American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) & its Foundation (AHVMF)

I recently received a registration packet for the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. This seemed a good reminder to pull together some of the information and observations concerning organized alternative veterinary medicine I have posted in the past.

I have written frequently about the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) and the spinoff group the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF). These organizations are the tip of the spear, so to speak, of the effort to promote alternative therapies in veterinary medicine. They mimic the organizational structure and functions of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and many other veterinary professional organizations, and they appear on the surface no different. In fact, the AHVMA recently became large enough to qualify for a seat in the governing House of Delegates of the AVMA as an affiliate organization.

These groups are very successful financially (AHVMA and AHVMF financial statements), with combined revenue in 2012 of over a million dollars. These resources give them influence, as illustrated by their donations to veterinary medical colleges intended to create or support the integration of alternative therapies into the curriculum. In 2012, the AHMVF announced a grant of $10,000 to the University of Tennessee to support an integrative medicine program, and another $40,000 grant to support an integrative medicine fellowship (though the tax filing only lists the $40,000 amount). The same year, the AHVMF announced a $200,000 grant to the University of Louisiana, for the formation of an integrative medicine program and the hiring of a faculty member trained in Chinese Veterinary Medicine (though again, the tax filing reported different numbers, with only $110,000 given to the university). They also reported over $13,000 in scholarships for students to support studying alternative veterinary medicine.

All of this is a good thing, if you believe that alternative/holistic/integrative medicine is a collection of safe and effective approaches to healing pets. If, however, you are committed to science as the best way to understand nature and to develop safe and effective medicine, well the success of these organizations should be troubling. The activities of these groups and the statements of their leaders have consistently demonstrated a superficial respect for scientific methods masking a deep philosophical rejection of the basic principles of science and evidence-based medicine. Yet their activities, and the influence of their financial resources, create the appearance of legitimacy for many therapies that are at least dubious and unproven, and often complete quackery.

Both organizations share a clear mission of advocacy and promotion of alternative therapies. While the AHVMF often claims to be interested in research into alternative approaches, it is clear that approach here is to use science the way a drunk uses a lamppost–for support, not illumination. The goal is to generate the appearance of positive scientific research findings and validation, but there is no serious willingness to follow where the evidence leads or reject practices when the scientific evidence against them is overwhelming. This is made starkly clear by the aggressive lobbying of the AHVMA against the resolution considered last year by the AVMA to declare homeopathy an ineffective therapy. Despite the clear scientific consensus that after 150 years of study homeopathy has been proven to be nothing more than a placebo, the AHVMA stood behind a clearly misleading collection of pseudoscience put forward by the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH), and proudly trumpeted the defeat of the resolution as a victory.

I have reviewed the proceedings available for a couple of AHVMA meetings in the past, 2009 and 2012. While there were sessions on some promising but as yet unproven methods (for example herbal remedies and dietary supplements and cold laser therapy), there were many on the Big Three of alternative medicine (acupuncture, chiropractic, and homeopathy), and plenty on other varieties of nonsense, from Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine to shamanism, to Earth Acupuncture, and so on. The tone of the majority of speakers clearly showed a deep philosophical rejection of science in favor of vitalism and the tyranny of the anecdote and personal experience. The offerings at the 2014 conference appear to be much the same, with a few new ”hot topics” (leech therapy, bee venom therapy, and medical uses of marijuana, for example).

I have also previously written about the funding for these meetings, which provides a major source of income for the AHVMA. They draw sponsorship from a wide range of commercial organizations, mostly those providing products and services used by alternative veterinary practitioners. These include manufacturers and distributers of herbal products, dietary supplements, laser equipment, unconventional foods such as raw diets, and companies which teach alternative therapies, such as the Chi Institute (the full list for 2104 is available here).

The point in mentioning this is not to suggest that these groups should do without such funding sources. The reality is that no veterinary education or outreach activity can occur without some source of funding, and that inevitably means working with related industries. However, the potential influence of this money on the practices employed by veterinarians and on the generation and interpretation of scientific evidence concerning these is a legitimate concern. Proponents of alternative medicine are quick to remind us of this when criticizing the use of pharmaceuticals and the potential influence of Big Pharma on conventional doctors, but they seem reluctant to acknowledge that their own activities are no freer from the influence of commercial funding.

Because the AHVMA and AHVMF are influential organizations and, in my opinion, are primarily promoting pseudoscience and anti-science in veterinary medicine, I try to keep track of their activities. So I have added this post to my list of topic-based summaries and will try to keep an up-to-date collection of relevant posts here.

Posts Related to the AHVMA and AHVMF

Dr. Nancy Scanlan Shows us How to Talk Sciency Without Really Accepting Science

Dr. Barbara Royal Reminds us that the AHVMF Opposes Science-Based Medicine

The 2012 AHVMA Annual Conference: An illustration of Conflicts between Science-Based Medicine and Holistic Veterinary Medicine

Leader of Holistic Veterinary Foundation Express some Troubling Ideas about Science

American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation gives $10,000 to University of Tennessee Veterinary School to Promote Alternative Medicine

Response to Comments from the American Holistic Veterinary medical Association on the AVMA Homeopathy Resolution

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation (AHVMF): Science of Salesmanship?

Politics Trumps Science: Continuing Education Credit for Pseudoscience Thanks to the AHVMA

The AHVMA: Bought and Paid for by Big Supplement?

“Holistic Medicine:” It Means Whatever We Say It Means

Woo U. — CAVM as Continuing Education for Veterinarians

 

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13 Responses to American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) & its Foundation (AHVMF)

  1. Art says:

    These groups are very successful financially (AHVMA and AHVMF financial statements), with combined revenue in 2012 of over a million dollars. >>>>

    About what was the EBVMA revenue in 2012?

  2. skeptvet says:

    Less than $5000. Obviously, a big part of the problem….

  3. Art says:

    How about science based medicine? I am a member so I know they make some money asking people to join but it’s not much. Any guess what SBM revenue was in 2012? What about quackwatch? The last newsletter I saw quackwatch had spent over 100 thousands dollars in lawyer fees just fighting the quacks in court.

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  11. Ron says:

    “The last newsletter I saw quackwatch had spent over 100 thousands dollars in lawyer fees just fighting the quacks in court.”

    He lost the cases.http://anhinternational.org/2008/01/18/quackbuster-stephen-barrett-md-loses-appeal-and-leaves-home-town/

    “Dr. Tedd Koren is a well-known chiropractor, researcher, writer and
    lecturer. Barrett sued Dr. Koren in 2003 for calling him a
    Quackpot, saying he was in big trouble because of a racketeering law
    suit brought against him and attacking his lack of a medical license
    in his internet newsletter.

    The trial judge and three appeals judges agreed unanimously that
    these statements were so far from defamation that no jury could be
    legally allowed to call them defamation. Dr. Koren also said Barrett
    was delicensed. One of the three appeals courts judges thought a
    jury might be able to find this to be defamation. However two
    appellate judges disagreed and jurors interviewed after the trial
    said they too saw through Barrett and felt that he was a litigious,
    ungrounded and biased denier of the truth.

    In part jurors formed this view because Barrett testified with great
    self-satisfaction in the Koren case that he had sued many
    doctors-close to forty-in similar cases, demanding up to $100,000 if
    they wished to avoid a costly lawsuit. Some paid-how many is yet to
    be discovered. Drs. Koren and Rosenthal and a few others did
    not. Barrett has failed to win a single lawsuit in this shakedown scheme.

    Dr. Korens Legal Team

    Well known consumer advocate, James S. (Jim) Turner, general counsel
    to Koren Publications, who several years earlier had persuaded the
    FTC to drop an investigation against Dr. Koren (brought at a time
    when Barrett was a consultant to the FTC), organized and coordinated
    the legal team that represented Dr. Koren. Attorney Christopher Reid
    of Allentown, Pennsylvania acted as associate trial counsel and
    appellate counsel and California health freedom attorney Carlos
    Negrete acted as trial counsel.,

    Mr. Negrete said, Fortunately for all of his colleagues, Dr. Koren
    decided not to back down and took the case to trial. Barrett is part
    of a group of intolerant individuals. I am not certain who the
    supporters of the so-called Quackbusters are, but they seem to me to
    be just skinheads with stethoscopes.

    During heated and often dramatic courtroom proceedings, Mr. Negrete
    pointed out many of the questionable statements Barrett includes on
    his websites attacking chiropractic, as well as facts about Barrett’s
    own credentials that shocked even his supporters.

    Mr. Turner says, “It is very important that a very responsible judge
    in Barrett’s hometown recognized that he was making false allegations
    and dismissed the case. Barrett has cost untoward numbers of
    consumers pain, anguish and probably serious harm by his
    misrepresentation of the facts about subjects ranging from
    acupuncture to zinc.”

  12. skeptvet says:

    That is a pretty biased and misleading characterization of the issue, not surprisingly. Here is a different view:

    Interestingly, if you do a Web search for Quackwatch, you’re likely to come across a large number of blaring announcements like this: “Quackwatch founder loses in court!” “Quackwatch exposed as quack!” “Quackwatch loses lawsuit!”.

    Nearly all of these accusations are on pseudo-scientific and untrustworthy “medical” Web sites of dubious quality. This also means that if you attempt to use Quackwatch as a verifiable source to prove that a “medical” Web site is lying or worse, they will immediately point to this accusation in order to “prove” that Quackwatch is not a reliable source.

    This all springs from one lawsuit that has been dragged through the courts for years – not by Quackwatch, but by Koren Publications, a chiropractor supply company.

    The short answer seems to be that Stephen Barrett sued Koren for defamation, but his case was dismissed; he then appealed, but the appeal was denied. One side of the case (namely Koren) made a lot of noise about it, repeatedly trumpeting bulletins such as this on many different quack-medicine Web sites.

    And here is Dr. Barrett’s version:

    Koren Publications is probably the world’s largest supplier of patient education materials to chiropractors. Its president, Tedd Koren, D.C., also publishes an electronic newsletter and maintains a Web site. In 2002, I sued Koren and his company for falsely reporting that I had been “delicensed,” am a ” quackpot,” and was “in trouble” because I had been justifiably sued for racketeering. Koren’s report was based on a “news release” by Tim Bolen, a professional character assassin whom I am also suing for libel. Koren’s answers during his deposition indicated that he neither knew nor cared whether what he said was true. In August 2004, an arbitration panel composed of three attorneys awarded me $6,500 in general damages, $10,000 in punitive damages, reimbursement for certain costs, and publication of a retraction. Koren appealed, however, and after 3 days of trial, the judge ruled that I had failed to present sufficient evidence that Koren had acted with “reckless disregard of the truth.” We appealed the verdict, but the appeals courts upheld it.

  13. Ron says:

    I think there was also a case in the state of Washington more recently, with the Pacific Health Center.
    For a retired psychiatrist this man sure is able to fund a lot of money to sue . I would hope at his age, he could find a more worthwhile venture of service.

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