Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Is There No Outrage or Adjudication of Veterinary Corruption?

In the last post, I documented the use of pet-food dollars to hire credentialed professionals to teach veterinary students Commercial Pet Food 101, rather than an unbiased course on the evolution of pet species and natural diets of carnivorous pets.  These same professionals hold offices in veterinary associations, hold faculty positions at veterinary schools, and populate regulatory commissions dealing with pet foods. 

In sum, pet-food dollars buy biased instruction in veterinary schools, favorable treatment in professional associations, and toothless  pet-food regulations.  The scope of pet-food corruption in veterinary medicine is breath-taking.  Pet-food companies completely control those aspects of veterinary medicine that concern them -- pet nutrition, internal medicine, and research on diseases associated with bad diets.

Pet-food money is not seen as tainted, of course, because veterinary authorities are on the take.  Pet-food endowed chairs in university departments seem legitimate, until one looks at the control pet-food companies retain over the selection and activities of the chair-holder.  Endowed buildings and research programs look legitimate until one sees that the scope of activities is defined by pet-food donors.  There's no free lunch in pet-food/veterinary relations -- although pet-food companies do often sponsor "free" luncheons and dinners for their hired hands.

Veterinary schools and professional associations thank their pet-food donors for their generous support, which sums to tens of millions of dollars per year.  Pet-food companies reap billions of dollars in profits from the veterinary endorsements they purchased for about ten-cents-on-the-dollar.

Why is there no outrage about pet-food companies' control of pet nutrition and associated health issues in veterinary medicine?  In recent correspondence, Australian Tom Lonsdale, DVM likened corruption in veterinary medicine to crooked police:
Currently there's a TV program on here about the Wood Royal Commission. Basically all the cops
were corrupt and engaged in massive scams, rape, murder and etc. The Commissioners got a corrupt detective to roll over and film his colleagues in corrupt activity.

It would be good if we found either a champion or reformed crook in the system who would help this along.
There are veterinary crooks quite openly on the payroll of pet-food interests, paid to promote commercial pet foods, while holding office in professional associations and faculty positions at universities.  For US examples, please see the last bog post.

Why authorities don't see this cozy arrangement as conflict-of-interest, at the least, or bribery is baffling.  How can a faculty member at a veterinary school be permitted take payments from a pet-food company or pet-food front to teach pet nutrition to veterinary students?

The ongoing scandal in medical schools is faculty members at leading universities taking large fees from pharmaceutical companies to promote off-label use of drugs in their lectures and appearances.  That's shocking and undermines public trust in physicians.  Authorities -- professional and legal -- are looking into the matter.

We can identify plenty of vet crooks in the system, whose activities are quite open.  Unlike crooked police, who hide their illegal activities and are discovered only when a reformed crook blows the whistle, crooked vets are practicing their corruption in public, and authorities seem not to care.

Here's why: Commercial pet food is the unchallenged right-way to feed pets, so no one sees the harm in allowing pet-food companies to pay faculty, support research, and provide income to vets in practice.  It's not corruption or biased instruction, until other theories/concepts of pet nutrition are seen as valid options.

Thus, we need, first, to define pet-food payments to veterinary faculty as corruption, because there are valid pet-feeding options that are omitted from their biased courses.  Second, we need to persuade the public and authorities to accept this definition of corruption.  Otherwise, no one is outraged, except those of us who believe that small animal nutrition ought not to be taught as Commercial Pet Food 101.

Imagine if the only "vegetable" served in school lunch programs was ketchup.  (Ronald Regan once agreed that ketchup could be considered a vegetable in school lunches.)  Suppose that Heinz and Del Monte, the largest ketchup manufacturers, funded instruction for school nutrition programs, endowed chairs and buildings in human nutrition programs, and hired a cadre of nutritionists to promote ketchup as the only vegetable children need for a complete and balanced diet (sound familiar?).

If ketchup companies spread enough dollars and bought enough expertise, they probably could have ketchup enshrined as the only vegetable in school lunch programs.  Anyone who suggested kids need green and yellow vegetables and unprocessed tomatoes would be confronted by research showing ketchup has sufficient nutrients (ah, the key word) to replace all other vegetables.  Ketchup would flow through the nation's school lunch rooms, while ketchup dollars bought all the professional support they need.  All it takes is money.

Why is no one within the veterinary medical establishment publicly blowing the whistle on commercial pet-food corruption?  There are dissident voices, but they remain largely anonymous, for fear of professional reprisals.  At the very least they would be excluded from honors and offices in professional associations and could lose their livelihood.  An inquiry into pet-food corruption must come from outside, because virtually no one inside the veterinary establishment has clean hands.  They are all on the take in one manner or another.

Motivation for reform is lacking within grassroots veterinary medicine, for economically understandable reasons.  Vet students are taught Commercial Pet-Food 101.  After graduation, they establish pet practices in which sales of junk pet foods contribute up to 40% of their incomes.

Even better, commercial pet foods create periodontal problems that require expensive veterinary treatment and chronic diseases that generate lots of income for vets.  Laboratory tests, according to Idexx -- the leading veterinary laboratory -- are the most profitable revenue stream in veterinary practice.  Chronically-ill pets require lots of lab tests.  Prescription drugs, dispensed by vets, are marked up by hundreds of percents, generating enormous profits.  Chronically-ill pets require lots of medications.

Commercial pet foods are the gift that keeps giving.  By undermining pets' health, kibbles and canned mush not only generate profits from their sales but their exclusive use as pet diets creates patients that need extensive and expensive veterinary treatments.  Why would veterinarians voluntarily surrender such a gift?

The pet world is changing, however,  and vets no longer have an exclusive hold on pet owners'  purses. In the US, most vets require owners to pay for pet examinations and heartworm tests annually, before inoculations or other treatments will be offered.  Vets charge handsomely for mandatory exams, tests, and inoculations. That racket is about to change.

Prescription flea/tick and heartworm medications are now available online at less than half the price charged in vet clinics.  If one buys them from Australia, no prescription is needed.  Heartworm tests are completely unnecessary for pets routinely given heartworm medication.  Vaccines for routine inoculations are available online and at local feed stores and pet shops.  Vaccines can be purchased for about $5; vets often charge $40 to $50 to administer the same shots.  Owners of healthy pets can now avoid veterinary clinics for routine drugs and inoculations and save themselves a fortune.

Owners of sick pets are wising up to the junk pet-food - illness connection.  Against veterinary advice, many are switching pets to raw diets and marveling at the pet's improved health.   Even if the sick pet dies, they vow never to feed junk foods to the next pet.  By promoting junk pet foods, veterinarians are losing credibility in pet owners' minds.  

When the public recognizes the stranglehold pet-food companies have on small animal veterinary medicine, there will be reform.  Pet owners are the most likely force to push authorities to inquire into pet-food funding and control of veterinary medicine and to demand change.  Disseminating information on appropriate diets for carnivorous pets is beginning to change the world.


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