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The Emperor’s New Clothes—An Epistemological Critique of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Acupuncture

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CIISA—Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Lisbon, 1300-477 Lisboa, Portugal
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Ordem dos Médicos Veterinários, Av. Filipe Folque, 10J, 4º Dto., 1050-113 Lisboa, Portugal
Animals 2019, 9(4), 168; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9040168
Received: 7 February 2019 / Revised: 27 March 2019 / Accepted: 11 April 2019 / Published: 15 April 2019
Complementary and alternative medicines have gained increased popularity in the veterinary field. Among them, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, including acupuncture, has emerged as one of the main alternatives to conventional veterinary medicine. This paper relies upon an epistemological approach to investigate conceptual, historical and scientific assertions about veterinary acupuncture made by their advocates. Argument by analogy is used to demonstrate that Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is based on pre-scientific principles, similar to those of humoral medicine and bloodletting, and that acupuncture is, in effect, a placebo. The paper concludes with recommendations for veterinary regulators and colleagues.
Within the last few decades, complementary and alternative medicines have gained increased popularity in the veterinary field. Although many authors have exposed the scientific fallacies and historical misconceptions used to justify such therapies, those efforts have not succeeded in detracting veterinary practitioners from embracing them. Notably, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), including acupuncture, has emerged as one of the main alternatives to conventional veterinary medicine. In this paper, analogical reasoning is used to investigate conceptual, historical and scientific assertions made by the advocates of TCVM. The paper is divided into two parts: The first aims to appraise conceptual and historical claims made by veterinary acupuncturists. I defend that TCVM is a pre-scientific construct, similar to humoral doctrine, and that acupuncture is analogous to bloodletting. The second part is focused on scientific evidence of clinical application of acupuncture in the dog, showing how science is yet to validate veterinary acupuncture and defending that claims of efficacy are due to placebo effect. It is suggested that veterinary acupuncture needs to abandon Traditional Chinese Medicine and embrace science-based medicine tout court. On the other hand, high quality scientific studies, including randomized controlled trials, need to be presented. Veterinary regulators must bring the issue of non-conventional therapies into their agendas. View Full-Text
Keywords: veterinary acupuncture; bloodletting; humoralism; placebo; Traditional Chinese Medicine; evidence-based medicine; Thomas Kuhn; history of science veterinary acupuncture; bloodletting; humoralism; placebo; Traditional Chinese Medicine; evidence-based medicine; Thomas Kuhn; history of science
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Magalhães-Sant’Ana, M. The Emperor’s New Clothes—An Epistemological Critique of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Acupuncture. Animals 2019, 9, 168.

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