Half-baked? AVMA mulls policy on raw diets
The American Veterinary Medical Association next month could give final approval to a policy that discourages feeding pets “raw or undercooked animal-source protein diets” — on the grounds that they are unsafe for dogs, cats and humans.
Some people see the measure as a proactive and well-reasoned stance, aimed at making our dogs and ourselves safer.
Some see it as meddling.
And some see it as a conspiracy.
I, not being a dog food expert, fall into the middle ground — those vast numbers of folks who are highly confused by our dog-feeding options, puzzled over what truly is best for our dogs, befuddled by how so-called experts can be telling us exact opposite things, scared by anything from China, fretting over what we can afford, and, all the while, wondering how something like dog food has managed to become the volatile topic it has.
Emotions about dog food, given all the scares and recalls of the past decade, sometimes seem to run nearly as high as those in the abortion debate, and proponents of one kind of food or another are just about as firmly entrenched in their beliefs.
My dog Ace thrived on a raw diet the two years he was on it. His coat was shinier, his health was good, his stools were less massive, leading a layman like myself to belief that, as its proponents claim, it was a more natural choice for his species, and one he seemed to absorb something from, unlike kibble, which just seemed to go in one end and out the other.
(We switched back to kibble and canned when we entered a refrigerator-less phase of life, and haven’t gone back on raw for budget reasons.)
Even without Ace as a customer, the raw diet has continued to grow in popularity — probably at least in part because of all the issues surrounding other forms of dog food, which, we’d point out, the AVMA hasn’t felt a need to take a stand on.
Next month, at its meeting in San Diego, the AVMA House of Delegates will be voting on a policy discouraging feeding pets a raw diet, based on scientific studies that have shown raw meat, unless it has been subjected to a process that eliminates pathogens, can be contaminated with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus.
These infections can sicken pets and pet owners alike, and even be life-threatening, the AVMA says.
All that is true enough. Then again, it’s also true of the hamburger meat you bring home from the grocery store.
As author Susan Thixton wrote on the website, Thetruthaboutpetfood.com:
“… all meat is dangerous. We, pet owners — and you, the voting delegates of AVMA — take a risk each time you pick up a package of ground beef or chicken legs at the grocery. Raw pet food is NO more dangerous than any trip to the meat department of any grocery across the country.
“However, there is one significant difference…most all pet owners that feed a raw meat pet food are fully aware of the risk. They are educated pet food consumers and they understand the need to handle the food properly. Perhaps this is reason why there has never been an incident of human illness linked to a raw meat pet food.”
There have been plenty with kibble, though, which leads Thixton to suspect big dog food manufacturers are behind the AVMA’s proposed new policy.
“Should you decide to pass the policy against raw meat pet foods, we (pet owners) will know why. It will be crystal clear. We’ll know that Big Pet Food has bought and paid for this policy and your vote. Won’t it be a sad day when a national veterinary organization proves they actually work for Big Pet Food instead of working to protect the health of animals.”
“First of all, this proposed policy would be an AVMA policy if approved, not state or federal law. The AVMA cannot, and will not, regulate what pet owners choose to feed their pets. If you already feed raw food to your pet, that’s your choice. This proposed policy is about mitigating public health risks, not about restricting or banning any products.
“Our policies are based on a thorough review of the scientific literature and are drafted by veterinarians with expertise in relevant fields … To mitigate public health risks associated with feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs, the AVMA recommends the following: Never feed inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs.”
The AVMA website post also noted that the organization began considering adopting the policy after an inquiry from the Delta Society.
The Delta Society (now renamed Pet Partners) is a national charity that trains therapy dogs and organizes pet visitations to the sick and elderly. Two years ago it banned all dogs that ate a raw diet from the program, saying they could no longer participate in visits because research had shown they might pass on bacteria to those they are visiting.
Given dogs can pick up bacteria from kibble, too, it seemed to some an overly dramatic step to take. The Truth About Pet Foods wondered out loud if it might have stemmed from the fact that Brenda Bax, on the executive board of the Delta Society, was also the marketing director for Purina Pet Foods.
“It was more than clear to many raw pet food advocates, Purina Pet Food’s Brenda Bax played a significant role in Delta Society’s decision to ban raw pet food fed dogs from participating (further, all participant dogs now volunteering for Delta Society wear a Purina patch on their harness/banner – walking advertisement for Purina Pet Foods).”
Not long after the Delta Society’s ban on raw meat-eating dogs, another therapy dog organization, Therapet, enacted a similar one.
Now, The Truth About Pet Food is asking the AVMA if it was Bax who suggested they enact a policy discouraging the raw diet.
So far, she says, she hasn’t gotten an answer.
Thixton also passed along contact information for those wishing to express their thoughts to the AVMA.
General Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360
Phone: 800.248.2862 Fax: 847.925.1329
Governmental Relations Division:
1910 Sunderland Place, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1642
Phone: 800.321.1473, Fax: 202.842.4360
Posted by jwoestendiek July 23rd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american veterinary medical association, animals, avma, bacteria, barf, brenda bax, conspiracy, delta society, director, dog, dog food, dogs, feeding, house of delegates, industry, marketing, meat, meeting, pet food, pets, policy, proposal, purina, raw, raw diet, raw meat, salmonella, san diego, susan thixton, the truth about pet food, theory