Treating Bears with Acupuncture

January 28, 2018

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Vet, CAM

This story (opens new window) comes from listener Stu. A couple of bears were injured recently in California's wildfires. They were delivered to UC Davis, a respected university in California. Unfortunately they were handed over to Jamie Payton of UC Davis' Integrative Medicine Service, who proceeded to treat them with unproven therapies such as acupuncture, a "homemade" burn salve, fish skins, cold laser therapy and chiropractic.

"The results argue for more trials of the fish skins for burns", the vets said.

The ethics of this approach seems to be pretty dubious to say the least. Any unproven therapeutic treatment should be tested first in controlled conditions to ensure that it works, and only when proven to work should it be used on patients - and this approach should apply to other animals the same as it does to humans. Trying out multiple unproven therapies on a wild animal requiring treatment seems cruel - apart from anything else, there's no way to monitor the long term health of the animal as it will need to be set free, unlike captive animals who can be monitored easily. It would have been much kinder to have allowed a conventional veterinarian to treat the bears with the best that science has to offer. This approach appears to have been used as a way to raise the profile of the department at the university. The animals' welfare has been put at risk for some cheap advertising.