Unknown (or ignored) by the vast majority is the fact that the pet food industry is now one of the major contributors to global meat production, encouraging factory farming and environmental destruction. The ethical friction between “loving pets” and “ignoring livestock suffering” is leading many of us to scrutinize what’s inside the kibble we’re dishing out to our pets.
Pet Food Industry
The process of “processed meats” – which includes salami, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, beef jerky and more – represents the largest worldwide movement towards animal suffering in human history. Look for the term to be slowly emerging from the shadows with pet food recalls, fear-mongering, and ethical arguments in the media for pet parents. As organizations like The Humane League continue to raise awareness, many pet food brands are hard at work at cleaning up their supply chains to better align with the higher standards expected by the market, while taking direct action in their supply chains to reduce or eliminate their reliance on factory farming and animal products.
Animal Rights and Animal Suffering
Our pets deserve nutritious food and we deserve ethical products, but the meat and milk products the pet food industry feeds them are rarely sustainable, healthy, and humane. Here are some eye opening facts about the pet food industry. In the United States, we feed our pets over 4 million tons of meat, dairy, eggs and other animal by-products annually. According to a study by the International Life Science Institute (IRSI), between 2 and 5 million American pets (mostly dogs) suffer a painful death every year from an intestinal disease called distemper, a very serious virus similar to that which killed the beloved dog Sanjay Gandhi. In the same study, it was estimated that factory farms kill up to 1.5 billion farm animals (mostly chickens, pigs and calves) per year.
Should I Be Concerned About the Meat in My Pet’s Food?
Much of the damage caused by livestock has been neglected by the conventional feed industry. An individual meal of feed given to a cow or pig can contribute up to 32 percent of a pig’s final growth, and the same amount of grain fed to the same number of chickens can cause up to 66 percent of the chicken’s final growth. Furthermore, a quarter of a typical breakfast can contain chicken, egg and turkey meat, some of which are on growth promoting drugs that cause them to grow faster. In other words, for a single meal of meat, three to four chickens are eaten to make the meal for a pet or child, leading to the natural cycles of production and consumption to be completely disrupted and greatly distorting the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
It’s estimated that 75 percent of dog and cat foods sold in the U.S. are grain-based. In contrast, vegetables and legumes account for just 2 percent. Nearly half of dog and cat foods are flavored with a cocktail of artificial ingredients. The animal-product byproduct of beef, chicken, and pork protein is often eliminated altogether, and sometimes replaced with soy (animal-derived soy protein in human foods). Chewy treats, gummy treats, fatty treats, and canned dog food with “pet food” brand names also regularly contain hidden grains and byproducts. As the science gets better at showing the detrimental effect of refined grains on human health, more pet owners are looking for options for our Fido and Fluffy.
These are truly challenging times for any person concerned with food production. It’s clear that in a post-industrial world, we have to rethink and reconsider everything we’ve been told to eat, and then act on it. We need to challenge the way we think about food, what we’ve been taught about its origins, its origins of production, its political and economic connections, and the manner in which it’s being propagated by the media and pushed on us, especially as relates to the so-called “gourmet” dog food brands. The truth is the American kibble industry is captive to the status quo and in control of the mainstream media, public health officials and the USDA, and therefore the education of the public is controlled. We now have to be our own truth tellers.