Friday, June 02, 2006

BARFMANIA: The junk raw pet-food scam.

The below is an excerpt from the Raw Meaty bones newsletter, and sounds frighteningly familiar to me. (hint: substitute "Vet" for "GP" and "dog/pet" for "human patient")

We humans are an odd lot. We can put a man on the moon but we can’t agree on how to feed a dog. How crazy is that?

Having lived with this conundrum for a few years now, I still find it disturbing. And in my opinion both the problem and the solution lies with the veterinary profession.

Where understanding and certainty exists the room for debate and chatter shrinks almost to zero. That’s how it is regarding the moon’s orbit, rocket propulsion, electrical conduction and differential calculus, the necessary building blocks of a successful moon landing. Experts agree about these things. Universities teach the subjects and the population at large is satisfied that genuine experts are in control.

When it comes to feeding pets, the community can have no such confidence.
The self-appointed but non-genuine experts in this field, veterinarians, are variously cowed, incompetent and in notable instances corrupt. It’s largely by default that veterinarians have been given authority over pet diets. Vets are supposed to know about health and disease and an assumption is made they will be trained to put prevention first –- in keeping with the first rule of medicine ‘First do no harm’. (sounds familiar?)

In reality young vets start their induction in kindergarten. They watch their parents feeding pets out of the can and packet; watch the TV ads and the celebrity vets feeding junk food too. By the time they have come top of their class, passed their exams and been admitted to vet school the young vet students are filled with misplaced assumptions about the world, their position in it and that pets should be raised and maintained on junk food. Doing harm for most budding vets is a way of life.

Nothing at vet school tells them otherwise. In fact nutrition courses are frequently taught by pet-food company guest lecturers and the text book, if there is one, will likely have been supplied by a pet-food company. Courses in medicine and surgery are taught by lecturers receiving pet- food company research money, or by lecturers eyeing the money and hoping their turn will soon come.

In the final years at vet school diagnosis and treatment of disease is the priority focus. Assumptions about diet continue and little or no time is spent thinking about preventive medicine. A raw diet, where it is discussed, is used as an object of ridicule to warn the students of the alleged risks of bacterial disease, parasitic disease, broken teeth, and choked, obstructed and constipated dogs. With the preventive benefits of natural feeding upended and replaced with scaremongering the students dutifully absorb the diagnosis and treatment options in readiness for the final exams.

I pity the new graduates. The first weeks in practice are, for many young vets, a nightmare experience. Attempting to recall diagnosis and treatment options from the textbooks and fit them to real life patients is a scary business with pitfalls at every turn. Small wonder prevention never gets a moment’s consideration. And thus the scene is set for a professional life spent treating animals that are fed the canned and packet junk food displayed in the vet’s waiting room.

There are other nuances, but you get the idea. Vets live in a culture that puts them in charge of pet health care, but they generally know nothing and care little about the benefits of a natural diet. Governments innocently bequeath self-regulatory status on the veterinary profession meaning that vets themselves decide what is and what isn’t good practice.

The veterinary leadership, veterinary schools and veterinary research establishments decided long ago to accept junk food as the norm –- it’s what defines the culture. (You and I know it also makes the vets a lot of money treating the diet-affected animals.)

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