Some Bad News, Some Worse Journalism and Good News…

Multinationals Have Turned Veterinary Science Into the Veterinary Industry

I’m not supposed to be blogging on my holiday but I can’t help it. This is just too big and too serious an event. Mars have taken a huge step towards controlling a hefty chunk of the vet hospitals in the US. Why is this so serious? Well…

With it’s profits from crap food products falling Mars are now buying out the veterinary sector in the U.S. This has been going on for some time. In 1997 Parker-Pope wrote a great piece for the Wall Street Journal called “Why Your Vet Recommends that Designer Chow”. It documented the cash move by the big four, largely Mars (the vet product Royal Canin but also Pedigree Chum and Caesar) and Colgate-Palmolive (the vet product Science Diet) but now also Nestlé with Purina pet food, who, by means of extremely generous financial donations infiltrates the top 27 US veterinary universities within two years.

Needless to say it was money well spent with most vets in the Western World believing carnivorous dogs do better on a dry, cereal-based diet than a more biologically appropriate fresh meat diet, all without the benefit of a SINGLE STUDY that might indicate this is the case. But we’ve heard about this move before and I’m not going to spend any more time on all that.

An interesting side note though, the idea to use vets was actually Colgate-Palmolive’s. In the 80’s CP were the first to use dentists in TV ads to sell their toothpaste, Colgate. It sounds pretty obvious now but nobody had thought of it until then. Then, as they produced a large portion of the world’s food and thus had a whole lot of food waste, they thought it might work for their pet foods, so they started encouraging vets to sell their junk food and now drug products. The best way to do this is, of course, to get them while they’re in school. We know this approach works because vets today believe:

Who are Banfield Hospital?

It thus comes with some concern that Reuters recently reported that Mars has just bought out Banfield hospital. Who are Banfield Hospital? Outside of the Vet Universities, now owned by the food and drug companies, Banfield are the absolute giants of the veterinary sector. They produce the excellent State of Pet Health Reports, giving us key figures for the growth of various chronic conditions in dogs today, with possible causes and solutions thrown in there. And they are the ones to do it. Banfield access to over 2 million dogs and half a million cats, a result of them operating more than 800 hospitals in 43 US states, as well as having more than 13,000 associates, including 2,600 licensed veterinarians. Moreover, they are relatively independent and relatively privately owned.

If anyone thinks this $7.7bil move is for the good of  your dog’s health then you need your head examined. With their profits slowly falling on their junk food products (leaving Westerners with a chronic obesity, heart and diabetes epidemics, amongst a number of other nutrition-induced woes), multinationals need to focus elsewhere, somewhere they can continue to make shit food products with huge margins. Where better for this approach than the pet sector.

So Mars adds Banfield’s 800 vet hospitals to the 900 it already owns, giving it the market share in the US. So now vets are owned in universities and now they have them on into practice too. Moreover, we lose Banfield as a credible source of information.

This is terrible news.

That “Trust me I’m a vet” Program….

Many of you may already be aware of the truly woeful BBC documentary called “Trust me I’m a vet?” program which attempted to answer the question should we be feeding fresh food to our pets.

Their “investigation” of the issue (an investigation that failed to interview a single voice for the other side) begins by describing the latest craze in pet nutrition, so you instantly know where the rest of the piece is going. As Nick Thompson said in his rebuke of the piece, fresh food is not a craze. It’s millions of years old. Dry food is a craze. The BBC’s piece was the same regurgitated nonsense, whereby fresh dog food poses a potential risk to your children, etc etc. It’s as if the piece was written by Mars and handed to the BBC to release, it’s just so disappointing that the BBC put their name to it. I’m not going to give it another second of my time.

The good news is this. The BBC documentary was absolutely, positively and overwhelmingly destroyed by the canine community. Check out the comments below the promo video for the Trust Me I’m a Vet piece. 95% of the comments are well made, pro-fresh arguments with little to no scientific rebuke by a dry feeder or, needless to say, an actual vet. Not one poisoned pet. Not one unhappy customer. NOT ONE.

In a welcomed rebuke, even the Pet Food Manufacturers Association took umbrage at some of the comments made by the BBC “documentary”

The PFMA and our members have serious questions over the accuracy and relevance of the research undertaken by Nottingham University and aired by the BBC. We do not believe the findings reported reflect the actual situation with products on the market. Conversations with representatives of Nottingham University have led us to question the research methodology and testing regime used in this study, which does not follow the strict legal requirements our members routinely follow when testing their own products.

We are disappointed that Nottingham University have to date failed to provide requested details of their study and the products tested so that manufacturers can investigate this matter further.

On investigation, Nottingham University is generously sponsored by Hills Pet Nutrition, which might have something to do with it.

In this way, with some of the worst news I’ve heard in months concerning Mars buying out even greater swathes of our vet sector, comes a big ray of hope via the Trust Me I’m a Vet piece and that is that we the informed public are not going to let them get away with it. We can’t, for the sake of dogs everywhere.

Trust me I’m a vet. A statement, once true for sure, which is fast becoming redundant.

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For more on the whole “is raw dog food safe” please check out my article on same.

After you’ve watched the video and noted 5 or 6 mistakes of your own, feel free to leave your complaints to the BBC here.

Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.
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