Thursday, November 26, 2009

How Can Pet-Food Manufacturers' Control of Vet Training and Practice Be Exposed?

How have veterinary authorities been able to exclude information about natural pet diets of whole prey or raw-meaty-bones from veterinary education? How have pet-food companies so completely captured veterinary education, research, and practice on all aspects of pet nutrition?

Common knowledge that wolves and wild cats eat whole, raw prey is overcome by distancing dogs from fellow wolf species members and cats from wild-cat, close relatives. Ironically, dogs, which are a subspecies of gray wolves, are misclassified in veterinary education as omnivores. Omnivores, such as humans, benefit from vegetables and grains in their diets. If dogs are misclassified as omnivores, they can be fed starchy diets that contain little animal protein or fat. The fact that studies of feral dogs show they eat small game and virtually no vegetable matter, is omitted from the curriculum.

Cats are harder to misclassify, because research in earlier decades proved that cats must be fed animal proteins and fats. Even so, dry cat foods that vets are taught to recommend are heavy in starches that make cats chronically ill.

Gross distortions in the system of vet education, research, and practice are important and worthy of social scientific investigation. I am not in a position to launch a full-scale investigation. The best I can do is to gather public information about curriculum, affiliations of faculty who teach pet nutrition, pet-food companies’ student and research support, and associated matters. Perhaps, if information gleaned from my inquiries is made public, other social scientists will be inspired to launch more complete investigations.

A starting place is to persuade social scientists that a whole prey or raw-meaty-bones diet is essential to carnivorous pets' health and well-being. Evolutionary history and observations of wild relatives make this case. The next step is a treatise to overcome the myth that manufactured pet foods are "100% complete and balanced" diets, that commercial pet foods are ideal pet nutrition. Next is a presentation of copious evidence that commercial pet foods make pets sick.

When nearly 100% of vet authorities endorse manufactured diets, making the contrary case is a challenge. Unless social scientists can be educated to accept the importance of natural diets and the harmful effects of manufactured “foods”, however, a treatise on the corruption of vet education, research, and practice will be dismissed as largely irrelevant.

What About Human Medicine?

For comparison, imagine an attack in medical schools on the germ theory of disease and a proposal it be largely replaced by a dietary theory of health – not far from what is being proposed for veterinary medicine. Defenders of the germ theory would point to decades of research on microbes and their deleterious effects on health. They would point to the efficacy of certain drugs to reduce populations of bad bugs and to eliminate infections. We could counter with a theory of health, immune system functions, and the role of good bugs in promoting health, bugs that their germ-theory drugs destroy. Germ-theory practices have utility when health-promotion fails, but the focus of medical education should be on health-promotion.

Unless some authorities could be persuaded of the value of health promotion through appropriate diets and lifestyles -- a theory of health, not disease -- exposing how much influence drug companies have on medical education, research, and practice loses much of its shock value, Commercial interests are merely influencing which drugs are taught and prescribed, not undermining the entire medical enterprise.
It's the inappropriate extension of germ theory that undermines health-promotion; drugs are merely the implementation of germ theory. Health promotion through appropriate diets limits the scope of a germ theory of disease and replaces it with a theory of health to address many health issues.

Fortunately, there are authorities in the human health arena who endorse health promotion. Not only diets but other lifestyle issues are acceptable ideas in human medicine (anti-smoking, weight control, exercise, etc.). Ideas about health-promotion are still considered ancillary or alternative approaches to human health, but they have crept into the medical curriculum. Although they have not displaced the germ theory of disease as the center of medical education, research, and practice, health promotion is a recognized aspect in contemporary medical education.

If health promotion could reduce the application of germ theory to many human health issues, people would be healthier. We know this, but to persuade a human population, who have been brainwashed with germ theory and drug efficacy, to change behaviors to live a healthier life is a Herculean task.

Campaigns to stop smoking, lose weight, and avoid street drugs are only partially effective, with literally billions of dollars thrown at the problems. Alcoholism is largely ignored, despite the fact that 10% of the population is alcoholic and another 10% have major health and behavior problems caused by alcohol consumption. Few doctors even think to inquire about alcohol as a presenting problem in their practices, because they were not taught to consider lifestyle issue in health. The germ-theory of disease does not apply, so the issue was not taught. Newer MD's are more likely to think about lifestyle issues.

Veterinary Medicine Left Behind

In reviewing veterinary curricula, I have found little to no attention given to health promotion via diet or any other lifestyle issue. Ideas about health-promotion may make it into vet schools in a decade or so, but health promotion is not likely to displace germ theory as the center of the curriculum any time soon.

Ironically, pet-food companies' advertising is now promoting healthy lifestyles for pets and their owners. Ads stress the benefits of exercise and how your pet companion can help you to get more exercise. Recent pet-food ads stress weight control and how to use various special commercial diets to help your pet slim down.

Recent kibble ads stress their fresh ingredients and raw meats, which may presage a shift in pet-food companies’ product lines. Kibble is cooked, processed starch, no matter what ingredients it says it put in the bag. Consumer demand for healthier, raw pet foods is increasing.

Let’s remember that pet foods are made by the same companies that dominate the human packaged-food market. Companies’ antennae are up to sense what consumers want, and they are prepared to meet shifting priorities. Companion animals today are often considered family members that are entitled to healthy food. How much longer can pet food companies persuade pet owners that cooked, extruded nuggets of starch are healthy foods for carnivorous pets?

It will be a great irony, when pet food companies switch their product lines to dehydrated and frozen meats to replace kibble and canned mush. That product shift will leave veterinarians with kibble and canned mush on their faces, so to speak. Pet food manufacturers will have to scramble to re-educate their veterinary authorities, educators, and practitioners, all of whom are publicly committed to support the current processed-food myth, Because the manufactured food myth extends deeply into veterinary education and practice, excising it will be both difficult and embarrassing.

Social Science Research Can Save Pets and Pet Owners

How to present dietary health promotion for carnivorous pets to a social science audience? Many social scientists, like everyone, believe commercial pet foods provide "compete and balanced" pet nutrition. The first task is to undermine that belief and to present contrary evidence. Then, the influence of pet-food companies on vet education, research, and practice can be seen as sinister. Quite a few social psychologists and sociologists would potentially be interested in the capture of veterinary medicine by commercial pet food companies, if they see the harm it does to pets' health and owners' finances.

It’s a tragedy that veterinarians, on whom pet owners depend for dietary advice, are programmed to trust manufactured diets to be “complete and balanced” nutrition and to use that misinformation in their practices. They are taught to warn about largely fictitious dangers from raw meats and meaty bones. They instruct pet owners not to feed any raw meats, meaty bones, or human foods, despite seeing disastrous health outcomes from manufactured diets daily in their practices. This delusion cannot continue. It can be exposed and changed, when a thorough investigation reveals the extent and depth of the corruption that brought it about.

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