dr Andrew Jones
resigned from the College of Veterinarians of
B.C. effective December 1 2010, meaning he
cannot answer specific questions about your
pet’s medical issues or make specific medical
recommendations for your pet.

There is no question that Dr. Jones has a loyal following, which resembles a personality cult in its expressions of blind loyalty and vicious condemnation of anyone with the temerity to doubt their leader. Here are some of the comments made on Dr. Jones’ site and here by his defenders.

I’m not thrilled about vets but I trust you implicitly. You are definitely a doctor of good practices, no matter if you have a license or not.

You run into “JERKS” every where you go.
Seems to me you ran into one more in your life to add to your list.
 

This idiot must not have much to do, or the jam to say who he is.
That makes him a weak minded, useless piece of dog poop!

As a life long animal lover I have met many vets and only trusted 3 of them. I have never met you, but I would have loved to have you as my pets Doctor!

What a spineless excuse for a human being. This person thinks people will believe these lies about you.
 

I’m am truly sorry for the outright lying that is being put on the internet.
I for one believe in who you are as a person and secondly how you treat animals is nothing but exceptional. It’s too bad your home doesn’t give you the respect you deserve and have earned.

every individual that challenged the establishment through history has been ousted by the establishment…Dr Merkola is in the same boat, as well as Dr Weil, and so many others( for humans)… As you know, the attacks come out of fear and ignorance- nothing more..

This sceptivet sounds suspiciously like another site run by an individual calling themselves ‘scepticat’ or ‘sceptikat’- a highly volatile dictatorial site run by a wannabe megalomaniac. A truly disturbed person with a anger management issue venting via their little site to their own personal herd of sycophants. I would dismiss them like a fly on your arm. Just troubled souls with no purpose.

Just another stooge for corporate interests such as big pharma

I cannot believe what this idiot has put up on the internet and I would do my best to shut him down.

I really find your blog quite upsetting…Why you have to be so anti is very unfair, and abhorrent. More like large companies likely to lose revenue pulling strings on the veterinary regulatory body .. There is no profit in healthy animals…

Jehovah created all of the real foods & spices for treating specific diseases. It is admirable that some vets as well as medical doctors are returning to the idea that real foods & spices are an alternative to the poisons that big pharmaceuticals invented to increase their profits and destroy their customers.

You are a lying scumbag…… eat dog shit and die !!!! you evil money monger !!!!

These comments all share the usual characteristics of blind faith in alternative therapies and distrust of scientific medicine.

1. Personal loyalty to individual authority figures and personal attacks on critics, with no reference to facts, evidence, or any substantive argument about ideas.

2. A refusal to even consider any criticism or contradictory evidence as valid in any way.

3. A reflexive and automatic assumption that any criticism must be motivated by personal antipathy, greed, fear, psychological disturbance, or anything other than a reasoned, thoughtful consideration of the evidence leading to a conclusion that their ideas are wrong.

4. Dismissal of the entirety of scientific medicine and all its accomplishments as meaningless fictions generated by the evil pharmaceutical industry or some other bogeyman.

There isn’t much use in responding to such vacuous and personal attacks since there is no indication that any of these folks have any interest in reasoned arguments or scientific evidence. How exactly I could be “lying” when all I did was repeat the coclusions of the BCVMA reports (many of which Dr. Jones acknowledged as truthful in writing) is a bit of a mystery. As far as the issue of anonymity, the mindless personal comments of Dr. Jones and his followers do more than I could to explain why one might blog under a pseudonym, but I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before on the subject in the FAQ for this blog:

Who are you and why don’t you blog under your real name?

It doesn’t matter who I am. My ideas and arguments should be judged on their own strengths and weaknesses, not on the basis of whatever prejudices you may have about me as a person. Am I more likely to be right if I am a woman or a man? Does my analysis of scientific research suddenly become more or less accurate if you discover where I went to school, where I practice, or what color I am? These are irrelevant facts that people use to distract from the points I make rather than deal with them directly. I choose to blog under a pseudonym primarily so that the focus remains on the issues, ideas, and facts under discussion, not on irrelevant personal details about me.

I also choose to blog as the SkeptVet because it makes it a little easier to write about individual patients and questions that my clients ask me while still protecting their privacy. This blog grew out of my efforts to become better informed about alternative medicine and to respond thoughtfully and accurately to my clients’ questions. My clients certainly know my views on the subjects I discuss here because these discussions are simply a part of my ongoing effort to provide my clients, and the public in general, with scientific, evidence-based information. I often refer existing and potential clients to my website, so there is no question of my hiding this information from them.

I have no particular desire for attention or notoriety, but I am certainly willing to take responsibility for the statements I make here. While it is (barely) possible to blog completely anonymously, it requires a great deal of effort, and I have not made that effort (though given the amount of angry, even hysterical hate mail I get, I sometimes wish I had). It is relatively easy to discover my identity. But before you try, ask yourself if it is really relevant to the merits of my argument, or if it is just going to make it easier to dismiss what I say by applying your pre-existing biases and prejudices to me.

As for other accusations, I will repeat that unlike Dr. Jones my Internet presence is entirely non-commercial. I write these articles in my free time to provide a counterweight to the almost universally commercial sources of information on the Internet so that pet owners can have all the facts and arguments to consider when making decisions. I make no money from these efforts, and I lose no money to Dr. Jones or anyone else because they choose to sell therapies that I choose not to employ because they lack convincing evidence of safety and/or efficacy. Despite the vacuous personal abuse I receive as a result, I feel people have a right to an independent source of information and criticism of unproven or quack methods.

The timing of this outburst is particularly interesting, coinciding as it does with the recent attempts by the Burzynski Cancer Clinic to threaten and intimidate critics and to respond to criticism with empty vituperation rather than logic and facts. Such responses resemble the reaction of religious fundamentalists to criticism of their beliefs, which only highlights the ultimately faith-based nature of much belief in alternative medicine, which is impervious to any rational argument or discussion. Fortunately, most pet owners, and even many proponents of alternative veterinary medicine, are far more reasonable and open to substantive debate than these folks appear to be, and so these alternative methods will still have to prove themselves to the majority on the basis of real scientific evidence, not just the passionate faith of their adherents.

 

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23 Responses to Hit a Nerve: Dr. Andrew Jones’ Followers Attack

  1. Ellen says:

    Skeptvet, comments like those from Dr. Jone’s sycophants bring to mind the following quotes:

    “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep seated need to believe.”
    —Carl Sagan

    “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
    —John Adams

    “You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place.” —Johnathan Swift

    “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
    —Carl Sagan

  2. skeptvet says:

    Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing them.

  3. Bartimaeus says:

    Heh…it’s hard to get paid if you are anonymous too. “Gurus” and alternative “experts” want to promote themselves to the hilt. They may believe in what they are promoting, usually despite the evidence, but ultimately they are promoting an image that flatters their ego and fills their bank account.

  4. DrG says:

    Keep up the great work…more appreciated than you know!

  5. v.t. says:

    Funny how all of his faithful followers would never, ever, give a second thought to accepting conventional medicine when their pets get REALLY sick.

    I find it amusing that Jones has to resort to letting his followers battle for him. I also find it amusing that they are posting comments to yours here, almost a year after your initial articles.

    Hypocrites, the lot of them. Paranoia and denial seem to be running rampant lately.

    Gosh, Jones, all you really had to do was contact Skeptvet privately. You brought this idiocy on yourself.

  6. Janet Camp says:

    Thanks Ellen, for the quotes. I have recently come to a brick wall with someone in my life who could easily be one of Jones’ followers and I’ve been trying to find a way to at least limit contact, if not stop it altogether. I’ve been looking for a way to initiate the necessary conversation, andI think the Sagan quotes will be particularly useful to state my bottom line.

    As to Jones’ spittle-flecked screed (thanks for that useful phrase, ORAC–another anonymous blogger), one has to end up wondering how all these quacks ever got into medical and veterinary school to begin with? There needs to be something added to the admissions procedure that weeds these people out. It’s a terrible waste of resources.

  7. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for the support! I realize you’re all just my “personal herd of sycophants,” but it’s still nice to hear the voice of reason at times like this! 🙂

  8. Austin Bouck says:

    Many of the comments on the other site do remind me of arguments in censorship battles, “it’s just those companies wanting to make money!”. Nevermind the consumers and artists who also support it.

    I do find though, that when opening a discussion (even if it’s volatile or one sided), it does help to give Dr. Jones and others the benefit of the doubt and assume that they do actually believe in what they promote. Whether that’s the truth or not, it seems to make it easier for me to listen on my end, as well as live and let live (which is clearly not Jones’ philosophy). I’d almost say this might be true for Jones, as someone trying to keep up their claims nefariously would have no emotional reason to bring an anonymous blog refuting their claims to attention, while someone who believed in them would want to defend them openly (it’s a stretch, I know).

    I agree that he is an unethical practitioner/promoter of alternative animal medicine, and an appropriate (though probably less successful) businessman and doctor should conduct his business in a more mature and responsible way. However I do think that your original blog post did come off as an attack, and the response (justified or not) is understandable. But I get that going after stuff like this is why Skeptvet is here, so if you can take it, then keep dishing it out.

  9. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for your comment. I actually agree. I didn’t mean to imply that Dr. Jones doesn’t believe in what he sells; I’m quite sure he does. I also believe he’s mistaken. And since I wrote the post a year ago, I have generally taken a less confrontational tone since I agree that it often does more harm than good.

    That said, I think Dr. Jone’s conduct is deeply unethical, as well as in clear violation of the veterinary practice act where he was formerly licensed, and I think such behavior harms pets and does a disservice to pet owners. So while I might wish I had said things differently in the original post, the core content is demonstrably correct, and I think it is an appropriate public service to warn people about Dr. Jones and point out how he, and his followers, exemplify some of the worst characteristics of the alternative medicine community.

    I also find it quite hypocritical that someone who makes their living accusing mainstream veterinary medicine of deliberately profiting from illness, and denying pet owners beneficial therapies that veterinarians know exist only to make money for themselves and their corporate overords, could then complain about the relatively restrained and fact-based criticisms I make about them. The comments I have recieved and reposted here are far more vacuous and personally hostile than anything I have said, and there is unquestionably an irrational personal loyalty to Dr. Jones and a willingness to ignore his admitted violations of the law while acting as if public criticism of his methods is a heinous act of a “wanabe megalomaniac” or “lying scumbag.” Whatever the tone, my critiques are rational and substantive, and the responses are clearly not.

  10. Ellen says:

    Skeptvet wrote: “I realize you’re all just my “personal herd of sycophants,” but it’s still nice to hear the voice of reason at times like this! ”

    At least your “skeptical sycophants” are generally intelligent, informed and insightful. Dr. Jones’ followers appear to accept information at face value, without critical thinking.

  11. v.t. says:

    Austin, that was nicely put.

    But, I for one, am tired of “pacifying” the alt crowd or seeking to try to understand what they must be thinking – when their behavior is much like that we see on Jone’s oh-woe-is-me article – that is, never open to rational discussion, willingness to verify facts or look at real evidence that truly refutes their claims. We’re usually always met with ad hominem attacks, no matter how well-mannered or open-minded we try to be (my opinion of course, yet my observation as well)

    Whether they believe in their remedies or not, that they refuse to think critically, reason, evaluate the evidence (or non-evidence), – and in the case of Jones and other “popular” alt vets – the mudslinging against conventional vets and medicine is old and tiresome and totally unneccessary, unjustified. I want little to no association with adult “professionals” who act like schoolyard children. It seems to be their primary excuse/behavior to make up for inadequate offerings of medicine to their clients, whom by the way, deserve the best that medicine has to offer, not lies, empty promises and outright fraudulent actions.

  12. Janet Camp says:

    @v.t.

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2008/12/15/skeptical-battlegrounds-part-iii-alternative-medicine/

    This link is to a post by Steven Novella, MD, and is about “shruggies”–people who don’t really want to think too much about CAM, or maybe see it as just a “choice”.

    I’m not saying you are a “shruggie”, but maybe kinda. Anyway, there are a lot of good points in the post about why skeptics need to take a stand and do some push-back on CAM, which is from a really good blog called Skeptiblog.

  13. v.t. says:

    Janet, while I appreciate your comments, I believe you’ve misunderstood me. Perhaps I could have explained myself better. Btw, I’m familiar with the term “shruggie” and I am anything but.

    What I mean to say is that I do not believe we skeptics or anyone challenging an unproven method of medicine should be required to coddle (for lack of a better term) those who refuse to consider, recognize, examine facts that clearly refute their claims. The onus is always on those with the questionable claim to back it up with substantial evidence.

    It has been my observation that it often does not matter how articulate, careful, factual, or tactful a skeptical author/blogger might be, if a practitioner is the subject of question or scrutiny, does it matter how the facts and evidence of the matter is presented (short of name calling, personal insults and other such nonsense of course)? In this case, I do not believe that skeptvet was in attack-mode; if anything, he is one of the most tactful, respectful and considerate skeptical bloggers I’ve read. That said, there are times when it is necessary to point out some hurtful truths when harm to human or animal is in question, but if the “subject” of an article can (or in many cases, cannot) prove his/her merits, should it be acceptable to resort to whining and criticizing the author/blogger for pointing out the truth and cold hard facts? To me, that is simple childishness – it simply makes it difficult to engage in rational discussion or debate, much less be taken seriously. How often do you see the most notable skeptics resorting to unacceptable behavior when debating a CAM or CAVM proponent (save for the common tongue-in-cheek)?

    Skeptvet is also human, it has to be extremely difficult to keep emotion and personal opinion in check when there is much harm done to the innocent and gullible. I applaud that he and many others have the guts to stand up to CAM and much of it’s nonsense, and with a whole lot of tact to boot. This is why I read them, they can often articulate without seeping emotion far better than I.

  14. dee says:

    Who is “Skeptvet”? I cannot find a name anywhere on this blog site. Is “Skeptvet” really a vet? If so, why isn’t there a name so that readers can find out more about him/her? This whole attack on Dr. Jones smells very fishy to me. I would like to know who or what “entity” runs this website. By not giving any personal or contact information, I have doubts that “Skeptvet” is a vet at all.

  15. skeptvet says:

    You obviously don’t care enough to bother to read the FAQ, which explains why this blog is anonymous. It is precisely to avoid the sort of vacuous personal attacks you are engaging in. Ideas are imoportant, not personalities, and you clearly aren’t interested in ideas. Would you suddenly decide my criticisms of Dr. Jones are right if I turned out to be a vet, or a lawyer, or a priest, or whatever? No, you would continue believing the same things and just find another way to ignore my arguments and attack me personally. So the whining about anonymity is just an excuse for not having any argument of substance to offer.

  16. v.t. says:

    dee,
    skeptvet has always had a contact button/form on the blog as well as the main site. A couple seconds of looking will lead you to that info.

  17. Ellen says:

    Dee,

    In addition to the contact information on Skeptvet’s website and blog, you can perform a Google search to match his nom-de-plume with his real name (and veterinary clinic). And, if you’re really clever, you might also find pictures of Skeptvet– he’s a handsome fellow! 😉

  18. skeptvet says:

    Aw shuck! 🙂

    Yes, finding out who I am isn’t a challenge or a sign of cleverness. It’s dealing with the ideas, arguments, and evidence I present, which so far none of Dr. Jones’ defenders have even attempted. Pure ad hominem arguments with no substance. I think that says more than I could about the weakness of what they have such faith in.

  19. Ellen says:

    Skeptvet,

    Out of curiosity, if a veterinarian, like Dr. Jones, loses his license to practice medicine, is he still allowed (legally, ethically, morally) to present himself as a veterinarian/doctor to the general public?

  20. Eilish says:

    @centenella Thanks! I already knew about skeptvet’s excellent blog and after reading your vitriolic comment I just had to google ‘scepticat’ and ‘sceptikat’ and I soon found a very intelligent, well-argued and often very funny blog by one ‘skepticat uk’. I know it’s right website because it carries the quote from you on the front page, LOL!

    I have to say the writer doesn’t sound the least bit megalomaniac, dictatorial or disturbed to me – can’t say the same about you though.

    Hey, Dr Jones, are you not ashamed that one of your sycophantic herd of followers is using your website for the purpose of viciously abusing a blogger who hasn’t as far as I can see written a word about you?

  21. skeptvet says:

    Well, the law varies with jurisdiction (by state in the US, and I think province in Canada, where Dr. Jones was licensed). As I understand it, not being a lawyer, you can call yourself Dr. if you have a medical degree, you just can’t practice veterinary medicine without a license. How that is defined also varies, California, for example, defines it this way:

    A person practices veterinary medicine, surgery, and dentistry, and the various branches thereof, when he or she does any of the following:
    (a) Represents himself or herself as engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine, veterinary surgery, or veterinary dentistry in any of its branches.
    (b) Diagnoses or prescribes a drug, medicine, appliance, application, or treatment of whatever nature for the prevention, cure or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of animals.
    (c) Administers a drug, medicine, appliance, application, or treatment of whatever nature for the prevention, cure, or relief of a wound, fracture, bodily injury, or disease of animals…
    (d) Performs a surgical or dental operation upon an animal.
    (e) Performs any manual procedure for the diagnosis or pregnancy, sterility, or infertility upon livestock or Equidae.
    (f) Uses any words, letters or titles in such connection or under such circumstances as to induce the belief that the person using them is engaged in the practice of veterinary medicine…

    And, of course, giving away advice for free or selling products that do not require a prescription (homeopathy, herbal remedies, etc) doesn’t require a license. From Dr. Jones’ web site, he specificallly states that he cannot offer advice about individual animals since he is not licensed, but he can offer very specific advice about what pet owners in general should do under certain circumtances (e.g. “Give herb X for vomiting”). A fine and fuzzy line.

  22. megan Smith says:

    It is kind of amusing that many of the people who attack modern western medicine might not even be here to do so were it not for the development of western medicine – of antibiotics and vaccines and the understanding of the germ-concept of disease leading to improved sanitation conditions. it’s easy to criticize it today but when those things became available they made a HUGE difference around the world. (I can’t imagine a mother in the middle of the last century turning up her nose at a giving her child a polio vaccine the way some people do today. )

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