Sunday, March 14, 2010

Campaign to Reform Veterinary Medicine and Save Our Pets

Veterinary medicine’s teaching, research, and practice on companion animals is funded and controlled by global pet food companies.  Lest you doubt the enormous political and financial clout of these companies, remember they are the same companies that dominate the human food supply. 

Corporate Control of Our Food Supply

To set the stage for the pet-food scandal, let’s look at a recent, riveting documentary on perversions of the human food supply, called Food, Inc.  It is a must-see piece. You can view it in segments on You Tube at the following links:

 Here are the essential facts.  Elected representatives in Congress vote to allocate farm subsidies to commodity crops – corn, wheat, and soy beans.  These crops are the main ingredients in junk foods, sugary soft drinks, processed cereals, and in the feed for McDonald’s hamburgers and KFC’s chickens.  Elected officials make these products cheap for consumers by subsidizing their production.   Our tax dollars make these fattening products more affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables that are not federally subsidized.  Can we wonder why we are becoming an obese nation with an epidemic of fat kids?

Subsidies for animal feed make horrific chicken factories hugely profitable for Tyson and a few others.  Cattle in  feed lots, where animals are fed antibiotics and subsidized grains, stand ankle deep in their own manure and spread antibiotic resistant bacteria to the human table.  Cheap feed makes McDonalds rich.

To understand why Congress allocates tax monies to support crops used in fast foods, soft drinks, sugary cereals, and animal feed, you have to look at the companies that manufacture these products.  Global giants reign – Con-Agra, Mars, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Heinz, Del Monte, and a handful of others.  These companies make multi-billion dollar annual profits, which they use to influence policy makers (campaign contributions, for example) and lobby for their interests,

The same companies dominate the manufacture of pet foods, which are their hugely profitable avenue to get rid of waste from human food production.  Indirectly, Congress subsidizes the manufacture of sugary, starchy foods that sicken and kill thousands of pets annually. 

Perhaps, lawmakers think what’s good enough for kids is also good enough for pets.  Unfortunately, cats and dogs are not omnivores like kids, who can use carbohydrates as food, along with vegetable proteins, and fats.  Cats and dogs are carnivores that need a diet predominantly of animal proteins and fats.  Kids are getting fat on too much sugar and starch.  Pets are suffering from an inappropriate diet of sugary starches that create allergies, digestive disorders, and urinary tract stones.

To summarize, giant corporations, their executives, and shareholders profit from tax-payer subsidized crops that dominate the food supply for people and for pets, in very unhealthy ways.  Corporate domination of government policies is found in two other notable domains: medicine and veterinary medicine.

Corporate Corruption of Medicine
The larger issues of corporate greed and corruption of the medical professions are being confronted first in human medicine.  Just last night on CNN was a shocking report of Pfizer's misconduct.  They were fined more than $2 billion for their marketing fraud of a drug with limited FDA approval for menstrual cramps that they promoted as a post-surgical pain killer.  As CNN pointed out, $2 billion is merely a few months' profit from their misconduct.  The more meaningful punishment was not applied.  Legally, Pfizer should have been banned from selling drugs to federal health programs, Medicare and Medicaid.  They were not banned, because the public needs Pfizer drugs, or so the FDA said. 

The FDA said it could not afford to ban all of Pfizer's products, so they punished a derivative Pfizer entity, a sham company owned by Pfizer, and left the giant pharmaceutical company to go about its felonious business.  CNN's headline was "Pfizer, Too Big To Nail".  Oh, yes, Pfizer promises to clean up its act.  Yeah, sure.... Drug companies' profits from misconduct are so enormous, they have no incentives to behave responsibly.  The federal government is too toothless to nail them.   Imagine the magnitude of drug company contributions to Congressional campaigns and their lobbying budget.

How will this be changed?  The public is unaware of how corrupt medicine is, but news trickles out.  Last year, the New York Review of Books published a shocking essay by Marcia Angell, MD, Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, highlighting three recent books exposing corruption in medical schools and medical research.  She detailed Congressional inquiries into the mess.  Reports like this throw doubt on what doctors prescribe and who can be trusted with one's health.  People are beginning to realize that their doctors are pawns of drug companies, that doctors are ignorant about the pills they prescribe, that they are making many people sicker, and all of us a lot poorer.

 Inquiries into corruption in medical training and practice are ongoing.  Inquiries into drug research and the corruption of medical schools are ongoing.  All this scandal will shake the halls of medicine long before anyone looks at veterinary medicine. The magnitude of corporate greed and corruption in medicine is many, many times greater and more devastating than drug-company influence or pet-food corruption of veterinary medicine.  Fixing corruption in medicine, according to Marcia Angell, will take decades and a will that is probably not there.

Fighting Corruption in Veterinary Medicine

Here's the main message for small pet owners: Veterinary medicine has been corrupted by giant pet-food companies for their profit and to the enormous suffering of pet carnivores.  Vets are mis-educated about pets and bribed by pet food companies to push their products.  Carnivorous pets evolved to eat whole prey.  Raw-meaty-bones is an approximation of whole prey that modern pet owners can provide.  Keeping pets' teeth clean and gums healthy is essential to their health and longevity.  These facts are solid and worth fighting for.  We can fix these problems!

In the past 20 years, I see changes in the way pets are viewed and in what they are said to need. 
  1. Pet-food manufacturers have been pushed to make claims about "natural" and "raw" foods because consumers have become more discerning about what they feed pets.  A significant fraction of pet owners look for meat as the first listed ingredient (not knowing how little is actually in the food after processing, but they will figure that out soon).. 
  2. Pet-food industry knows that so-called premium" and "natural" foods are the only growing segment of their market. Days when they could sell any old stuff as pet food are waning. 
  3. "Raw" is the new "premium". More and more "raw" minced and ground bone foods are hitting the market each month. Albeit a half measure, at least pets are getting nutritionally better foods -- low carbohydrates, more animal proteins fats, and bone. My bet is that in 5 years, sales of packaged raw pet foods will double or triple.
  4.  Dr. Wysong sends out his raw-meaty-bones message to tens of thousands of pet owners who buy Wysong products.  That has some impact.  His message is entirely contrary to advice from vets, who hate and fear raw bones. Wysong doesn't sell raw-meaty-bones.  Let’s give the guy some credit.
  5. I predict that more and more pet owners will realize that minced foods do not clean pets' teeth and will include raw-meaty-bones in their pets' raw minced diets.  They won't switch entirely to rmb, because it's too messy, but many or even most pets will be far better fed than they are today, and vets will enjoy less revenue from cleaning pets’ teeth. 
We pet owners need focus our efforts on breaking the stranglehold of pet-food companies on veterinary medicine and promoting the welfare of carnivorous pets. 

1.     Spread the word about raw-meaty-bones to other pet owners.  Many pets suffer allergies, are on restricted diets and tons of medicines.  Help the owners to try rmb to cure pets’ allergies.  It works!
2.     Let your vet know you stand by this diet and the benefits it gives your pets.  Let her/him know that an appropriate diet prevents problems and cures ills.
3.     Challenge vets to show you independent research, not sponsored by pet-food companies, that compares the benefits of a raw-meaty-bones diet with commercial pet food. 
4.     Ask vets about genetic research in the last decade that classifies dogs as a subspecies of wolf, not as a separate species and not as omnivores, which they were taught in school.  What do wolves eat?  Not grains and vegetables, for sure! 

Pet owners can have impact in our smaller world of veterinary medicine.  After all, we pay their salaries.

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