Submission to Senate Pet 'Food' Inquiry
Aug 27, 2018 —
Regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of pet food
As a student at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London from 1967 to 1972 I began to feel uneasy about the arbitrariness of the veterinary endeavour. However, almost 20 years elapsed before I gained a solid understanding of the inconsistencies and irregularities of the veterinary culture that on the one hand is dedicated to the preservation of life and the prevention of suffering and on the other hand turning a blind eye to mass cruelty and suffering arising from the junk pet-food scourge.
When preparing my contribution to the 1991 Veterinarians and the Environment Conference, I researched and drew together the various strands of information. It became clear that the veterinary environmental footprint exists primarily as a result of global veterinary involvement with the artificial pet-food industry. Since 1991 I have continued researching the factors — scientific, clinical, regulatory, economic and political — as they affect the safety of pet food.
Reduced to its elements, the pet-food industry relentlessly promotes carnivore pet ownership not as modified wolves (dogs), modified desert predators (cats) and modified polecats (ferrets) with biologically defined nutritional imperatives, but as animated furry toys. The furry toys are to be fed furry toy formula — bearing no resemblance to the natural carnivore food/medicine. In the event that the ‘toys’ become sick, as they must surely do, then there’s a repair man/woman (vet) only too keen to provide treatment, but never prevention, for the litany of ailments directly or indirectly attributable to the junk food diet.
The veterinary profession, by various subtle and not so subtle means, has been co-opted to the junk pet-food companies’ cause. Vets are the primary beneficiaries of the pandemics of pet ill health. Vets are, for the most part, staunch promoters and defenders of the junk pet-food products and the companies that make them. Alongside the vets, the animal welfare groups manage the oversupply of pets and discarded pets. Since every additional pet mouth is worth around $15,000 to the processed pet-food industry, it’s small wonder that the companies pay hush money to the charities and the charities spout industry propaganda — whether in their vet clinics, gala events and submissions.
Insofar as new regulatory proposals are mooted I can comment, from bitter experience, about systematic regulatory failures as a result of junk pet-food company influence and control of the regulatory mechanisms. In 1994 Dr Barbara Fougere, Mars Corporation employee, brought a complaint against me in her private capacity that the NSW Board of Veterinary Surgeons attempted to keep confidential. So began serial harassment and the prosecution of pet-food company inspired complaints by the NSW Board of Veterinary Surgeons through its Veterinary Surgeons Investigating Committee (VSIC). Complaints to the VSIC cannot be publicly discussed under penalty of a $2,000 fine and/or a year in jail. Consequently, for the companies, using the government regulatory apparatus of the VSIC was an effective strategy for silencing dissent away from public gaze. Whilst the NSW Board was harassing me they were not, in keeping with all other Australian veterinary boards, investigating and dealing with allegations of widespread animal cruelty, over-servicing by vets, public safety and consumer fraud.
Since 1992 I have endeavoured, through correspondence and by standing in annual elections, to persuade the UK veterinary regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, to investigate and resolve the junk pet-food issue — entirely without success. Similarly in Australia, together with Dr Breck Muir, I attempted to influence the Australian Veterinary Association. The Association, closely allied with the pet-food industry, refused to listen and in 2004 convened a kangaroo court and terminated my membership.
Effectively, I suggest that the junk pet-food/vet/fake animal welfare alliance hides in plain sight whilst engaged in $multi-billion white collar criminal activity that inflicts immense harm on pets, pet owners and the wider community.
Matters of such magnitude are difficult to encapsulate in a submission. However, I believe that the 2001 book Raw Meaty Bones: Promotes Health provides a treatise on the interrelated aspects. The easy reader, Work Wonders: Feed your dog raw meaty bones provides simple solutions for pet owners attempting to free themselves from the oppression of pet-food company propaganda and a compromised veterinary profession.
From the outset processed pet food was a giant confidence trick perpetrated upon an unsuspecting populace. At the time of the American Civil War when quack medicine men refined the art of creative hyperbole, American entrepreneur Jack Spratt is credited with establishing the first industrial scale production of processed pet food. Spratt’s concoction of wheat, vegetables, beetroot and beef blood sold under the label ‘Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cake’. The young Charles Cruft, showman and marketeer, aided in the enterprise. Cruft hit on the idea of promoting pedigree dog shows as a means to promoting dog ownership and thus selling Dog Cake.
Spratt and Cruft became rich and influential. Crufts Dog Show and the pet keeping, pet feeding fantasy they created lives on ever stronger promoted by vast multinational corporations and their vet collaborators.
Australian uptake of the canned and packaged offerings lagged behind the USA and UK until 1966. That was the year young John Mars set up his factory in Albury Wodonga and his Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS), the public relations and marketing front established to convert the Australian public to Mars’s way of thinking. Targeting radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, vets and vet associations PIAS was hugely successful. (See PIAS and Dr Jonica Newby in Raw Meaty Bones.)
Nowadays paid pet-food ads flood the airwaves. Newspapers and magazines provide free advertorials and promotions for pet keeping and vet services. Dogs and cats are shown swallowing the 2018 version of Dog Cake. It’s all positive feedback, a reflective mirror, to those who have succumbed to the 150 years of cultural conditioning. For those who do not yet have a pet and do not yet visit the supermarket pet-food aisle, there’s the constant reminder that they too can have the canine, feline status symbols when the opportunity presents.
The fantasy that modified wolves and desert cats, unlike their wild and feral counterparts, are somehow better suited to feeding out of the can or packet has spawned an enormous research and marketing drive.
Inevitably, with an industry founded on fallacy, things must go wrong.
In 2007, following the contamination of junk pet food with the chemical melamine, thousands of dogs died. This was a case of confidence trickery piled on confidence trickery. Dogs and cats are carnivores evolved to consume a high protein diet. Pet-food manufacturers augment their products with wheat gluten. Gluten, rich in plant protein, allows the manufacturers to claim a higher protein content for their products. Unfortunately the cheaper inferior plant protein, as opposed to meat protein, is not as biologically available to the unfortunate dogs and cats forced to consume the product.
Since testing for protein is not so straightforward, testing for nitrogen content is more commonly employed. Chinese suppliers of wheat gluten reinforced their shipments with melamine and thereby increased the nitrogen, and thus the presumed protein, test score. Unfortunately melamine adulterated ‘food’ also increased the toxicity of the junk food.
2007 was the year the media took a closer look at the artificial pet-food industry. The September 2007 New York Times exposé provides essential insights into the attitudes and values of the junk pet-food industry and the vet collaborators:
Dogs can get along just fine on a daily ration of corn and soybeans. “That’s about the cheapest diet you could put together,” Fahey said, and it provides all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and carbohydrates a dog needs. But it wouldn’t sell to broad segments of the modern market.
So much for the industry claims of ‘complete and balanced’ nutrition touted by the manufacturers, vets and fake welfare groups as superior fare. The grim reality is least-cost formulations designed to trick pets’ digestive systems and least-cost formulations acceptable in the family home.
Now, in 2018, millions of Australians have bought the fantasy that dogs — even those that look like wolves, for instance police dogs — should be fed from the junk food sack. When nine Victorian police dogs succumbed to a rare disease, megaesophagus, believed to be attributable to the Mars Corporation, Advance Dermocare dry kibble there was an outpouring of indignation followed by calls for more and better regulation. There was and is no outcry about the vets prescribing the unsuitable, unsafe products in the first place. There was and is no outcry against the endless list of junk food induced diseases that claim the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pets every day.
Calculating niche marketers have noticed. They have discovered the simple truth that by stopping the feeding of industrial pet food, animals show a remarkable turnaround in health and vitality. Attributing the observed improvements to their minced meat, fruit and supplement concoctions a slew of ‘nutritionist’, ‘BARF’ and ‘prey-model’ proponents ramp up their marketing efforts. They boast that their wares contain ground bone and thus shield the sensibilities of their customers from the imagined horrors of raw meaty bones consumption. The pets, however, are thus denied the strongest, safest, most gentle, most effective medicine for all domestic carnivores.
In the UK the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society provides cover. The Society President declares that ‘dogs are omnivores’ and that:
If you find preparing fruit and veg a bit of a pain, then please note that those nice people at AMP have thought of this and done all the dirty work for you. Nature's Menu Frozen Range offers a choice of diets where raw meat and veg have been mixed and frozen for you. They are ideal for those too busy to do the whole BARF diet or for those who can, but find holidays and trips difficult.
Closer to home, the Australian veterinary schools are enthusiastic proponents of the large-scale industrial offerings. They collaborate with the multi-national junk pet-food makers, brainwash vet students with junk food propaganda, but fiercely resist examination of their secret deals. Although, by administrative mistake, one such deal was leaked. In Sydney, my attempts at alerting Dame Marie Bashir, Chancellor of the University and the other 22 members of the University of Sydney Senate regarding the junk food scandal affecting their university foundered in the Vice Chancellor’s office. On 21 July 2010 I delivered a box of individually addressed packages to the Vice Chancellor’s office. Rather than provide the packages to the Senate Members as addressed, the Vice Chancellor’s office intercepted and disposed of the books and documents.
In the 150 years since Jack Spratt and Charles Cruft’s early imaginings, Dog Cake and the investments in pets have come a long way. As recently as 19 July 2018, Sydney’s Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) recommended that the owners of Dozer a 4 month old terrier spend $6,455 for a battery of further tests. Meanwhile, wrote the specialist vet, ‘I recommend a high quality commercial diet such as Hills or Royal Canin. Dozer should not be fed raw food for the rest of his life.’
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