What About Food For Your Pets?

by Robyn Landis


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While my work has dealt primarily with food and health issues for humans, as a vegetarian and environmentalist I am concerned about animal welfare. That means not only am I concerned about the deeply detrimental impact that humans' farming, slaughter, and consumption of animals has upon people, animals and our environment--I am also concerned about the food that companion animals eat.

Even if you can somehow remain unconcerned about the indisputable mass destruction that the meat industries wreak upon air, water, soil, plant life, farmers and other humans, and even if you can ignore the pain and suffering of the animals themselves, the knowledge of what's in the food you serve your very own pet might bring you up short.

Even some vegetarians feel that it is "going too far" to impose their moral or health decisions about food onto their pets. But is it really more wrong to ask your cat or dog to eat a healthy vegetarian diet than it is to subject countless cows, chickens and pigs to the brutal torture of the factory farm? Whether you buy meat for them or for you, you are increasing the profitability of animal slaughter by contributing directly to the consumer demand for its products. You are participating in tremendous suffering and needless death.

It may be true that vegan or vegetarian pet food is not the companion animal's "natural" diet, but this is true of virtually every aspect of a domesticated pet's life. Little else about a companion animal's life is like it would be "in the wild." Why insist that the diet remain
"natural"--when nothing else is--and especially when that "naturalness" would come at the expense of other animals' lives? In the uniquely UNnatural environment of our urban or suburban homes and yards, food magically appears in our pets' bowls; they do not hunt as they normally would. They are given medicine to treat illness, and are surgically sterilized to control reproduction. Nowhere else do we attempt to emulate their lives "in the wild." Why do so with their food--at the expense of their health AND other animals' lives?

More to the point, NO packaged pet food is a companion animal's "natural" diet--whether it contains meat or not. Commercial food in any form is far removed from "the wild." Even IF the meat is "good" meat, even IF you are ethically comfortable with feeding meat, in the form of packaged kibbles it still would bear little resemblance to the diet of an undomesticated beast. The notion that meat ingredients makes it more 'natural' for them simply doesn't hold up.

MOST to the point, the grim reality of those "meat ingredients" actually make standard commercial pet foods less "natural" or "wild" than just about anything you could feed your pet. It's vital for consumers to know just HOW far from natural in *any* respect are the ingredients--meat and otherwise--found in most commercial pet foods. The most compelling argument against these foods involves the sickening matter of what may be included among those ingredients, which is conveniently and euphemistically shielded from most consumers. Yet it is so much a fact that the pet food industry does not even attempt to deny it. The (AAFCO) lists definitions of feed ingredients (which it states DO include pet foods) that would turn most people's stomachs.

As any veterinarian will confirm for you--and as you might well know from being a pet companion during your lifetime--diseases such as cancer are epidemic among dogs and cats. As many as 70% or more of all dogs and cats die of cancer. There is absolutely no mystery to this fact if you consider what the vast majority of dogs and cats consume as food throughout their lifetimes.

Most commercial pet foods contain:

---Carcasses of euthanized cats & dogs (some with flea collars, and most
containing sodium pentobarbital used for euthanasia).

--- Insecticides and pharmaceuticals from diseased livestock (complete with
plastic ID tags).

--- Rotting supermarket rejects, including plastic and styrofoam packaging.

--- Animal parts deemed "unfit for human consumption" (heads, legs,
tongues, intestines, esophagi, beaks, feathers, bones, blood, lungs,
ligaments, etc.)

--- Diseased and cancerous body parts from dead, diseased, or disabled
factory-farmed animals (meat from rendered sick or "downed" animals is a
staple in commercial pet food).

--- Rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or
deemed inedible for humans

Check the ingredients list in your current commercial pet food. Does it contain "meat byproduct?" "Digest of meat byproduct?" "Bone meal?" These are standard, accepted euphemistic labeling terms for the above.

In other words, the vast majority of dogs and cats throughout their entire lives *consume cancerous dogs and cats* and other ill animals. This chemically-preserved hash of cancer-ridden, euthanized pet parts is not any animal's prey of choice, and is certainly NOT what they would normally get in the wild!

Rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans are also used in pet foods. Restaurant grease has become a major component of feed-grade animal fat over the last 15 years. This used grease is often held in fifty-gallon drums, kept outside for weeks, and then picked up by "dat blenders" or rendering companies which
mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and sell the blended products to pet food companies. These fats are sprayed directly onto pet food kibbles and pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other
flavor enhancers.

Potentially cancer-causing agents such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are permitted at relatively low levels. The use of these chemicals in pet foods has not been thoroughly studied, and long-term buildup of these agents may ultimately be harmful.

Due to questionable data in the original study on its safety, ethoxyquin's manufacturer, Monsanto, was required to perform a new, more rigorous study. This was completed in 1996. Even though Monsanto found no significant toxicity associated with its own product, in July 1997, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine requested that manufacturers voluntarily reduce the maximum level for ethoxyquin by half, to 75 parts per million. While some
pet food critics and veterinarians believe that ethoxyquin is a major cause of disease, skin problems, and infertility in dogs, others claim it is the safest, strongest, most stable preservative available for pet food.

In a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, it was noted that the barbiturate sodium pentobarbitol "survived rendering without undergoing degradation." To date there is no way to determine what effect it might have on pets to ingest foods contaminated with sodium pentobarbitol.

Also note the additional inclusion of chemical preservatives such as BHA and BHT (vitamin E/tocopherols are used in most natural pet foods as preservative instead) and ethoxyquin, a preservative produced by Monsanto (who also brings us DDT, Agent Orange, Roundup and terminator seeds).

About 50% of every food-producing animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass -- bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, udders, esophagi, and almost all the other parts not generally consumed by humans -- is used in pet food, animal feed, and other products. These "other parts" are known as "by-products," "meat and bone meal," or similar names on pet food labels.

Companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters are rendered and used as sources of protein in pet food. Dead animals, road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and in some cases, zoo animals are picked up by dead-stock operations. At the receiving plants, the animals of value are skinned and viscera removed. Hides of cattle and calves are sold for
tanning. The usable meat is removed from the carcass, and covered in| charcoal to prevent it from being used for human consumption. Then the meat is frozen, and sold as animal food. The packages of this frozen meat must be clearly marked as "unfit for human consumption."

The rest of the carcass and poorer quality products including viscera, fat, etc. are sent to the rendering facilities. Rendering plants are melting pots for all types of refuse. Restaurant grease and garbage, meats and baked goods long past the expiration dates from supermarkets (Styrofoam trays and shrink-wrap included), the entrails from dead stock removal
operations, and the condemned and contaminated material from slaughterhouses--all are rendered. The collars, tags, flea collars, and even the plastic bags in which the pets are wrapped are often not removed before they are deposited into the rendering pit.

The slaughterhouses where cattle, pigs, goats, calves, sheep, poultry, and rabbits meet their fate provide more fuel for rendering. After slaughter, heads, feet, skin, toenails, hair, feathers, carpal and tarsal joints, and mammary glands are removed. This material is sent to rendering. Animals who have died on their way to slaughter are rendered. Cancerous tissue or
tumors and worm-infested organs are rendered. Injection sites, blood clots,bone splinters, or extraneous matter are rendered. Contaminated blood is rendered. Stomach and bowels are rendered. Contaminated material containg or having been treated with a substance not permitted by or in any amount in excess of limits prescribed under the Food and Drug Act or the Environmental Protection Act--if a carcass contains high levels of drugs or pesticides, this material is rendered.

Before rendering, this material from the slaughterhouse is "denatured," which means that the material from the slaughterhouse is covered with a particular substance to prevent it from getting back into the human food chain. In the United States the substances used for denaturing include: crude carbolic acid, fuel oil, or citronella. In Canada the denaturing
agent is "Birkolene B." The Canadian Ministry of Agriculture will not divulge the composition of Birkolene B, stating its ingredients are a trade secret.

At the rendering plant, all these machine slowly ground in a machine. After it is chipped or shredded, it is cooked at temperatures of between 220 degrees F. and 270 degrees F. for twenty minutes to one hour. The grease or tallow rises to the top, where it is removed from the mixture. The remaining material is then put into a press where the moisture is squeezed
out. We now have "meat and bone meal."

Just as humans do, your pets need fresh, clean, healthy food. Consider supplementing a quality natural/veg commercial food with fresh leftovers from your own varied vegetarian diet. The lack of nutrients from fresh whole food is probably a secondary factor to the rampant disease among dogs and cats. (Imagine if all you ate was dried cereal every day for your
entire life! Even if it was pretty decent cereal!)

For your animal--and for ALL the animals--choose vegetarian or vegan (or at least genuinely natural) pet foods!




Here is a list of sources on the web:





Brands of holistic, healthy, natural pet foods that are NOT vegetarian include: Sojourner Farms (this is a balanced fresh-food mix you're supposed to add meat to, but you can add tofu or other soy protein and other fresh leftovers)



Flint River Ranch

California Dry

Solid Gold





Dr Harvey's Naturals




Also remember that raw, whole, and home-cooked foods are ALWAYS better for your pet than ANY commercial food. Though most of us choose prepared foods for our pets (and ourselves) out of convenience, as much as you can manage it is great for your pet to have There are books with minimum, supplement with fresh chopped vegetables as much as possible. Leftovers from your healthy human meals are good for your pet--that old saw about
'table scraps" being bad for pets is absolutely incorrect. Scraps from your dinner or rancid rendered roadkill--you choose!

And yes, it is possible to feed even carnivorous cats a vegetarian diet! See the books: Vegetarian Cats and Dogs by James A. Peden (available at www.vegepet.com or www.vegancats.com) and Vegetarian Dogs by Verona Reibow and Jonathan Dun and Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Vol. 1 And the product Vegecat found at www.vegancats.com Other links and articles (some were sources for this article):














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   "As any veterinarian will confirm for you--and as you might well know from being a pet companion during your lifetime--diseases such as cancer are epidemic among dogs and cats. As many as 70% or more of all dogs and cats die of cancer. There is absolutely no mystery to this fact if you consider what the vast majority of dogs and cats consume as food throughout their lifetimes."

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