I’ve been meaning to follow up on the anti-raw policies newly adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), and the AVMA’s recent blog post attempting to address consumer outrage at their anti-raw stance is the perfect opportunity.
You can read the two policies here: AAHA Raw Protein Diet Position Statement and AVMA Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Dog and Cat Diets Policy.
And the AVMA’s latest blog post on the topic: Raw Pet Foods and the AVMA’s Policy (FAQ).
First, it’s pretty clear the massive outcry against their action has put the AVMA on the defensive. Their new “FAQ” reads almost like a high school break-up letter; full of declarations, repetitions, and point-by-point rebuttals.
As much as I would like to respond in kind, there’s really no need. The public reacted with such passion because consumers are no longer the blindly led innocents of years past. Information is readily available today and pet owners are not shy about researching their beloved pets’ dietary needs. The 8,500+ cats and dogs killed in the 2007 pet food poisoning massacre shocked them out of complacency, and they’re no longer so naively accepting of the multibillion dollar pet food industry’s assurances of safety. Furthermore, a shocking number of pets are suffering from a growing list of devastating diseases that traditional veterinarian medicine can’t seem to address or stem.
Feline life expectancy has been shrinking for over a decade. Obesity is now at epidemic levels for both cats and dogs, and many other preventable diseases are on path to follow. The Banfield 2012 Pet Health Report five-year statistics show dramatic increases in the following diseases:
- – Obesity jumped 90%.
– Arthritis diagnoses swelled 67%.
– Incidents of hyperthyroidism rose 19%.
– Diabetes mellitus grew 16%.
– Kidney disease multiplied 15%.
If commercial pet food is so healthy, why are these diseases – every one of which has been linked to diet – on the rise? Veterinarians and pet food industry experts may be unable to understand the correlation between poor nutrition and poor health, but pet owners are not. Our own doctors are constantly recommending we eat more fresh fruits and vegetable, as such a diet is healthier for us; the same concept applies to our pets.
Unlike people, however, dogs are carnivores, and cats are obligate carnivores. Again, veterinarians and pet food industry experts may be unable to understand what this means in terms of appropriate nutrition, but pet owners are not. They get that the life-long allergies, urinary tract issues, obesity, kidney disease, inflammatory tract disease – and more – are a direct result of force-feeding carnivores products their bodies just aren’t built to digest.
And smarter people than I have already addressed some of the most egregiously dissonant AVMA claims. Dr. Jean Hofve completely destroys their assertions that the pathogens under discussion pose any health risk to humans, then goes on to list several studies illustrating the nutritional benefits of raw diets (studies the AVMA claims don’t exist). Dr. James Russell pulls apart the six studies upon which the AVMA builds its case, while Dr. Becker follows the financial links between the AVMA and Purina (although she missed the Fine time they had in San Diego, partly at the courtesy of Hill’s Pet Nutrition). Dr. Laurie Coger discusses the uselessness of the AVMA’s attempts to spin their policy as anything but a bone thrown to their PFI sponsors. Pet food consumer Laurie Goldstein hammers home the statistically low risk of pet to human pathogen transference, and Answers Pet Foods clearly establishes that commercial raw pet foods already fall under the same risk-mitigation rules and regulations as do standard commercial products.
It’s worth noting at this point that AVMA policy is so specifically targeted that it recommends that vets not use or recommend a certain product.
So instead of trying to prove that a raw, animal-based diet is the most nutritious and healing food for carnivores, linking to any of the many pro-raw studies (including a few kibble/raw diet comparisons the AVMA once again claims don’t exist), belaboring the ridiculousness of a policy that should really read, “Wash up after handling foods of any sort and for heaven’s sake, don’t put feces in your mouth and wash your hands when you’re done cleaning up after your pet!”, etc., I’d like to ask the AVMA a question related to their avowed reason for creating this policy; public health protection.
Of course, I’m going to have to overlook the fact that public health concerns are the provenance of the Center for Disease control and not of any veterinarian organization.
And the fact not one single case of human disease has ever been linked to the practice of raw-feeding pets, ever.
So, here we go: AVMA, if you are truly concerned about the health and well-being of pet owners, why have you not created policies against the following known sources of disease?
1. Since 2006, kibble has been confirmed as the source of no less than 128 cases of human Salmonella poisonings. The product has such a high potential for bacteria the Center for Disease Control recommends against feeding it in pet owners’ kitchens. Furthermore, the CDC recommends against even cleaning pet food dishes in the kitchen.
The CDC does not, however, recommend people refrain from preparing raw meats in their kitchens for their own personal consumption, or cleaning their own pots and pans in their kitchens.
2. Hedgehogs have been the source of several confirmed cases of human Salmonella illnesses, including a recent outbreak involving African pygmy hedgehogs that, as of this writing, has sickened 14 people.
3. Turtles have long been known to carry Salmonella and have been involved in many incidents, including 168 infections just last month.
4. Chicks and ducklings are also known Salmonella carriers. To date in this year alone, 266 cases have been confirmed.
5. Petting zoos have been the source of many human illnesses, including 165 cases of swine flu in the last two months and hundreds of E. coli cases every year.
These are just a few of the well-established animal to human bacterial vectors, yet you have no public-health policies involving them. Why, then, a policy on the almost negligible risk of canine or feline to human disease transfer? And why target only one of the many environmental bacterial sources those pets encounter on a daily basis?
AVMA, no matter how many times you repeat your line about the “lack” of influence between your multimillion dollar pet food sponsors and your policy against raw-feeding, the facts stand on their own. To imply that handling raw meat to feed our pets is somehow more dangerous than handling raw meat to feed ourselves is ludicrous. To create a policy against a practice that hasn’t produced a single human illness while ignoring the many with long-known links to human illnesses flies in the face of logic, and expecting pet owners to be blind to the disconnect is the height of arrogance.
I have six incredibly healthy raw-fed cats. One was overweight prior to her transition to raw, one was underweight, and three had weepy (herpes-virus) eyes. All six are now at a healthy weight with clear eyes. They don’t suffer from hairballs or allergies and fairly glow with good health. At their last check-up, my cat-only vet found their universal athleticism and friendliness “remarkable”.
I have also had the privilege of helping dozens of other cat owners make the transition, watching in unadulterated joy as their beloved friends recovered from a variety of chronic diseases, including one little guy who had his first solid stool in 14 months after only a few days on a raw diet.
Instead of catering to your deep-pocketed sponsors and suppressing the practice of raw-feeding, you should be utilizing your considerable resources to explore the best methods for educating the public on the benefits of feeding fresh, species-appropriate foods. It’s long past time for veterinarians to stop ignoring the overwhelming and still increasing evidence that standard commercial diets are causing terrible suffering and shortening the lives of America’s beloved pets.
You took an oath. Don’t you think it’s time you started living up to it?
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.