Saturday, March 27, 2010

Can You Trust Your Pet-Food Corporation?

Tonight I will see Michael Moore's new film, Capitalism: A Love Story.  The progressive political group, Move-On, is sponsoring some 1,500 movie parties across the country to spark discussions about how American voters can take back our country from Wall Street and giant corporations.  Fact: The top 1% of wealthy Americans control 95% of the country's wealth. The rest of us work our tails off for them.  Is this the way it should be?

In the present recession, it has become obvious that our jobs, our homes, and our health are all held hostage by a reckless financial system.  Most people do not recognize the signs of capitalist excess, even when they have been laid off from work, had their homes foreclosed, and gone bankrupt from unpaid medical bills. The myth of Horatio Alger -- the chance to make it from rags to riches -- dominates the American mentality.

The enormous power and wealth of corporations were partially unleashed in the recent fight against health care reform.  Only a back-room deal with giant pharmaceutical companies, to guarantee their obscene profits,  kept them from stopping the bill in its tracks.  The majority of Americans still do not know that health care reform will improve their lives, because powerful corporations funded a campaign of lies about provisions of the reform bill.

Some friends are poster children for corporate exploitation, but they don't know it.  After decades of work for huge corporations, showing up reliably, solving problems, and serving well, they were laid off in their late 40s and 50s, without sufficient means of support, until they reaches the age when Social Security and Medicare can help.  Several scramble to earn enough at menial jobs to pay the mortgage and look forward to the day when government regulations will allow them to withdraw funds from retirement accounts, to which they contributed their own earnings. 

Despite being victims of corporate greed, they hold favorable views of their corporations, which have laid off vast numbers of their workers, and do not hold them responsible for their mid-life, financial predicaments.  Some even vote Republican.  Americans believe so strongly in individual responsibility and freedom to make life-changing decisions, they cannot see themselves as victims of unregulated, irresponsible capitalism.

Giant corporations control our food supply and tell us what's good to eat.  We are obese, because huge profits are made from subsidized sugars and starches -- commodity crops -- that should not be the bulk of our diets. Our pets are obese and sick, because huge profits are made by the same corporations from the same subsidized sugars and starches that should never be fed to carnivorous pets.  These corporations control government regulatory bodies that are supposed to protect our health and the health of our pets.  Rather, thanks to their generous support of politicians and professional "experts", government regulations are drafted and enforced to protect the profits of these corporations at the expense of our health and the health of our pets.

Most people trust the safety of the human food supply and the safety of commercial pet foods, despite many incidents in which foods are demonstrably not safe to eat.  Recalls of meats and vegetables for bacterial contamination are so frequent consumers watch for the next recalls.  Only when outbreaks of E-coli or salmonella poisoning sicken more than a dozen and kill more than a few people, are food recalls newsworthy.  Commercial pet food recalls are frequent and largely unnoticed, until thousands of pets are sickened and die.

Most people do not realize that decades of "conservative" governance have rolled back consumer protections that used to be in place, such as domestic meat inspections and inspections of produce and meats coming into the US from other countries.  Such inspections today are a tiny fraction of what used to be conducted routinely.  Congress has not granted either the Food and Drug Administration or the US Department of Agriculture the power to recall contaminated foods.  Recalls depend on food corporations' voluntary actions.  How widely publicized food recalls are depends on how corporations choose to spin their all-too-frequent contamination incidents.  By dominating government regulatory bodies, food producers protect their profits, not consumers.

Pet foods are down the sugar-starch food chain from human foods and even more likely to be adulterated with industrial wastes. The 2007 pet-food recall illuminated the adulterated nature of commercial pet foods.  A plastic (melamine) that mimics proteins in tests was introduced into wheat gluten to increase the profits of Chinese and New Zealand corporations.

Adulterated wheat gluten killed tens of thousands of cats and dogs in the US and Canada, before hundreds of pet foods containing the contaminated wheat were recalled.  The same adulterated wheat gluten killed hundreds of infants in China before contaminated infant formula was recalled.  Only dumb luck kept this adulterated wheat gluten out of US cereals and baby foods.  The bottom line is you have no guarantee the pet food you buy is safe, and you will not find out it is unsafe until your pet is permanently disabled or dies.

Here's some advice.  No matter how much you love and admire our capitalist, profit-driven system, your health is not protected by government regulators or by corporate ethics.  For yourself, buy fresh, local produce, range-reared meats, and free-range poultry that are less likely to be contaminated or adulterated.  For pets, buy range-reared meats and free-range poultry, if you can afford to.

Feeding your pets sugary starches that make up the bulk of commercial pet foods is not safe, even if they are not contaminated. Carnivorous pets' digestive systems evolved to handle high bacterial loads in raw meats, such as days-old carrion and buried bones.  Even ripe meats that are not suitable for human consumption are far better foods for healthy pets than starchy kibbles and cooked mush.  Pets with compromised immune systems may not be able to handle meats with lots of bacteria, but healthy raw-fed pets have no problem with ripe meats.

If you agree with Michael Moore that we need to band together to take back our country from Wall Street and giant corporations, you need to look closely at what you eat and what you feed your pets.  Food and health are inextricably entwined.  Corporate profits keep us fat and our pets sick.  You can change your own fate by recognizing how the system works and by learning how to avoid being manipulated by it. 

So, how can we answer the question that motivated this blog entry: Can you trust your pet-food corporation? If your answer is yes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'm sure you'd like to buy.  No, you can't trust pet-food companies with your pets' heath nor trust the same corporations with your own health.

1 comment:

  1. I am very sorry to see you post this. Not all corporations are big and/or "evil". I work for a corporation that is owned by three hard working guys and because of the "evil corporation" mentality in this country we are being taxed right out of business.

    Good luck to you.