Oh, goody. Here’s something we didn’t need here in the US. While Australian skeptics have successfully been rallying to put a stop to a series of lectures from American antivaccine activist Sherri Tenpenny, we’re going to have to put up with a far bigger name in quackery showing up right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A. I’m referring to His Royal Highness, the Quacktitioner Royal, Prince Charles, the next King of England. Yes, in March he and Camilla will be here on a four day tour that will include a trip to Louisville to give the keynote address to a symposium on health and nature on March 20. Here’s the press release:

At the request of the British Government Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will make a four day visit to the United States of America from 17th – 20th March 2015. Their Royal Highnesses will undertake a broad range of engagements to promote the UK’s partnership with the United States in key areas such as sustainability and climate change, creating youth opportunities, encouraging corporate social responsibility and promoting historical and cultural links.

Their Royal Highnesses will mark major anniversaries in American history as they visit the nation’s capital, Washington DC, on the 17th, 18th and 19th March. On Friday 20th March, Their Royal Highnesses will travel to Louisville, Kentucky where they will highlight the work being done by members of the local community and charitable organisations to protect, preserve and promote the health and well-being of the people of Louisville through community cohesion, clean air and food literacy initiatives.


Now here’s the weird thing. I’ve done a bunch of Googling, and I haven’t yet been able to find a news story that specifies what, exactly, this symposium in March in Louisville is. Who is organizing it? Who else will be speaking there? All it’s referred to is either a “symposium on health,” or an event where he and Camilla will highlight food literacy, sustainable growth, and efforts of local community organizations to protect the health of the people of Louisville. I found this quite odd. For Prince Charles to visit anywhere in the US is a really and truly a BFD, and any organization that landed the Prince of Wales as its keynote speaker would be expected to be bragging about it and publicizing it.

Then I came across this article on The Daily Beast by Nico Hines entitled ‘Witchcraft’ Believing Prince Charles to Lecture U.S. on Medicine, and this is all I could find out:

The event in Kentucky is being organized with the support of Democratic governor Steve Beshear, the mayor of Louisville and the Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation, which was set up in honor of the former chairman of one of the great bourbon companies–his son-in-law Matthew Barzun is the U.S. ambassador in London.

So this explains much. Barzun likely knows the Prince due to his role as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, I don’t know much about Barzun, but I was amused to see his travails (and, admittedly, his good humor) over his ill-fated attempts to learn to speak some Welsh. What is clear is that Barzun must be at least somewhat susceptible to the blandishments of England’s Quacktitioner Royal, as evidenced from this story from November:

On 15 September, while President Obama was meeting with his advisers in the White House and deciding how to unleash the world’s most powerful military machine on the Islamic State in Iraq, his ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun, was spending the day in a field in Gloucestershire, learning about nitrogen-fixing plants and the dangers of sub-clinical mastitis in cows’ udders. The reason was simple: Barzun was visiting Prince Charles’s organic Home Farm. Wearing boxfresh Hunter wellies, Barzun picked his way around some cowpats to take a close look at a field of organic red clover. He snapped a photo on his smartphone.

For the past 34 years, the farm has been one of Charles’s chief passions. It has become the agricultural embodiment of his beliefs about everything from the natural world to the globalised economy. On winter weekends, he can be found – wearing his patched-up tweed farm coat – laying some of the farm’s hedges to keep alive one of his beloved traditional farming techniques.

I get the feeling from this article that Ambassador Barzun must think that what the Prince is doing with respect to agriculture, at least, is a good thing, and maybe it is. Unfortunately, as has long been documented by a cadre of UK skeptical bloggers, such as Le Canard Noir, David Colquhoun, and Edzard Ernst, the baggage that comes along with Prince Charles’ environmental activist is activism in favor of quackery, in particular homeopathy.

Indeed, it’s impossible for me not to note that Edzard Ernst recently published a book entitled A Scientist in Wonderland: A Memoire of Searching for Truth and Finding Trouble. It’s an accurate summary of his life; for Ernst started out as a proponent of “complementary and alternative medicine,” believing that rigorous science would validate many of its treatments. He turned out to be wrong about that, but he did the right thing and went where the science went, becoming in the process one of the most prolific and persuasive critics of alternative medicine. As a result he came into direct conflict with Prince Charles, who was known for doing whatever he could to promote homeopathy and “complementary” medicine, as described by Hines:

Earlier this year, Prince Charles was accused of using his position to gag one of Britain’s leading academic critics of alternative medicine. Professor Edzard Ernst said he was treated “like shit” by officials at the University of Exeter after a complaint about his conduct was made by Prince Charles’s office.

”Prince Charles’s attempt to silence me, it seemed, had been successful,” wrote Ernst, who describes the Prince of Wales’s medical views as “quackery.”

Ernst said ”the most unpleasant period of my entire professional life” began in 2005 when he criticized a draft report into alternative medicine that had been commissioned by Prince Charles. The report said complementary medicine was cost-effective and should be made available through the National Health Service.

Ernst provoked fury at Clarence House by describing that conclusion as “complete misleading rubbish.” Sir Michael Peat, Charles’s principal private secretary, wrote an official letter of complaint to Ernst’s boss claiming that he had been wrong to criticize the report before it was formally published. Ernst would ultimately take early retirement and his department was closed down in 2011.

This is one reason, among others, I admire Edzard Ernst. He must have known that directly and harshly criticizing a draft report commissioned by Prince Charles was perilous to his career. The Prince is, of course, a very powerful man, and he’s shown before that he doesn’t take kindly to criticism of his beliefs. As Ernst himself relates, it’s not surprising that Charles is so deeply into quackery, because the Royal family is “famous for using homeopathy and other doubtful treatments while they are healthy, and for employing the very best conventional medicine has to offer as soon as they are ill.” Also, the young Prince Charles went on a journey of “spiritual discovery” with guru and guide Laurens van der Post into the wilderness of Kenya. van der Post was described after his death by a biographer as a “a fraud, a fantasist, a liar, a serial adulterer and a paternalist” who “falsified his Army record and inflated his own importance at every possible opportunity.” A believer in vitalism and derided by many (correctly, as it later turned out) as a charlatan, he nonetheless became an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and, as Ernst describes, a spiritual advisor—guru, even—to the young Prince Charles. It was also his belief in vitalism, apparently transmitted to the young Prince, that provided the “crucial link to alternative medicine,” given that so much of alternative medicine is based on vitalistic beliefs.

If you want an idea of just how far down the rabbit hole of alternative medicine, “complementary” medicine, or “integrative medicine (or whatever you want to call it) Prince Charles is, just check out this article he wrote in 2012. It’s full of almost every alt-med trope you’ve ever seen me deconstruct over the last decade. He even descends so far as to criticize medicine for treating “only the symptoms,” urging doctors not simply to “treat the symptoms of disease, but actively to create health and to put the patient at the heart of the process by incorporating those core human elements of mind, body, and spirit.” Then he writes:

To achieve this – and there are many who support this – I would suggest that medicine may sometimes need to become less literal in its interpretation of patient needs and more inclusive in terms of what treatment may be required – in other words, to understand how symptoms may often simply be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness. It is also vital, it seems to me, to recognize that treatment may often be effective because of its symbolic meaning to the patient through effects that are now being increasingly understood by the science of psychoneuroimmunology.

In short, I suspect it will always be a struggle if we continue with an over-emphasis on mechanistic and technological approaches.

“Symbolic meaning”? Symptoms “may often simply be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness”? Medicine should be come “less literal in its interpretation of patient needs”? What the hell does that mean? Certainly it doesn’t sound too different from quackery like the German New Medicine. He even trots out the “best of both worlds” trope about “integrative medicine”! Basically, the Prince’s “post modern medicine” does truly seem to argue that science is just another narrative.

Even worse, the Prince has been known for practicing what he preaches, even trying to sell it to the masses, once promoting Duchy Herbals Detox Tincture, which is a food supplement combining artichoke and dandelion that promises to “rid the body of toxins while aiding digestion.” In response to the introduction of this product, the Prince faced unprecedented criticism for peddling quackery. Simon Singh even accused him (correctly) of only hearing the science he wants to hear. Ernst has called him a snake oil salesman.

But what about the Owsley Brown Charitable Foundation. Oddly enough, it’s hard to find much out about this foundation, although this link lists most of its recent grants, and they don’t have much, if anything, to do with medicine, but rather more to do with the arts.

As I was perusing various links, I also found out:

Kirby Adams of The Courier-Journal reports that the symposium will be held by the Institute for Healthy Air, Water and Soil, chaired by Christina Lee “Christy” Brown of Louisville, who is one of four board members of the England-based Sustainable Food Trust. Her son, Owsley Brown III, is one of three board members of the Sustainable Food Alliance, the trust’s U.S. partner.

Now it makes more sense. Prince Charles has addressed Sustainable Food Trust functions before. Also, the Sustainable Food Trust appears to have a bit of an anti-GMO bias (or at least a problem with interpreting science). For example, when the GMO “pig study” came out, the Sustainable Food Trust Chief Executive, Patrick Holden characterized it as “another in a series of recent studies that have identified negative health impacts in animals consuming GM crops,” comparing it to the “study by Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues in 2012 which found high rates of cancer and other problems in rats fed GM maize for two years,” concluding that “there should be no further moves to introduce GM crops into the UK, or GM food into the human food chain until these issues have been fully investigated by independent scientists.” Of course, the Séralini study and the pig stomach study were both absolutely awful studies whose conclusions were, to say the least, not supported by the data. When Séralini managed to find another journal with low enough standards to publish his study again after it had been retracted, the Sustainable Food Trust approved. This is not the first time such bad science was presented credulously.

No wonder His Royal Highness of Quackery has agreed to deliver the keynote address.

I suppose I can hope that he’ll stick with history and sustainable agriculture without spouting off about his favorite quackery. After all, it’ll only be four days that we in the US have to put up with Prince Charles. My poor fellow skeptics in the UK have to put up with him all the time and could well have to put up with him as their king.

Comments

  1. #1 TJ
    February 23, 2015

    I always enjoy watching Charles in action. It’s quite amusing to watch a reasonably intelligent man grab entirely the wrong end of the stick and run with it.
    As to what he’s like as King, well, hopefully he’ll be able to keep quiet about it, as it’s going to be his job not to express any opinion more controversial than ‘and what do you do?’

  2. #2 frozenwarning
    UK
    February 23, 2015

    Reasonably intelligent? Never been any evidence of this intelligence. I apologise in behalf of the UK for foisting him on you all. Give us back John Oliver and we’ll hide Chuck’s passport.

  3. #3 Helianthus
    February 23, 2015

    symptoms may often simply be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness.

    On second reading, I believe I understood that HRQ was getting at. He is going for the whole hypochondriac/wholeness/”you feel physically bad because you don’t feel mentally good” approach.
    It’s annoying. On one hand, a number of chronic diseases (like migraine and back pain) seem indeed to have a psychological aspect.
    On the other hand, even these diseases have somatic components, i.e. something is wrong inside your body, and having positive thoughts isn’t going to fix it.

    In short, the Prince seems to believe strongly in the Power of Placebo.

    Now, how is that different from telling people “it’s all in your head” ?
    I will give you some symbolic meaning.

    First reading was much on the lines of “for a metaphor, some symptoms have a nasty bite”, and “whatever he is smoking, I want some”.

    Sidenote:
    Today’s welcoming ads was about some detox product, with before/after colonoscopy pictures. Dunno what it was a metaphor for, but it’s symbolic meaning was painfully imprinted in my brain.
    Thanksfully, upon refreshing, an advertisement for a MMO took its place.

  4. #4 Lawrence
    February 23, 2015

    I believe the Queen has decided to live long enough to make sure that Charles doesn’t get to be King…..

  5. #5 Helianthus
    February 23, 2015

    Gah. Apostrophe fail.

    “its symbolic meaning”, not “it’s”

    Apologies for triggering the grammar nazi in any reader.

  6. #6 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    February 23, 2015

    @Lawrence, yeah. In fact, I’ve heard a rumour that Charlie won’t be king after his darling mum either steps down or passes on. He’s blotted his copybook too badly. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it seems plausible.

  7. #7 Rose
    Sydney, Australia
    February 23, 2015

    I still have a copy of the protest letter I wrote to the venues that ultimately cancelled Dr Tenpenny’s event booking should someone require it.

    I doubt it would do any good as no one would cancel HRH’s visit.

    I think his support of Gerson Therapy was the beginning of the end and our Commonwealth ties are indeed very loose now.

  8. #8 Laura
    Ithaca NY
    February 23, 2015

    Why blog about this symposium before we even know what it’s about or whether Prince Charles will promote any kind of health fraud or unproven medicine?
    I like those terms better than “alternative medicine” because they are more accurate and less partisan. Homeopathy of the 30C dilution kind, really is health fraud – it can’t work. Herbal preparations labelled “homeopathic” might work, and they deceive some people into thinking that “homeopathy” of the 30C dilution kind works.
    There are a lot of labeling tricks involved in “alternative medicine”, and that’s an important part of the deception involved. It would be great if alt-med practitioners and those selling “alternative” preparations had to include some kind of statement to their patients and customers, as to whether the remedy cannot scientifically work, is not proven to work, or has tentative scientific evidence in its favor.
    Same thing for MD’s – when they promote remedies that are unproven they should have to tell the patient.
    It’s all just medicine, after all – with varying amounts of scientific evidence supporting it.

  9. #9 Helianthus
    February 23, 2015

    @ Orac

    I’m sorry to report that the “Sustainable Food Trust approved” link is not working correctly (before-to-last link).
    One of your pals over at Science-based Medicine has a similar issue with the link to the National Post article (“Questions about Hippocrates:…”)

  10. #10 Helianthus
    February 23, 2015

    @ Orac

    Your pal did a nice follow-up on Brian Clements, by the way. Keep these snake oil peddlers in the spotlight. Even if they are royalty.

    After reading a few linked articles, I’m currently fairly annoyed with alt-med folks. They talk big about mainstream agencies “suppressing” or “bullying” their opponents, but don’t seem all worked-up when it’s their side doing it. Brian Clements is having some troubles with former employees having asked for whistle-blower status, and Edzard Ernst had his career ended for daring to tell HRQ he was wrong.

  11. #11 Lawrence
    February 23, 2015

    @Laura – incorrect. Alt-med has little to no evidence supporting its use, for anything.

  12. #12 Krebiozen
    February 23, 2015

    As a Brit I’m embarrassed by this twit*. I’m embarrassed by the fact that our royal family still has any power at all in a democracy. Can’t you guys keep him and Camilla? Make them an attraction at Disneyland or something? Please?

    * That may be treason.

  13. #13 TBruce
    February 23, 2015

    I believe the Queen has decided to live long enough to make sure that Charles doesn’t get to be King…..

    …and of course, the Queen Mother lived to 102.
    I predict that Chuckles will be King, but not till his mid-eighties.
    I also predict that about that time, Canada and Australia will become republics.

  14. #14 Fergus
    Glasgow
    February 23, 2015

    “the next King of England” and Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland.

  15. #15 Dangerous Bacon
    February 23, 2015

    In connection with the Sustainable Trust’s support for the infamous Carman-Vlieger “pig inflammation” study purporting to show harm in GM feed – it was interesting to that Greenpeace has just released documents showing that a prominent climate change-denying scientist failed to reveal that many of his papers were bankrolled by energy-related industries (wait for it, there’s a connection):

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/us/ties-to-corporate-cash-for-climate-change-researcher-Wei-Hock-Soon.html?_r=0

    Greenpeace is apparently up in arms about this undisclosed conflict of interest and the fact that Dr. Soon gets undeserved attention as a scientific outlier (and their position is quite justified). At the same time, however, Greenpeace has no problem promoting the dubious work of outliers on the question of GMO safety. Greenpeace has referred to Judy Carman (co-author of the pig inflammation study) as a “respected international scientist”. Greenpeace apparently had no problem with the study’s gross defects or the fact that Carman’s co-author on the pig study, Howard Vlieger, failed to reveal that he ran a company selling non-GMO feed and that his company helped bankroll the study.

    http://www.marklynas.org/2013/06/gmo-pigs-study-more-junk-science/

    So “conflict of interest” is a relative evil for Greenpeace – terrible when the other guy does it, not worthy of mention when your “respected” source is associated with it.

  16. #16 martin
    February 23, 2015

    ” ..he can be found – wearing his patched-up tweed farm coat – laying some of the farm’s hedges … his beloved traditional farming techniques. ”

    Reading this passage I suddenly recalled Woodehouse’s Lord Emsworth of the Blandigs Castle fame. Dunno why, obviously there cannot be any connection with the old dear.

  17. #17 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 23, 2015

    @TBruce: There’s a definite possibility that Charles will be past retirement age before he begins his job. 🙂

    • #18 Orac
      February 23, 2015

      Charles is 66, isn’t he? What’s the retirement age in the UK?

  18. #19 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 23, 2015

    So he is – I didn’t think he was quite that old. There isn’t actually a default retirement age in the UK any more, but it was 65.
    https://www.gov.uk/retirement-age

  19. #20 Renate
    February 23, 2015

    I suppose there are people with weird ideas in more royal families. We have a Dutch princes who talks to trees, mice and other animals. Our former queen Juliana employed a faith-healer. And there is a Belgian prince who states he can talk to the dead.

  20. #21 lilady
    February 23, 2015

    Has anyone checked out the Lexington Kentucky thoroughbred horse auctions? When the Queen mum died her racing stable was handed off to her daughter and I expect Charles will receive the Royal Stables as part of his inheritance.

    HRH the Queen is on record as viewing her ascension to the throne as a lifelong commitment…she disparages the fact that some of her royal relatives have traditionally handed off their queenships to their heirs (The Netherlands, anyone?).

    I’m willing to keep Charles and Camilla, if the Brits will repatriate Andy Wakefield and Polly Tommey.

  21. #22 sadmar
    Pb-ership
    February 23, 2015

    How I would love to chalk this all up tp th idiocy of monarchy, but then we not too long ago elected a felloe who thought pollution came from trees, and ‘serious’ Presidential candidates who deny evolution and AGW get more flack when then visit the UK than they do here.

    At least homeopathy isn’t destroying the ecosystem and causing once eradicated VPDs to spread.

  22. #23 Rebecca Fisher
    That London
    February 23, 2015

    @Renate: Anyone can talk to the dead. It’s when they tell you the dead talk back that you need to worry.

  23. #24 JP
    February 23, 2015

    I suppose there are people with weird ideas in more royal families.

    Because it’s a bad idea when cousins marry.

  24. #25 sadmar
    Trades
    February 23, 2015

    lilady:

    “I’m willing to keep Charles and Camilla, if the Brits will repatriate Andy Wakefield and Polly Tommey.”

    That made me laugh, and I second the motion!
    (News flash. sadmar and lilady agree on something. World continues to rotate on axis…)

    Peraps as substitute royalty, they’ll take RFKJ as well?

  25. #26 sadmar
    From 'The Ruling Class' by Peter Barnes
    February 23, 2015

    @ Rebecca

    Lady Claire: How do you know you’re God?
    14th Earl of Gurney: Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.

  26. #27 Phlebas
    UK
    February 23, 2015

    I vote no to the quack trading, unless we can find a small, remote uninhibited island ready to take the lot of them.

    Nice to know my taxes are funding groundbreaking new science as opposed to the globe trotting lifestyle of some lunatic leftover of the aristocracy.

  27. #28 JCL
    February 23, 2015

    I believe when Glenda snuffs it there is a plan to replace Charlie with a reasonably intelligent lettuce.

  28. #29 Laura
    Ithaca NY
    February 23, 2015

    Alt-med has little to no evidence supporting its use, for anything.

    That’s a huge generalization. It depends on what you label “alt-med” and there’s tentative evidence that some “alt-med” works.
    The label “alt-med” is both deceptive – it’s just medicine – and confusing because it lumps together a huge variety of practices for which there are varying amounts of evidence that they work. And in some cases, good reasons to believe they can’t work.
    And that confusion muddies people’s thinking.

  29. #30 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2015

    ‘Sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’ are blaring buzzwords amongst the alt media charlatans I survey- they promote organic, GMO-free, sustainable agriculture ONLY. In addition, anti-vax media moms follow a similar script as they believe that toxins and chemical contamination contribute greatly to autism and chronic disease.

    Interestingly, Mike Adams is about to unveil his sustainable project (see Food Rising/ Natural News) tomorrow. Actually ,his supposedly fabulously innovative, 3D printed inventions for non-electric hydroponics resemble classroom kits used to teach kids about plant growth 50 years ago. The other idiot teaches health retreat payees how to grow sprouts in your spare room for extra nutrition, cash and survival when the economy and civilisation crash simultaneously ( see Gary Null.com retreat photos). Poor city folk can just stake out an abandoned property and grow vegetables to their heart’s content which they can sell at farmer’s markets for high prices or donate to the homeless.

    HRH fits right in with these unrealistic activists: you can putter about a purist garden when you sit upon millions of pounds or dollars and don’t have to care for a family or appear at a job periodically.

  30. #31 Dangerous Bacon
    February 23, 2015

    “he can be found – wearing his patched-up tweed farm coat – laying some of the farm’s hedges”

    For some reason this reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s line: “he majored in animal husbandry, until they caught him at it one day.”

  31. #32 lkr
    oregon
    February 23, 2015

    Laura — Please stop this “it’s just medicine” — you’re giving me a rash..
    You seem to want to carve out room for Echinacea supplements [good luck on finding any Echinacea in them!] while agreeing that there MIGHT BE “good reasons to believe [other practice] can’t work.”

    The theme here is Prince Charles’ nostra and I’d say he is alt-med stupid all the way down..

  32. #33 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2015

    That should be FARMERS’ markets

  33. #34 Krebiozen
    February 23, 2015

    Laura,

    It depends on what you label “alt-med” and there’s tentative evidence that some “alt-med” works.

    Not a lot. I have browsed the NCCAM website looking for CAM treatments that work, but there’s very little of substance there, despite NCCAM spending $127.7 million every year to fund research into CAM including support for clinical trials. OCCAM is equally disappointing.

    Perhaps you are unaware of Tim Minchin’s opinion on the subject (animated version):

    “By definition”, I begin
    “Alternative Medicine”, I continue
    “Has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    Do you know what they call “alternative medicine”
    That’s been proved to work?
    Medicine.”

  34. #35 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2015

    Interestingly, sustainability advocates who espouse AGW beliefs (-btw- Mikey DOESN”T) may promote veganism as a more sustainable solution that contributes less to global warming.

  35. #36 BBBlue
    February 23, 2015

    “After all, it’ll only be four days that we in the US have to put up with Prince Charles.”

    Perhaps we will have Dr. Mark Hyman to look forward to.

  36. #37 Rich Woods
    Pond East
    February 23, 2015

    If anyone can find a way to humiliate Charlie-boy while he’s Stateside, that would be welcome. Send us a couple more Republican presidential candidates and we’ll return the favour.

  37. #38 Renate
    February 23, 2015

    @ Rebecca Fisher

    He says he has contact with the dead, so I suppose he thinks they talk back.

  38. #39 CTGeneGuy
    February 23, 2015

    ‘Sustainability’ and ‘sustainable’ are blaring buzzwords amongst the alt media charlatans

    This is true and very unfortunate. These are words I would like to see reclaimed by science. There are excellent science-based initiatives regarding global food sustainability, which have at their core the use of genetically modified crops. There are many collaborative institutions moving this forward, but one I would point out just because of some personal familiarity is the Yale Sustainable Food Program. While these hard working people are trying to bring the best that food science can offer to the parts of the world that need it the most, diet book authors and aristocrats are lecturing the world on the evils of GMOs while floating words like “sustainability” as if the concept were their own. Perhaps Chuck would be shocked to learn that tweed coat organic clover farming may be somewhat different from the methods used to empower the Third World to have a sustainable future. Perhaps his symposium speech title will be “Let them eat kale!”

  39. #40 Eric Lund
    February 23, 2015

    DW@35: I’m not sure there’s a big difference between veganism and the sort of vegetarianism that allows consumption of eggs and dairy products, but it is true for most people that vegetarianism contributes less to greenhouse gas emissions than eating meat (especially beef; pork and chicken are much less egregious). The rule of thumb is that you have to feed an animal about 10 calories worth of food to get 1 calorie worth of meat, and you have to transport that livestock feed.

    There are some exceptions, such as the Inuit. They live mainly on the tundra of North America, so most of them have never seen a vegetable (fresh, frozen, or canned) that wasn’t flown in. Although their traditional diet of whale and seal meat (which is what is locally available to them) has problems of its own: these species concentrate things like mercury. The Inuit, unlike your average anti-vaxer, have good reason to fear heavy metal poisoning.

  40. #41 Phlebas
    UK
    February 23, 2015

    I need to read a bit more about Professor Ernst.
    It sounds like he had a fairly thankless gig to start with. I can’t imagine folk were clamouring at his gates to fund his area of research, or at least not if it wasn’t giving the results they so craved, and there can’t have been many journals lining up to publish negative results. proving that something doesn’t work is sadly lot less glamorous and lucrative than going all dunning-Kruger about how wonderful it all is.

    In this case speaking the truth about science in a UK academic establishment effectively torpedoed his career and the whole department all because it put someone’s nose out of joint. That is really quite frightening.

  41. #42 Denice Walter
    February 23, 2015

    @ Eric Lund:

    I know that there’s a realistic aspect to decreasing consumption of meats ( both personal health related as well as environmentally) altho’ that isn’t how they represent it- as with vaccines, they exaggerate the risks and downplay the benefits- to them raising chickens is just as bad as beef.
    No shades of difference here- it’s all black and white.

  42. #43 Leigh Jackson
    February 23, 2015

    Prince Charles’ heart is in the right place, I dare say. Whilst his wellies are slip-sliding about in cowpats his head is floating around the clouds. Van der Post got to him at an impressionable age.

  43. #44 Vicki
    February 23, 2015

    Chuck is enough to make this small-r republican think “Long live the Queen!”

    I’ve been known to talk to trees, but I have no illusion that they’re listening. That one is in fact a metaphor, because I want to remember that they are providing things I value (such as oxygen, plums, and shade).

  44. #45 NZ Skeptic
    February 23, 2015

    But now, here’s the really weird thing.

    In 2014, Prince Charles apparently arranged the delivery of 5 million doses of MMR vaccine to the Philippines when measles broke out following a typhoon there. Not homeopathic vaccines. Real ones.

  45. #46 Roadstergal
    February 23, 2015

    There are excellent science-based initiatives regarding global food sustainability, which have at their core the use of genetically modified crops.

    Exactly. It annoys me greatly to hear ‘organic’ agriculture praised as ‘sustainable,’ when many ‘organic’ practices are harder on the environment than the non-‘organic’ alternatives.

    Sustainability and GMOs should skip hand-in-hand through drought-resistant fields.

  46. #47 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 23, 2015

    Prince Charles was (and hopefully still is) an avid Goon Show fan. Perhaps he’ll do his Bluebottle impression in Louisville.

  47. #48 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 23, 2015

    The rule of thumb is that you have to feed an animal about 10 calories worth of food to get 1 calorie worth of meat, and you have to transport that livestock feed.

    FWIW, livestock eat a lot of things that are purely indigestible by people. It has also been found that proper grazing techniques improve the soil considerably.

  48. #49 Glaxxon PharmaCOM | John O'Groats Lair
    Land's End
    February 23, 2015

    MESSAGE BEGINS————————-

    Shills and Minions:

    I know I’ve been remiss in my reports to you of late, but rest assured, my ceaseless evildoing continues apace.

    What I must caution against is vexing an Egg Mother of the Imperium. As you know, Good Queen L’izz has been at the forefront of planetary subjugation for more than 400 terran years. Like all warrior-caste leaders of our Ova-Matriarchy, she is passionately defensive of her hatchlings, no matter what their . . . faults may be.

    Despite a string of disappointing male descendents that have displayed less than stellar intellect, the House P’aam K’vach (or as you call it, “Windsor”) will not tolerate mockery or jibes. As Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, I must answer to a frequently testy sovereign when the joking and degrading heats up. This usually involves a trip to her nasty, cold rock. I don’t like that. It’s cold. It upsets my molt. Don’t ever upset a Glaxxon’s molt.

    So please, for your old, evil overlord’s sake, lighten up on Chucky, will you? At least I think that’s what the hatchlings are saying nowdays. Lighten up? Lightning up? Well, whatever . . .

    Yours in Pure Pharma Evil,
    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VH7ihL

    Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Grand Vitara of Merseyside, Monkey Master of Mars

    00111100011110001111010101111001

    Glaxxon PharmaCOM | John O’Groats Lair

    —————————————MESSAGE ENDS

  49. #50 JP
    February 23, 2015

    FWIW, livestock eat a lot of things that are purely indigestible by people. It has also been found that proper grazing techniques improve the soil considerably.

    Right, if they’re grass-fed. The vast majority of livestock in the present agricultural system, though, are fed corn and soy that has to be transported to the factory farm. The cow sh*t, too, instead of improving the soil, becomes another environmental problem.

  50. #51 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 23, 2015

    So I don’t honestly know – in today’s system, what percentage of animal feed is grass/hay/alfalfa/milo (or silage) and what percentage is corn or soy? The last time I visited a working cattle farm it seemed that the bulk of the first year was grass.

  51. #52 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    February 23, 2015

    But that was some time ago.

  52. #53 Chris
    February 23, 2015

    I noticed that dairy farms will use the manure to on their pastures. Tillamook, OR has a distinctive odor. It turns out that our hotel was too close to those pastures, and on days when there is not much wind you can see the sprayers with very brown water arcing over the fields of grass.

    By looking at a map we thought Tillamook would be a good place to visit parts of the Oregon coast, which it was. But the odor made us pack our bags early and find a different spot to continue our coast vacation.

    That was a few years ago, and it seems that sometimes that causes water problems. So I looked it up, and noticed that they are working on solving a few manure problems: Tracing Steps from Dairy to Digester–the First Site Visit to Scenic Tillamook.

  53. #54 JP
    February 23, 2015

    @Meph:

    I’ve been looking through the intertubes a bit, and I’m getting different numbers. Most cattle do spend the first part of their lives at pasture, although I’m getting numbers that range from an average of 7-9 months at pasture to claims of 12-15 months. I have to say that the first figure seems more correct to me, just based on my limited experience with the small calf/cow operation we had when I was a kid. (A hobby farm, really.) The cows we sold were usually less than a year old, if memory serves. (I realized just now that I have no idea where they went – they just got sold at auction.)

    According to this USDA page, 70-90% percent of a cow’s diet at a feedlot is composed of grain and concentrated protein, and the feeding/finishing period lasts from 90-300 days. (The average time to market for a cow is 15 months.)

    @Chris:

    Oh yeah, Tillamook. I was out at the Oregon coast over the holiday break with some relatives, and we made the obligatory stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The smell was certainly noticable. Somehow, I don’t remember it smelling that much when I was a little kid, but I’m sure that’s just some strange function of memory.

    Apparently, yeah, a lot of manure is sprayed on fields and thus actually put to use, but in areas with lots of feedlots and dairy farms, it’s often overused, and the runoff even from the farms where manure is sprayed is the biggest source of pollution of US rivers. It causes problems with wells and other sources of drinking water, too.

  54. #55 JP
    February 23, 2015

    Gah, link fail. It works, though. This USDA page.

  55. #56 JP
    February 23, 2015

    ^ Or it doesn’t work. The second iteration does, though.

  56. #57 alison
    not quite as warm as where some think I should be
    February 23, 2015

    tangentially related to the topic of quackiness, but has anyone here heard this story before: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11407024
    It’s turned up in one of the larger NZ newspapers & is attracting the usual attention and alas! the editor of that section of the paper is not into investigative journalism, I’d like to respond but could use some expert advice!

    PS the sooner NZ becomes a republic, the better!

  57. #58 doug
    February 23, 2015

    Sorry hares, this year it’s going to be Mad as a March (meta)Monarch.

  58. #59 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    February 24, 2015

    Anecdotes are data, but barely useful data. I have an anecdote.

    An ex- cow-orker has a small hobby farm, and he raises a few beef critters and a coupla piglets. His cows eat grass most of the time, but come the harvest, for a few weeks prior, they eat corn. It seems that grass makes the fat yellow (and good beef has some fat). The reason for the corn is to turn the fat white.

    Yellow fat and white fat taste the same, but, well, us Americans find yellow fat off putting. So, while he sells some very good Angus beef that live most of their days in a very nice field, eating some very nice grass, making some very lovely steaks (some of which are in my freezer), by a lovely river, he does have to buy them a bit of corn.

  59. #60 Politicalguineapig
    February 24, 2015

    NZ skeptic: Are we sure the vaccines were real? It’s also possible that his PR team organized it and just put his name on it. Reminds me of the local Republican who’s currently attempting to get funding for repairs to some Ojibwe and Dakota schools- he could actually be sincere (5%), but the chances are his team is prodding him.

  60. #61 Narad
    February 24, 2015

    Most cattle do spend the first part of their lives at pasture, although I’m getting numbers that range from an average of 7-9 months at pasture to claims of 12-15 months. I have to say that the first figure seems more correct to me, just based on my limited experience with the small calf/cow operation we had when I was a kid.

    This has kind of been sorted through in the past (yes, I’m tired and punting on digging up the threads), but IIRC going from “Beef Magazine,” the main market distinction is between feeder calves and yearlings.

    Plain head counts would seem to need to be corrected for weight gain. (I think I’ve unearthed one paper that analyzed age-yield, but I’m really not going to try to search the comments for that one.)

  61. #62 DrBollocks
    February 24, 2015

    I hope the royal quack does become king eventually. I think his reign will provide a tremendous boost for republicanism*.

    *I’m not referring to the American political party.

  62. #63 Mike
    February 24, 2015

    Almost all beef cattle are born on cow/calf operations. These are almost entirely grass based. Beef calves are usually weaned around 7-9 months of age. At this point they are feeder calves are some are sent to feedlots and some are backgrounded. A typical feedlot diet will be corn silage (the entire corn plant so it is high in roughage) and soybean meal with vitamins and minerals. When light feeders are put in the feedlot, they will reach market conditions (certain backfat thickness) at a younger age.

    Backgrounded feeder calves are usually grazed on crop stubbles, wheat fields or pasture. They are sometimes supplemented with crop byproducts that are not used for human food. Examples include pulp from organge juice or beet bulp from sugar beat production or even things like cotton seeds or peanut hulls. But a big byproduct is distiller’s grain as a by-product of the ethanol and biofuels industry. These backgrounded feeder cattle are raised until 1000 pounds or so and may be 2 years of age. They are then sent to a feedlot where they are finished to a certain backfat thickness.

    Grass fed beef is a pretty small niche marker. I have worked with one farm that could get over 80% choice (a measure of intramuscular fat that is highly associated with palatability) in their grass fed animals. However, the US cow herd had a big change in genetics as government policy made corn cheap. We went from an Angus and Hereford based cowherd to a more exotic breed influence of cattle which mature later and grow bigger. These animals are much harder to finish on grass.

  63. #64 Murmur
    Searching for a guillotine
    February 24, 2015

    The Edzard Ernst affair isn’t the only example of Charlie misusing his position: The Guardian (a newspaper in our part of the world) has long been trying to have letters he writes to ministers, presumably to try to influence decision-making, made public.

    Then there is the influencing of planning decisions in London…And the special dispensation he gets, as Duke of Cornwall, to be allowed to challenge decisions which might affect any of his land…

    Please, dear American cousins, can you just keep this numpty when he visits?

  64. #65 DLC
    February 24, 2015

    You know, Charles deserves a bit of . . . sympathy ? for persevering even after fully knowing he is the man who will not be king. Further, from all reports, I’ve heard he’s a good chap, and not at all an upper class twit like you’d expect. Well, except for his rather dotty beliefs about “alt-med”. Um, and the fact that he’s an upper-class twit. Sorry, your highness, have to say it.

  65. #66 Scottynuke
    February 25, 2015

    So nice to see you, Lord Draconis!! *obsequious groveling*

    🙂

  66. #67 Julian Frost
    Gauteng East Rand
    March 1, 2015

    Speaking of homeopathy, I thought you’d all enjoy this.
    http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-8-worst-wastes-money-in-medicine/

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