Monthly Archives: September 2014

Why Do Animal Abusers Hate The HSUS?

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humanewatchWritten by:  John Doppler Schiff and reprinted with permission

The HSUS is under attack by animal abusing industries. These industries claim the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States)  is inefficient, ineffective, and incompetent.

But if this was true, why would animal abusers spend tens of millions of dollars annually on dishonest smear campaigns to attack the HSUS?  If the HSUS was truly ineffective, wouldn’t animal abusers be perfectly happy to have such an incompetent opponent?

The truth is that the HSUS is the nation’s largest and most effective animal welfare organization, with a staggeringly long list of accomplishments — and animal abusers are terrified of what they’ve accomplished on behalf of the animals.

Here’s a small, incomplete sampling of what the HSUS does:

 

  • HSUS donated $3000 to the first non-lethal deer population management program in Virginia.
  • HSUS played a pivotal role in securing the defunding of horse slaughter for 2014.
  • HSUS exposed Kenneth Schroeder, a “random source” dealer selling dogs to laboratories for cruel experiements.  Schroeder’s license was subsequently revoked by the USDA.
  • Two endangered tortoises were rescued and rehomed by the HSUS.
  • Cheesecake Factory commenced the phase-out of gestation crates from its suppliers.
  • Humane Society of Charlotte and the HSUS teamed up to rescue 23 dogs from a North Carolina puppy mill.
  • Glee star Lea Michele and the HSUS ask NY legislature to regulate puppy mills more aggressively.  In January of 2014, Gov. Cuomo signs the bill into law.
  • An HSUS investigation exposed 116 Horse Protection Act citations assessed against the board of Tennessee’s Walking Horse Trainers Association.
  • HSUS filed a formal complaint with the USDA demanding enforcement action against more than 50 commercial dog breeders operating illegally.
  • Aubrey Organics joined the HSUS’ Be Cruelty Free campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics.
  • Safeway pledged to eliminate gestation crates from its supply chain.
  • HSUS launched a successful PSA campaign urging citizens to report animal abuse.
  • HSUS provided the USDA with evidence of AWA violations by a research facility in Georgia, culminating in a $26,000 fine.
  • HSUS investigation exposed disease, neglect, and cruelty at unregulated flea markets.
  • Business Ethics Network bestowed two awards on the HSUS for its campaign to reform factory farm cruelty.
  • HSUS successfully presented testimony to prevent the return of a puppy to the pet store owner who abused him.
  • HSUS’ Duchess Sanctuary completed construction on a new hospital barn.
  • HSUS reports exposed inhumane and unsafe conditions in three Maryland roadside zoos exhibiting dangerous exotic animals.
  • Binghamton University joined the Meatless Monday campaign, with great success.
  • HSUS warned consumers about falsely labeled “faux fur” garments containing rabbit fur, sold at Kohl’s.
  • Infamous Chino slaughterhouse and Westland Meat Packing Co. slapped with $155,684,827.00 judgment — the largest animal cruelty penalty ever assessed — following HSUS investigation that revealed abuse of downer cattle at the facility.
  • 40 dogs and 75 cats, miniature ponies, rabbits, and chickens rescued from NC pet mill.
  • HSUS and Red Barn launch a leash and collar drive for pet owners in underserved communities.
  • HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue filed suits to block horse slaughter plants from opening.
  • 31 dogs seized from dogfighting operations in Alabama thanks to a joint effort between law enforcement, HSUS, and local humane societies.
  • Cracker Barrel shareholders voted to support the HSUS proposal to eliminate gestation crates from the company’s supply chain.
  • Papa John’s pledged to eliminate gestation crates from its supply chain.
  • Prop 204 passed in Arizona, eliminating veal and gestation crates.
  • Prop 2 passed in CA, ensuring that poultry will not suffer in cages smaller than a sheet of letter sized paper their entire lives.
  • 200 pit bulls rescued from the largest recorded dog fighting ring.
  • 43 horses rescued from neglect in Lindale, TX.
  • $600,000 grant from HSUS used to build a shelter in Jackson, LA.
  • Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010 recriminalized crush videos.
  • 5,700 fighting dogs and roosters rescued from animal fighting rings in 2009.
  • Over forty emergency deployments for large-scale rescue of animals in 2009.
  • More than 10,000 animals rescued in emergency deployments in 2009.
  • 1800 tortoises saved from being buried alive in Florida construction.
  • 1.8 million cows in California will NOT have their tails cruelly amputated without anesthetic this year thanks to the HSUS.bullshit
  • 3,000+ puppies rescued from mass breeding facilities in 2009.
  • 461 more pet stores agree to not sell puppy mill dogs in 2009.
  • 50th reward paid for information leading to the arrest of animal fighting rings in 2009.
  • 14 laws to protect wildlife passed in 2009.
  • Cockfighting now illegal in all 50 states.
  • 150+ retailers and fashion designers have agreed to go fur-free.
  • Criminal abuse of cows at Conklin Dairy exposed and stopped.
  • Chino slaughterhouse putting dying “downer” cattle into schools’ food supply, exposed and stopped.
  • 8,057 animals treated for free in under-served areas in 2009.
  • 4,300 homeowners advised on the humane removal of wildlife in 2009.
  • 23,000+ low-cost spay and neuter surgeries in the Gulf Coast in 2009.
  • 120 cats rescued from a hoarder in Tennessee in 2010.
  • 40,000+ pets spayed and a quarter million dollars raised for spay/neuter programs during Spay Day 2009.
  • 90 dogs rescued from a New Jersey puppy mill in 2010.
  • 89 state laws protecting pets passed in 2009.
  • HSUS sends relief personnel to Haiti for disaster assistance in 2009.
  • 1300 animals have found refuge in HSUS’ Black Beauty Ranch.
  • Maine phasing out cruel intensive confinement systems.
  • Michigan phasing out cruel intensive confinement systems.
  • 49 starving horses rescued in West Virginia in 2010.
  • 8,320 animals treated by HSUS veterinarians in 2010.
  • Kraft switched one million eggs to cage-free.
  • Hellman’s adopted cage-free eggs.
  • Subway phasing in cage-free eggs.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines phasing in cage-free eggs.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines phasing in cage-free eggs.
  • Ohio’s agriculture industry agreed to phase out veal crates and gestation crates by 2015.
  • HSUS transported 100+ dogs from overwhelmed Gulf Coast shelters to NJ and DC.
  • HSUS holds Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales accountable for mislabeling fur garments.
  • 2000 pet rats rescued from a hoarder in Southern California.
  • Truth in Fur Labeling Act signed into law.
  • HSUS information leads to seizure of 100 roosters from a cockfight ring in Dallas, TX.
  • Undercover video reveals horrific conditions at Smithfield Farms.
  • HSUS distributes 30+ grants to equine rescues as part of American Competitive Trail Horse Association’s fundraiser.
  • HSUS exposes Neiman Marcus sale of dog fur labeled as “raccoon”.
  • D.C. Superior Court rules that Neiman Marcus violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Act by falsely labeling fur garments.
  • Pepsi fans overwhelmingly vote to award HSUS a $250,000 grant to provide veterinary assistance to animals in underserved communities.
  • After years of friction, the USDA agrees to appoint an ombudsman and improve oversight of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • 1,000th pet store joins HSUS’ Puppy Friendly Pet Store campaign, agreeing not to sell puppies.
  • HSUS exposes sale of dog fur labeled as “fake fur” at Barney’s, in NY.
  • Shark Conservation Act signed into law, prohibiting fishermen from cutting the fins off sharks and throwing them back into the water to die horribly.
  • Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman adopts cage-free egg policy.
  • Federal Court of Appeals upholds an HSUS request to stop the slaughter of sea lions at Bonneville Dam on the Oregon/Washington border.
  • HSUS exposes inhumane conditions at Willmar Poultry Company, the nation’s largest turkey hatchery.
  • HSUS and Multnomah County Animal Services provide 40 animal crates to the American Red Cross’ Emergency Warming Center in Portland, OR.
  • HSUS rescues 2500 rats as part of a hoarder intervention in San Jose, CA.  The rescue was featured on Season Three of A&E’s documentary, “Hoarders”.
  • On behalf of the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, HSUS coordinates a national symposium on modernizing the testing of chemicals in laboratories and reducing the role of animal testing.
  • HSUS town hall in Lincoln, NE opens meaningful discussion of agricultural issues with Nebraska farmers.
  • Wheaton, IL adopts non-lethal coyote deterrents instead of trapping and killing.
  • HSUS investigation of Bushway Packing leads to conviction on charges of animal cruelty.
  • 550 prairie dogs resettled, rescued from poisoning in Thunder Basin, WY.
  • 14 turkeys find sanctuary at HSUS’ Black Beauty Ranch in TX.
  • BermansVerminPhotographer Robbie Bellon photographs 25 adopted and rescued dogs of 25 celebrities to benefit the HSUS’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.
  • St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, WI switches to cage-free eggs.
  • HSUS and the Kislak Family Fund present a $25,000 grant to the Florida College of Veterinary Medicine for a program to benefit injured and ill shelter animals.
  • HSUS and Ellen Degeneres celebrate and raise awareness of shelters with the annual Shelter Appreciation Week, held the first week of each November.
  • HSUS’ Cape Wildlife Center expands with the addition of a new animal hospital for wildlife rehabilitation.
  • Prop 109, an anti-animal, anti-voter initiative, is defeated in Arizona.
  • Fred Meyer Jewelers creates the Pawsitively Yours line of jewelry to benefit the HSUS’ Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.
  • HSUS grants help Second Chance Animal Shelter of Brookfield, MA finish renovations after thieves steal building materials.
  • HSUS’ Cape Wildlife Center releases a harrier back into the wild after 8 weeks of care and rehabilitation.
  • The Coats for Cubs program repurposes old fur coats to aid and comfort wildlife.
  • Wal-Mart’s private label eggs are now cage-free.
  • HSUS helps persuade Sara Lee to switch to cage-free eggs.
  • Orphaned raccoons raised and rehabilitated by HSUS’ Cape Wildlife Center are released into the wild.
  • Medford, OR bakery, Harry & David, joins the growing cage-free movement.
  • Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust establishes the Greenspring Wildlife Sanctuary, a permanent,  protected, 154-acre wildlife habitat in Ashland, OR.
  • Minnesota cat killer’s felony conviction on animal cruelty is upheld in State of Minnesota v. Ajalon Thomas Corcoran.
  • Virgin America airlines switch to cage-free eggs.
  • HSUS exposes the worst puppy mills in the “Missouri Dirty Dozen” report.
  • HSUS teams up with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, donating forensic investigation equipment to crack down on poaching.
  • Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, NJ joins the national cage-free egg movement.
  • Union Hospital of Cecil County, MD joins the national cage-free egg movement.
  • St. Paul’s School of Concord, NH joins the national cage-free egg movement.
  • Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust establishes a 30-acre permanent wildlife habitat, the Ogden Wildlife Sanctuary, in Leon County, TX.
  • Pennsylvania joins the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a nationwide law enforcement network of 36 states to prevent criminal poachers from hunting in other states.
  • Pennsylvania signs HSUS-supported HB1859 into law, introducing felony penalties for poachers who are repeat offenders.
  • HSUS transports 10 pit bulls rescued from Ohio fighting rings to the Washington Animal Rescue League.
  • Barilla becomes the first pasta manufacturer to join the cage-free egg movement, switching 45% of its supply to cage-free in 2011.
  • HSUS investigates and exposes bear baiting in South Carolina, the only state to tolerate this cruelty.
  • Thanks to the efforts of HSUS, Animal Protection of New Mexico, Jane Goodall, Gov. Bill Richardson, and more, 186 chimpanzees were saved from further invasive medical testing in New Mexico.
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission votes unanimously to ban fox penning.
  • HSUS rescued more than 90 dogs from a Montana hoarder.
  • HSUS assisted in the rescue of 118 dogs from a breeder in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
  • On behalf of local residents, HSUS took legal action against the Olivera Egg Ranch for noxious pollution emanating from that factory farm.
  • HSUS and Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue took custody of 17 horses formerly destined for slaughter.
  • HSVMA launched a petition urging Congress to phase out the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
  • Loyola Marymount University switched all eggs on campus to cage-free eggs
  • 36 Pet Food Express stores took the “Puppy Friendly Pet Store” pledge.
  • HSUS rescues 170 cats rescued from hoarders in Powell, WY; no reimbursement is requested for the capture, processing, treatment, and transport of the cats.

And that’s just a drop in the bucket.

Don’t fall for misinformation from the ignorant and the cruel.  

Get the facts from a reputable source.

cheering_minions

 

Vegan Pets: An Unscientific Dogma?

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Cat looks intently at goldfishWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

When meat-eaters ask vegetarians or vegans how we get our protein or nourish ourselves without meat, we can confidently refer them to the Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada on Vegetarian Diets“Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

But pet cats and dogs share a common ancestry and belong to the order Carnivora. The very definition of a carnivore is an animal that consumes a diet consisting wholly or almost exclusively of meat. Carnivora includes domestic cats and dogs, ferrets, lions, raccoons and even the giant panda, which is herbivorous. Carnivores are well-suited to a hunting lifestyle. Most members of Carnivora are superb hunters possessing sharp teeth and eyesight, a well-developed sense of smell, and sharp claws. Dogs differ from cats in that they are not strict (obligate) carnivores but are more omnivorous. One of the most complete studies of the daily nutrient requirements for dogs and cats currently available is the 424-page Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. When considering whether to feed a cat or dog a vegan diet, that reference is especially useful. It acknowledges that there is far greater latitude in ingredient selection for dog foods and quite feasible that they contain no animal products. However, the same is not true for cats, since strict vegan diets, when fed alone, are not nutritionally adequate even though it’s possible that cats will find them palatable. All commercial dog and cat foods should also adhere to the AFFCO nutrient profiles for cats and dogs.Prey drive

Vegans and vegetarians naturally want to refrain from contributing to animal cruelty by feeding pets meat-based diets. But the pet food industry exists as a by-product of the meat industry itself, and that industry shows no signs of discontinuation. Some people feel that the term “by-product” used as an ingredient in pet foods means that it is of low value or garbage that is not fit for human consumption. It is true that much of the content of pet foods comes from the “4-D Animals” – downers, the dead, the diseased, and dying animals. Pet foods also contain less palatable parts of animals that people do not want to eat. This includes some organ meats, intestines, lungs stomachs, legs, limbs, and sinewy parts etc. What makes “human grade meat” is in large part a culturally based aesthetic rather than anything practical. In other words, we choose not to eat many perfectly edible organ meats or other body parts simply because they gross us out.

Mystery meat close-up shotAs repugnant as we may find all these things, the reality is that cats, dogs, and ferrets can handle greater microbe burdens in their food, most of which is killed by the cooking process. In any case, carnivores or scavenging carnivores (like dogs) would all eat these same body parts in the wild, but probably in less hygienic conditions than those found in a cooked food.

So the question to feed vegan diets to cats, dogs, and ferrets really becomes an ethical concern. We want to have carnivores as pets, so should those carnivores be compelled to eat a diet without animal products even though making one that is nutritionally appropriate is difficult, and some of them may have to subsist on an inadequate diet? We domesticated them, invited them into our homes, and are now faced with the decision – are we trading one kind of animal welfare for another?

Observations About Dogs, Cats, and Other Carnivores In General

Domestic dogs (canis lupus familiaris) diverged from wolves (canus lupus)about 100,000 years ago. Their diets are predominantly meat, but they will eat non-meat foods such as vegetables and fruits. They do however, have some issues breaking down carbohydrates and cellulose in their guts.

Neither dogs, cats, nor ferrets produce amylase in their saliva, which starts the break-down process for carbohydrates and starches. Amylase is something that omnivores and herbivores produce, but not carnivorous animals. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to cope with the cellulose and carbs in the plant material. The carnivore’s pancreas does not secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose moleculFerret dentitiones, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting, assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore.   They have impressive, sharp teeth designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing or shearing meat – all adaptations for a prey-based diet. They do not have large flat molars for grinding up plant material. They have a short gut and smooth colon, which means that food passes through quickly. Plant matter though, needs time to sit and ferment, which translates to having a longer colon, as humans possess.

The carnivorous nature of the cats’ (felus catus) diet has lead to very specific metabolic differences that show up in their nutrient requirements. These differences make cats (and ferrets) “obligate” carnivores, meaning that they rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements and that some level of animal meat is required in their diet for survival. Specific nutritional idiosyncrasies of the cat includes increased protein requirements, as well as the inclusion of arginine, B12, vitamin A, methionine, lysine, taurine, carnitine, choline, and arachidonic acid. Taurine, arginine, arachidonic acid, along with vitamin A and other nutrients, are all found in animal meat and are either completely absent or found at much lower levels in plant material. The reality is that while dogs can utilize plant material and eat vegan diets, neither dogs,  cats,  nor ferrets bodies are designed to eat only plants as are herbivores.

Studies and Articles on Vegan Pet Foods

There aren’t a lot of studies on the long term health effects or appropriateness of vegan foods for pets. There are no long term studies that I could find (10+ years or the life of the pet). Therefore, feeding pets vegan diets amounts to in-home animal testing.  There are however,  shorter term studies and articles available,  authored by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists:

  • Veterinarian Lorelei Wakefield’s peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association “Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers,” found that taurine levels were low in all the cats, but not critcally so. Dr. Wakefield is a vegan who owns a cat who eats meat-based prescription food.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says: “The nutritional needs of dogs and cats are very different. Dogs are omnivores and can do well on either meat-containPrey drive 2ing or vegetarian diets, while cats are strict carnivores with very precise nutritional needs.”
  • The US National Research Council released dietary guidelines for Cats and Dogs in 2003 “Cats are descended from carnivores, and their gastrointestinal system is well-suited to digesting and absorbing nutrients from animal-based proteins and fats. They should not be fed a vegetarian diet because it could result in harmful deficiencies of certain amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins.. Although dogs may prefer animal-based food, they can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as it contains sufficient protein and other nutrients..”
  • Vegan vet Armaiti May advises having a vet monitor your cat’s urine pH, rather than doing it yourself.
    Animal Voices (Toronto) covered this topic in 2006 with a round table discussion, involving two local activists whose cats fell seriously ill on a vegan diet
  • Gray, et. al., published in JAVMA (Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association)Nutritional Adequacy of Two Vegan Diets for Cats. The study showed two commercially available vegetarian cat foods (Vegecat KibbleMix and Evolution canned diet for adult cats) to be deficient in several key nutrients.
  • Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Julie Churchill says a vegan diet can eventually cause eye lesions and heart valve problems in cats.
  • One survey conducted by PETA found that 82 percent of dogs that had been vegan for five years or more were in good to excellent health and that the longer a dog remained on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the greater the likelihood that the dog would have overall good to excellent health. The study, however, also found that vegetarian dogs may be more prone to urinary tract infections as well as a form of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by a deficiency of the amino acids L-carnitine or taurine.
  • Cats tend to form struvite crystals and stones if their urine pH is too low as a result of lower than required protein.  Urinary blockage risk is increased.  Male cats are especially at risk due to having a narrow urethra.

Dinner is servedFrom these studies I can see that vegan food for pets must be supplemented, which begs the question – how natural can it possibly be? The logic behind claiming that an obligate carnivore like a cat or ferret is healthiest if fed a vegan diet seems rather indefensible to me. And it’s certainly not without some degree or risk for dogs either. While a manufacturer’s statement that thousands of healthy and long-living animals are on their diets is interesting, additional information is needed to support the diets’ nutritional adequacy.

Highly Questionable Claims by Vegan Pet Food Manufacturers

Unfortunately, some pet owners seem to be endorsing what former chiropractor and Evolution Diet pet food CEO Eric Weisman regurgitates about vegan cats. He is often touted as an expert in nutrition even though he was not, as far as I could determine, a medical doctor or veterinarian of any sort. Some of his more outrageous claims about vegan foods and pets are found variously on the internet, where he is prone to making many unsubstantiated claims, including the following (in reference to the Evolution diet):

  • “Dogs Live to be 21”
  • “Cars live to be 22”
  • “Ferrets live to be 13 ½”
  • “Evolution Pet Food reverses late stage cancer in dogs and cats, even in those near death.”
  • “Vegan diets reverse organ failure”
  • “We are observing up to a 40% increase in life expectancy with Dogs and Cats in Human Family Homes.”
  • “Wild animals are ground up in pet food”
  • “…treats joint, vascular, autoimmune diseases, liver – kidney disorders, cancers, and other internal diseases in sick animals”
  • “Meat, poultry, and fish contain radioactive ingredients”
  • “Evolution pet food will clear any opacities from a cat’s corneas”
  • “Cats are kinder and more loving on a vegan diet” (I suspect that a cat with a conscience would probably not be a cat)

Weisman’s biography describes him as a “former human physician” and a physician in private practice. Instead, he appears to have been a Dr. of Chiropractic, which is not a medical doctor. Along with his education at Ryerson, University of Wheres the beefToronto, and McMaster, he cites 2 Diplomas including a “Doctorate in post-graduate Health Sciences” at what is now Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota. I have no idea how a diploma is also a doctorate. Northwestern Health Sciences U is a chiropractic and massage therapy school. According to news reports, he faced 58 charges, including practicing human and veterinary medicine without a license and animal cruelty and plead out to some of those charges.

Weisman has made this food for approximately 2 decades but hasn’t yet published any proof of his claims. By Weisman’s account, there is no “national test data” either.  I could not locate any veterinarian testimonials on any of his sites. Of course, any “studies” Mr. Weisman refers to don’t actually exist, or are simply anecdotal comments from purchasers of his pet food. Where he ran in to trouble with the chiropractic board is when he started reviewing his client’s pets blood chemistries, analysis upon which he’s not qualified to render any opinion. The chiropractic board was hearing complaints that Weisman was keeping his pets in the office, and sometimes did his chiropractic treatments covered in animal hair and without washing his hands. Further compounding his problems with the board, Weisman’s website began offering $50 packages to treat cancer, kidney failure, and dementia, not including the price of up to $275 worth of vitamins and supplements. For $100, pet owners could buy a “Heart Disease Emergency Treatment Plan” that included a 24-hour emergency pager number for Weisman. For one client, Weisman recommended a dog receive caffeine enemas for lymphoma.

Ferret instinctListening to the various podcasts he appears in, he does give a lot of veterinary advice even after being reprimanded for doing exactly that. His soundbites are filed with “woo” from start to finish. On his own site – www.weismannutrition.com, he still claims he is a Dr. of Health Sciences. He cites such terminology as “The World’s Most Advanced Nutrient-Metabolite Procedures for Cancers, Organ Failure, and Systemic Infectious Diseases.”  Seriously? What’s a “nutrient-metabolite procedure” and how does it cure or treat infectious diseases?  Weisman can’t seen to stop practicing medicine without a license.

In a very revealing and highly entertaining exchange, Eric Weisman runs up against a vegan interviewer with a PhD in Biochemistry, who also isn’t sure what a “nutrient-metabolite procedure” is either,  and isn’t afraid to ask him hard questions about his convictions or his claims about his pet food. Weisman doesn’t respond to the really difficult questions, and sends the interviewer, Ian McDonald,  a vegan himself,  a nastygram after claiming that he is merely a misunderstood visionary, which is an oft-repeated claim by people selling quackery.

In addition to all the above, in 2003 a recall of Go! Natural pet food was conducted due to a number of cases of acute liver failure associated with the food. The underlying cause was never found, but the company manufacturing the food continues to tout it as healthier based on claims about “good” and “bad” ingredients very similar to those made on the Evolution Diet site. Simply claiming something is healthy and natural provides no assurance that it is safe or healthy.

Vegan pet food promoters often sell their food with fear, vague or even fantastical claims. It is the most egregious kind of unfounded fear mongering with no evidence provided to support it.

Even without the unsupportable claims, it’s hard to justify feeding vegan foods to these animals as a mainstay diet. Since I eat mostly vegan, it’s an understatement for me to say that I don’t care for industrial meat production. However, I find inner fishit almost as offensive when any food is marketed by misrepresentation. Since Weisman has made a career out of embellishing the benefits of his food and violating the law, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a properly balanced commercial meat-based food is a worse alternative than what is being promoted.

In one of the MP3s featuring Weisman, he suggests with-holding food from cats if they don’t want to go vegan. Refraining from feeding cats anything else to eat other than their products in order to force them to eat vegan is cruel, IMO. I can’t personally comprehend how we can stop animal cruelty by feeding a carnivore plant matter – we’re really only substituting one form of cruelty for another by imposing our own ethical principles on a species dependent upon us for their welfare.

Even if we can justify feeding dogs an entirely vegan diet, why would we necessarily want to since it cannot be said that vegetable matter is natural for them. And it isn’t clear yet whether a nutritionally adequate vegan food can be made for cats. It may be possible, but there are reasons to doubt it and there is no evidence that cats can be healthy for long periods of time on such a diet. It amounts to deciding which of your conflicting ethical principles take precedence. Do you do more harm supporting the meat industry or take a chance with an animal companion’s health? It seems to me the most ethically straightforward option for vegans is to choose herbivorous or omnivorous pets.

cat looking at goldfish

Half-Baked – BARF Diets For Dogs And Cats

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Wolf KillWritten by Heather Clemenceau

The provision of food to our pets is an expression of affection and a symbol of the duty of care we owe to them. One thing I’ve learned from interactions on forums and Facebook groups is that you cannot ever underestimate the relationship between pets and their people. Kids, sure. But pets? Just don’t go down that path. People often react fiercely (and illogically) when it comes to discussing food for their pets. At one time, the majority of dogs and cats were fed commercially prepared foods without question. However, some pet owners have moved away from feeding commercial pet food products exclusively and more are asking questions and looking for alternatives. The 2007 pet food recall due to melamine contamination brought the issue of pet food safety to the forefront. As in any market-driven economy, there are many more alternative diets and food products available, but the dietary appropriateness, adequacy, and safety may be in question with alternative diets, especially those consisting primarily of raw meat.

BARF stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet. It’s also occasionally referred to as RMBD (raw meat based diet). These diets usually include uncooked ingredients derived from domesticated or wild-caught food animal species and that are fed to dogs or cats. These ingredients can include skeletal muscles, internal organs, and bones from mammals, fish, or poultry as well as uncooked eggs. The vast majority of pet foods are by-products of the human food industry.

Dogs Are Not Wolves

Adherents of BARF tell us that raw meat is an appropriate diet to feed our dogs because dogs are essentially wolves. Raw meat and bones are the major part of a wolf’s diet, along with offal such as organs, eggs, decaying material, birds with feathers – whatever they eat is obviously going to be raw. They may eat vegetables or foods left behind by humans if they are particularly hungry, but for the most part, the vegetables they consume come from the guts of the prey animals they eat. Taxonomically and phylogenetically, dogs, like wolves, are carnivores and they all belong to the order Carnivora, aptly named since most members are primarily meat consumers. Functionally however, dogs are scavenging carnivores, not obligate carnivores, and they can usually adapt quite easily to an omnivorous diet regardless of their taxonomic classification. Therefore, we could say that the concept of “evolutionary nutrition” ignores the simple fact that taxonomy and phylogeny are not necessarily destiny, nor do they predict the precise details of a species’ nutritional needs. A good example of this exception is with the giant panda, who, while possessing the same digestive system of a carnivore, is almost completely herbivorous.

The domestic dog is the most phenotypically diverse mammal on earth. Domestic dogs branched off from their wolf ancestor approximately 100,000 years ago, and artificial selection has shaped modern breeds and has been an important dog and bonesource of the extreme phenotypic variation present in modern-day dogs. Since then numerous anatomic and behavioural changes that have occurred as a result of dogs living with humans and sharing our food. In contrast, the modern wolf has not been exposed to 100,000 years of eating alongside humans, and therefore its nutritional needs were not altered in the same manner as dogs. To expect these different species to have the same nutritional needs is simply not substantiated via biology.

Domestic dogs exhibit many features of neoteny, which has occurred as a result of humans selecting dogs for “cute” characteristics such as large eyes, soft hair, rounder heads, smaller teeth, and floppy rather than upright ears. So their refined anatomical structures are significantly different from wolves. Of course, even if BARF advocates could demonstrate that dogs were the modern day equivalent to wolves in terms of diet, the evolutionary nutrition argument would still fail because at its heart it is nothing but a form of the naturalistic fallacy. It’s a fallacy that just because wolves get their nutrition from carcasses that raw meat is the appropriate source of food for domesticated dogs – “natural” cannot necessarily be equated with “optimal.”

Unsubstantiated Claims….

BARF advocates claim that dogs have better health and less disease on these diets. Claims are even made that bones boost the immune system. Proponents of raw meat diets also claim that other benefits consist of improvement in coat and skin; elimination of breath and fecal odour; improvement in energy, behaviour, and a reduction in medical conditions including allergies, arthritis, pancreatitis, dental disease, and oddly enough, parasitism. Once again, anecdotes are not evidence, and these claimed health benefits have not undergone scientific evaluation. Dr. Mark Crislip, an infectious disease specialist with a very listenable podcast on iTunes, repeatedly reminds his listeners that the phrase “in my experience” is a dangerous expression!

dogbreedtree1Sometimes the commercial pet food industry is demonized in the same way that the Complementary Alternative Medicine industry (CAM) attacks Big Pharma. CAM veterinarians frequently attack traditional veterinary medicine with often irrational and unfounded criticisms. In addition to suggesting that conventional medicine is misguided and ineffective, CAM practitioners frequently assert that it is actively harmful, particularly vaccines and medicines. The same arguments and logical fallacies are often used to promote alternative feeding methods. For instance, homeopathic veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn, who claims medicine is “unscientific,” and is obsessed with “toxins,” describes a mystical “life energy” that dogs cannot, in his opinion, get from processed food. Why is it that so many followers of homeopathy claim to be able to detect “life energy” that other people cannot? And I wonder if Pitcairn eats all his food raw as well? Dr. Pitcairn also claims that euthanized cats and dogs are routinely disposed of by veterinary hospitals to be recycled into pet food. This simply isn’t true. Veterinarian Dr. Dan Scott claims that commercial pet foods are responsible for the majority of pet diseases. So where is the proof? Where is the evidence of widespread disease that can be attributed to commercial pet food? Scott doesn’t seem to provide any but his followers are expected to take him at his word. There is no evidence that manufactured pet foods cause disease (obviously this precludes foods made in China, which have caused the death of thousands of pets). Dr. Tom Lonsdale (who was kicked out of the Australian Veterinary Association) claims that fake animal rights activists conspire with veterinarians and the commercial food industry to keep pet owners in the dark about “junk food” for pets.

Benefits Vs. Risks

There is some evidence that raw diets afforded higher levels of protein for certain species of exotic and domesticated animals, but that this is offset by other specific risks. Furthermore, nutrients that are lost during the cooking process for manufactured pet foods are supplemented to account for this.

The FDA has warned against feeding bones to dogs, as they can cause fractured teeth, intestinal perforations leading to peritonitis, and obstipation/impactions in the GI dog swalowling bonetract. Dogs can die without veterinary intervention if they cannot pass an obstruction without help. And if a dog fractures a tooth, it is likely to be a “chewing tooth” such as a large molar and not a small pre-molar. Softer bones are also great for lodging themselves in the narrow spaces between teeth and becoming food for anaerobic bacteria, thus generating periodontal disease. Cats can also choke on bones,  particularly chicken bones.

There is mounting evidence of other potential harm as a result of BARF feeding. Renal failure is a common cause of death in older dogs and cats – protein is poorly metabolized by dogs with kidney failure. Most veterinary hospitals are unable to detect kidney failure until it is quite advanced, and in any case it is irreversible. Proponents of raw diets seem to ignore this common cause of death in older pets. Commercial pet foods are available for animals with renal failure or allergies to certain proteins.

We cook meat for a reason and most of us know that we have to take precautions when handling it. While dogs and cats can usually handle a larger burden of microbes in their food than humans, BARF feeders have no way of knowing whether their pets are acquiring parasites or infectious disease. The digestive systems of dogs and cats are short, acidic, and handle bacteria well. This is why they are not susceptible to Salmonella, parasites, or E.coli from tainted meat as humans are. Humans have very long digestive tracks which allow food to linger for 24 hours or more, thus allowing more time for parasites to get into their bloodstreams. The majority of dogs and cats with E.coli or Salmonella organisms may not even exhibit symptoms.

Dogs and cats will periodically shed parasites and this is a risk to children and owners who have compromised immune systems. In one study, approximately half the dogs fed a single meal of contaminated raw food shed Salmonella in their feces for up to 7 days  Other bacteria that have been found in raw meat diets include E. coli and Clostridium. Dogs also shed Salmonella in their saliva, so if your dog eats raw foods with Salmonella bacteria and then licks your hands or face, the dog may be transferring bacteria to you.

raw foodIn a large study conducted on 200 hundred healthy therapy dogs from Ontario and Alberta, some of whom were fed raw meat during the year, it was observed that the incidence rate of Salmonella shedding in the raw meat-fed dogs was 0.61 cases/dog-year, compared with 0.08 cases/dog-year in dogs that were not fed raw meat. Raw meat consumption was also significantly associated with shedding E. coli. One of the conclusions of the study was that dogs fed raw meat may be a risk to humans whose immune systems are not fully functioning, and should be excluded from AAI (animal assisted intervention) programmes, particularly when the programmes involve interaction with humans at high risk of infection.

An article from Phys.org entitled “Raw Meat May Not Be Enough for Cats or Tigers” found that:

“… raw meat diets met many nutrient requirements for (captive wild) cats, but there were some gaps. None of the diets contained the recommended levels of linoleic acid, the horsemeat did not provide the levels of arachidonic acid recommended for kittens, gestating females and lactating females.”

These same researchers were:

“…a bit wary” of pet owners feeding homemade raw diets. … pet owners risk exposing (domestic) cats to increased pathogens and nutrient imbalances. Pet owners often feed trimmed cuts of meat. These cuts lack fat,educated dog which is crucial in feline diets. According to the researchers, if pet owners feed raw meat diets, they will likely have to supplement it with other nutrients, including appropriate sources of fat and essential fatty acids. A high-protein diet can also change the types of microbes in the gut. The researchers write that increased protein fermentation in the bowel may lead to more “odiferous” feces, depending on the digestibility of the protein.”

Another study found that dogs fed raw chicken may be a source of contamination.

There don’t appear to be any measurable demonstrated benefits from a BARF diet, only theoretical benefits that are often based on erroneous assumptions or anecdotal observations, while there are documented risks, potential nutritional inadequacy and possible injury from raw bones. On the other hand, cooking food comes with advantages. Basically, cooking is just a method of doing some of the digesting beforehand. Ruminants ferment their food in their stomachs, and we cook ours. Do people eat raw eggs and raw meat? Yes, we do, but just because we occasionally eat raw meat doesn’t mean that it’s a particularly good idea.

The most common forms of commercial BARF diets consist of are fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried meats intended to be nutritionally complete and balanced. These diets are often formulated to meet values listed in the AAFCO Dog or Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. However, some of these foods may be labelled as intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only, which means that they are not nutritionally complete and balanced. Traditional pet food manufacturers are regulated in that they must use ingredients that are “Generally Recognized As Safe” or GRAS. At the very minimum, canned food must contain minimum percentages of crude fat and crude protein. Commercial feeds often provide ingredients that BARF diets cannot possibly provide, such as foods for dogs or cats with renadoggie researchl failure and allergies. If you feed dry food it is very easily measured for consistent feeding and dogs and cats usually have solid poops that are easy to pick up. Dry food cleans teeth better than either soft or BARF food too. I wouldn’t give a dog rawhide either, because I have never been able to verify the country of origin for these products – for all I know they may originate in China as well.

The key factor is risk reduction and BARF is not exactly a low risk diet given the potential for contamination for both pets and humans. Given that dogs and cats do get foodborne illnesses there is all the more reason to cook their food beforehand. When I do give my dog and cat meat instead of commercial food, it is always pre-cooked.