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Raw Discrimination

It has been brought to my attention over recent times that owners of dogs and cats who raw feed are being penalised and discriminated against by vet practices for giving their pets the proper species-appropriate diet that optimises health.

The unfounded accusation that raw-fed cats and dogs display significantly increased bacterial shedding of the more dangerous kinds has long been used as a lame excuse to attack good raw feeding practices in favour of feeding ultra processed health-damaging kibble feeds. In the past, it was just a case of owners having to let the OTT lectures on the exaggerated “dangers” of raw feeding wash over them like water off a duck's back on the rare occasions they had to seek treatment for their pets. There was no other discrimination against pets who were raw fed in the past when they had to be hospitalised for whatever reason. To my knowledge, during this period there were no more confirmed cases of zoonosis in a vet or vet nurse as a result of caring for a raw-fed inpatient compared with cases from tending kibble-fed pets.

It was 20 plus years ago when I first started campaigning in support of Tom Lonsdale MRCVS in favour of proper species-appropriate diets for our pet carnivore cats and dogs. We were most definitely in the minority. Many were not so openly vocal, but loyally supported Tom on an annual basis when he stood for RCVS Council elections. Tom used his RMB (Raw Meaty Bones) diet that he had set out in his first publication of the same name, and the harm caused by kibbles  as his sole manifesto mantra. I don’t think many vets realised that the reason he only ever answered any questions by referring to raw feeding was so that nobody could ever accuse him of receiving any votes for opinions on anything else, because he never gave them! Nearly every year he polled between 3-400 votes. Although Tom was never voted onto Council, the important point was that all Tom’s votes were from qualified vets who supported his stance on feeding RMB and against pet food industry interference in good clinical practice, and it put our combined qualified protest on official record. Tom warned the profession all those years ago that their time of reckoning would come when the public woke up to the fact that the majority of vets had pushed and sold diets that harmed their patients, however well-intentioned. Tom and I visited the RCVS together a couple of times to push this point and to urge the RCVS to use their influence to initiate a proper investigation. We were shown little respect and nothing materialised.

Tom Lonsdale published his first book Raw Meaty Bones in 2001.

Non-professionals are allowed to hold wrong opinions. Professionals whose job it is to know better have no excuse for failing to objectively critically appraise such an important topic within their specialist subject. Humans have yet to truly outperform nature, and this is yet another example of abject failure.

Although good scientific evidence existed at that time to support our assertions that Tom documented in his first book, Raw Meaty Bones, the vast majority of the profession insisted on serving the pet food manufacturers who had provided financial incentives all the way through vet school, and on throughout professional careers. My small animal "nutrition textbook" didn't even mention raw feeding, and was provided for free by Hills. I’ve seen past contracts between the UK vet schools and pet food manufacturers whereby the latter have the final say over what students are taught and who has access to lecture them. Universities are supposed to provide the full spectrum of information on a subject, and not allow their students to be brainwashed by vested interests. They certainly knew what they were doing when they provided free evening lectures accompanied by a free bar to students too. That’s probably not so viable now as there are significantly more students in each year and the price of alcohol has risen significantly, but no doubt they still contribute to student lectures, textbooks, and social events in order to capture future good will. Their investment in beer et al over many years has been repaid hundreds of times over I have no doubt!

CPD and conferences are still highly subsidised by both Pharma and the pet food industries alike who make sure they have prominent positions for lectures, product launches, and ongoing incentives for vets to keep pushing their products. The model isn’t a new one of course. The Rockerfellers started meddling in medical matters by supporting the beginnings of Pharma and suppressing established natural treatments in the beginning of the 20th century. Only slightly earlier, businessman James Spratt introduced the first commercially prepared pet food in England in approximately 1860 and went on to start a certain dog show by the name of Crufts to promote it. Any vet who tries to tell you dogs evolved to eat primarily plant-based diets through domestication with man from the days of cave-dwelling must have had very unevolved ancestors during the 19th and 20th centuries! 150 years of commercial dog food compared with millions of years of natural evolution in the wild, which is recognised by classifying the domestic dog as a sub-species of the grey wolf, is not comparable by any stretch of the imagination. All alpha predators in nature are carnivores. As I’ve said many times before, being adapted to be able to eat some plants in order to survive a harsh winter does not equate to thriving on such foods from weaning to an early death. Certainly when given the choice, wolves and other alpha predators revert to their full carnivorous diet.

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Moving forward to recent times, there has been a significant increase in the amount of good quality research that not only evidences better health from feeding a raw meaty bones type evolutionary diet, but also details the harms that kibbles cause to health such as developmental orthopaedic disorders, allergies, various cancers and numerous other health problems with a pro-inflammatory aetiology. Consequently, more people are now much more open to trying raw feeding for their cats and dogs, and the explosion of raw pet food manufacturers has facilitated them in doing so. Not all raw diets are created equal however, but more on that later.

The big kibble pet food manufacturers who have seemingly captured the loyalty of the vast majority of the veterinary profession aren’t about to give up their ever-so-tight grip lightly. The Mars Corporation for example control different pet food brands in much the same way they own many well-known human food brands too. They also own one of the veterinary corporate groups that have spread like wildfire in the UK too – the Linnaeus Group. What a great business model to make money by pushing and selling your own brands of pet food directly at the veterinary coalface. It would seem to me to be a massive conflict of interest given the harm that kibble feeds are being proven to cause. Whilst friends who are doctors tell me they never did any proper nutrition during their medical degree courses, they haven’t yet stooped so low as to sell McDonalds, or other highly processed fast foods in their waiting rooms. Any dentist who started selling high sugar confectionary in their waiting rooms would no doubt be called into question over their ethics too, and quite rightly so.

What is happening now in the battle to discredit and discourage raw feeding is that fear-mongering Practices are telling owners that raw-fed inpatients have to be segregated, nurses have to wear special PPE and thus there are additional charges that owners of raw-fed pets must pay. I have been asked for my opinion a number of times on this which is what has stimulated me to write this blog.

The logic behind such divisive behaviour is fundamentally flawed to the degree that it displays either morally questionable ethics in abusing MsRCVS's monopoly position in providing veterinary care to impose such measures, wilful ignorance, or both.

Firstly, the implication is that kibble-fed dogs and cats are not just inherently cleaner, but don’t harbour any bacteria that could possibly be zoonotic to the vets and nurses. Clearly this is absurd. As the pictures above show, all dogs sniff other dogs’ bums, lick their own genitals and bums, and will stick their noses into whatever they find in the hedgerow including other dogs urine, faeces, contaminated vegetation etc. and in some cases scavenge what they find. They don’t care if the other dog eats raw or kibble, or whether we regard what they lick/eat to be disgusting and unclean. To therefore assume that kibble-fed dogs do not warrant the same degree of awareness and precautions with regards to hygiene and cleanliness is quite frankly irresponsible and arguably negligent behaviour. I would be concerned that under these circumstances of seemingly reduced hygiene responsibility that kibble-fed inpatients supposedly warrant that they are more likely to be a source of infection to raw-fed inpatients than the other way round. To be clear, my position is that the same hygienic awareness is necessary for all inpatients to the same extent regardless of what they are fed. If PPE is not regarded as essential for kibble-fed dogs and cats then I contend it is not required for raw-fed pets either. If PPE is considered essential for raw-fed pets, then I contend it is essential for kibble-fed dogs and cats too. It is up to each Practice to decide which philosophy they want to follow in terms of safety, and I’m not trying to dictate to Practices where they should draw their own line in the sand, but this should apply across the board. There is no justification for discrimination as is currently happening in some Practices.

Clearly, where there is an obvious infection shedding risk (eg diarrhoea and vomiting) then PPE and segregation would be appropriate whatever feed the inpatient usually consumes. Both kibble and raw food have been documented to be the source of infection in food-poisoning outbreaks in the past, and any inpatient with these symptoms should be assumed to be a potential infectious hazard for attendees and other inpatients alike. All are capable of shedding E.coli, Salmonella, Parvovirus or whatever.

I have also heard that the latest unfounded claim is that raw-fed dogs’ and cats’ mouths are an increased biohazard to vets and nurses due to the risk of E. coli, Salmonella and whatever else they’re supposed to be incubating in higher numbers than their kibble-fed counterparts. If we consider the common differences between kibble-fed mouths and raw-fed mouths I think the evidence suggests the opposite is more likely to be true.

As renowned human dentist Sir Frank Colyer pointed out about periodontitis in 1947...

“Cats and dogs which lead a freer life and obtain a diet more nearly approaching their natural food, are practically free from the disease”.

More recently Professor Colin Harvey (a veterinary periodontologist) wrote in the 1990s

“In a healthy dog or cat fed a “natural” diet that requires tearing and separation of swallowable pieces, the teeth and gingival tissues [gums] are largely self-cleaning: that is plaque is wiped off before it has time to mature to a pathogenic thickness and bacterial mix. When circumstances change so that plaque accumulates, the disease process starts.”

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Rotten mouth from eating kibble

Clearly, it follows that the most infectious mouths belong to those pets with most plaque, and in most cases these are pets NOT fed a healthy RMB diet. Given that many people don’t adequately clean their own teeth, the idea that owners can fully clean their pets’ teeth is highly questionable. To therefore try to pin the dangerous label on raw-fed pets flies in the face of all the evidence.

Recent studies of the digestive tract microbiome indicate that the healthiest gut has the greatest biodiversity, i.e. the most different species within the microbiome. Imbalances and overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria will be more easily established in the digestive tract with the least biodiversity. Raw-fed pets have been found to have greater gut biodiversity than their kibble-fed counterparts.  Once again, discrimination against raw fed pets on the basis of pathogenic faecal shedding is contra to the evidence, however I will emphasise once again that all pets however they are fed must be considered a potential source of bacteria with the facility to initiate a digestive infection and upset if proper hygiene precautions aren’t taken.

If raw fed pet pose such a risk for infection then the massive rise in raw feeding amongst pet owners would result in a parallel rise amongst raw feeding owners in illness. I have seen no evidence to suggest this. To therefore discriminate against raw-fed pets is not supported by the evidence. Raw feeding owners know to handle and prepare raw meat for their pets using the same high level of hygiene awareness that they employ when handling raw meat for feeding people.

To suggest, as some have, that vets who advise feeding our pet carnivores a raw species-appropriate diet are somehow negligent and a risk to both pet and public health is clearly nothing but a political agenda backed by the kibble-producing pet food manufacturers.

It is clear that those who would like to maintain their control over the mainstream veterinary profession and industry have an agenda to discredit raw feeding and to discourage it through disingenuous practices that take advantage of the veterinary monopoly that exists with regards to diagnosing and treating the nation’s pets.  The big conglomerate owners of the vast majority of the pet food brands such as Mars, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle and Johnson & Johnson have the financial resources to pay for the “research” and buy the results they would like the veterinary profession to see. These conglomerates also have interests in Pharma, so they win on the back end of the disease their diets create too.

Although it has been most obvious over the last few years how much “science” has been corrupted and bought by those with vested interests, this has been called out much sooner too by the likes of Dr Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet who wrote in 2015...

"The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientifi c literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."

Those of us who raw feed and advocate it must keep ourselves aware of what is being planned and going on that would discredit us and the proper feeding of species-appropriate evolutionary diets. We must stay true to the proper feeding of the raw meaty bones diet as Tom Lonsdale has advocated for many years. I see too much processing and “watering down” of the pet carnivore diet too. I’m not saying "convenience" raw diets should never be fed eg when on holiday and refrigerated storage etc is an issue, but they should not be fed on a daily basis except in certain rare circumstances where proper RMB is impractical. For the vast majority, this is not the case. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t see animals doing something in the wild then we don’t have to do it for them. This includes attacking wheat fields, picking vegetables, digging potatoes and pre-grinding meat and bone.  Dogs and cats are primarily carnivores. Feeding them in ways they wouldn’t have access to in the wild is asking for problems, and in today’s current climate that could mean for the practice of raw feeding too.

As Arthur Schopenhauer said ...

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

It is ridiculous that raw feeding has to even go through these stages as it is the established evolutionary diet that should just be recognoised as having already reached stage 3 millions of years ago. The reality in this revisited 3 stage cycle is that raw has passed through stage 1 and is currently in stage 2 where it will face an existential threat that is increasingly more fierce in opposition. We must resist and stick to what nature tells us is correct if we are to ride out the storm and endure. Let’s make sure raw doesn’t undermine itself on the way and create a chink in our winning position.