Homeopathy for Cow Plague: now there’s a terrible idea

by Instant Noodle



Zo they ‘ve a ben trynn Hummyopafhy for the Cattle Flag up there in Norfolk I zee ; that are Society wi’ the DUKE o’ MARLBROUGH at, the head on un, and MR. CAIRD at the tail. And by Ms. CAIRD’S account on’t in the Times it dwoau’t sim to answer. Yaa; just as I thought for. I know’d it never ood. But I be glad they’ve been and tried it, howsomedever. There’s nothun like testun things like them there on dumb annimles. A old woman med be cured by magination when she thinks she’s benn cured by zummut else, but magination won’t cure a old cow.

Well, now what do they find, them fellers wi’ their speriments in Hummyopathy ? Why, what few cattle they do cure they cures by diet. Just as I said for too. You m’ pern’ pon’t ’tis the same wi Christians.

I never put no faith in the Hammyopattmtes and their mitesimal doses Like, they say, cures like, and the way to cure like by like is to gie like in them there doses they calls mitrsimal. Well ; and they gives cattle – dwoan’t ‘um? – about a millionth of a grain of assnick at a time to cure the cattle disaise. Come then ; suppose a feller had pison’d his self wi assnick, what ood they gie un to cure un o’ that on the rule that like cures like? A mitesimal dose o’ blue vitterul?

I doan’t say but what a mitesimal dose o’ vitterol, blue or green, ood be as good a antidwooat to a mitesimal dose o’ assnick as are another thing. But dwoan’t mitesimal causes produce mitesimal effects? The good as Hummyopathy have done in the Cattle Plag sims to ha’ ben mitesimal. As a roominatun sart o’ chap myself, besides a farmer, I takes a nateral interest in the cure o’ cattle complaints, which wun’t be accomplished, I’m afeard, by Hummyopatliic cow-docturnn.

I be, Mr. Punch.,

Your obajent Sarvunt,


P.S. How ‘d it be if doctors as prescribes mitesimal doses was paid by mitesimal vees ?

The society that Punch refers to here was one composed of many of the most esteemed gentlemen in the country – most of the house of Lords it would seem – who set about making a cure for Cattle Plague, which was decimating the cattle population of Britain as it had in Europe.

Not just any cure though: a homeopathic cure. Despite the fact it had been tried before. Despite the fact that it would be vastly too expensive. Despite the fact that it was hogwash, of course. All the while, the pleas of a learned vet who advocated preemptive slaughter went unheeded.

This trial in Norfolk was no different. Of 45 cattle treated, one didn’t contract the plague. The remaining 44 cattle all contracted it, 4 of which recovered, and the other 40 all died of it.

I’ve written about this episode in homeopathy’s history in “Don’t mix homeopathy and politics: a case study“. Homeopathy was a discipline that found much favour among the rich, probably due to it’s un-disgusting and pure nature. Everyone else thought it was patently ridiculous, including Punch.

Punch hits the nail on the head here. Any effect that homeopathy has is a placebo; literally willing yourself to be better makes you better. So a failed test on animals should really be the nail in the coffin. Double blind would be ideal due to the clever Hans effect, but otherwise it’s pretty fail safe.

Homeopathy should have died out years ago, basically, it having been proved not to work time and time again. Yet inexplicably it remains.

(January 13th, 1866)