CENTRAL VETERINARY SOCIETY
Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on Tuesday 10th January 2006 at the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5ER.
Present: the President Mr. C. Boyde and 25 Fellows and guests.
Apologies for absence had been received from 12 Fellows.
Minutes of the meeting held on 29th November 2005 had been circulated and were approved, subject to the addition of a record of the awarding of Honorary Fellowship of the CVS to Mr. George Tribe, and the successful nomination of Mr. Geoffrey Serth for the same accolade.
Matters arising: none.
Correspondence: A letter had been received from Mr. Bruce Jones, enquiring about the whereabouts of CVS minutes from 1956. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Nelson suggested that either the RVC library or the RCVS might have the relevant book.
Any Other Business: none
The President then conferred Honorary Fellowship of the Society on Mr. Geoffrey Serth, long-time Fellow of the Society. He also welcomed two new Fellows, Mr. Gareth Davies and Miss Karen Jones.
The President then introduced Dr. Paul Buell, a sinologist from Western Washington University and Dr. Robert Imrie, a small animal practitioner from Washington State, to discuss "Veterinary Acupuncture: a western invention from the 1970s".
Dr. Buell remarked on the extreme antiquity claimed for veterinary acupuncture practices, some claims dating back to before the domestication of the horse or the invention of writing in China! In fact the documented evidence for the beginning of veterinary medical practices in China begins only in 1000AD, much later than in western records such as the Roman texts from the 3rd century AD. Even then, the practices described are mostly medical, principally recipes for drenches, with some surgical practices such as draining of ascites, bleeding, and cauterisation. These last two employed large needles, and required severe restraint of the patient. Some charts exist of bleeding and cauterisation points, also of "diagnostic points", but no mention of acupuncture. Very similar charts are found in western medicine of the time, with earlier dates, and it appears that China adopted these practices from the west. Many current practices also have a western origin, for example ear acupuncture originated in France. Acupuncture has never been a mainstream practice even in human medicine, first appearing in only 900AD, and was actually forbidden at some times. Although the Chinese did try some human practices on animals, again this was bleeding and cautery, using large barbed needles, with twisting or rotation specifically forbidden as unsafe.
Dr. Imrie displayed a number of charts of "points", but pointed out that there were not necessarily acupuncture points but rather physiognomy charts, whorl location, cautery points etc., and that such charts could be found in many cultures. The Silk Route which was in use for centuries encouraged the mixing of cultures, for example the "Yellow Emperor's" text appears to be a version of the teachings of Hippocrates of Cos. Some human acupuncture-type procedures were transmitted to the west in the 17th century and since then had been forgotten and rediscovered several times. In 1822 the technique was tried in the horse without success, and was reported to be painful. By 1860 popularity was waning, but there was some revival in the early 20th century. However, at this stage there were no identified points or channels, with needles simply inserted at the site of the problem. In 1939 "qi", a word originally describing vapour rising from food, was invented by a Frenchman, as was ear acupuncture in the 1950s, based on a "sudden intuition". Within three years these were "ancient Chinese practices". After the introduction of modern biomedicine to China, acupuncture fell out of favour and was banned, however it was revived by Chairman Mao (who personally did not believe in it) as a means of increasing the numbers of physicians in the country, and to humiliate western scientists. Much acupuncture was invented in the 1940s and 50s, but after 35 years it was waning in popularity and used only as an adjunct to scientific treatment. There is no evidence of verum acupuncture (fine needles manipulating chi) on animals before the mid 20th century, and although the Chinese did treat horses as discussed above, there is no tradition of small animal treatment of any kind. All modern claims for the antiquity of veterinary acupuncture refer to 1950s publications, involving mistranslations of earlier texts for political purposes. Nowadays claims exist for many techniques - scalp, hand, ear; deep, superficial, non-penetrating; electroacupuncture etc. All are claimed to be effective, just as phlebotomy was in the 19th century. But is this likely?
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