Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mental Gymnastics - Thinking for Ourselves in the "Information Age"

I recently received an article from concerned relatives, regarding the dangers of feeding a raw diet to pets.  

As most of our Front Range K9 Academy clients know, many of our trainers (including me) feed a natural, balanced, raw diet to our pets.

At first, upon reading the article, I was angry.  Very angry.

I hear fellow raw feeders bemoaning the fact that their veterinarians, or family members, or friends argue with them against a raw diet, for a number of reasons.

But I thought - having been in the professional pet industry for 28 years, having a partner who is a veterinarian (who supports raw feeding), and just being my amazing, wonderful self - I thought I was immune to this nonsense.

Then, I started doing what I love to do best - mounting a counter argument.

I felt I needed to write the following response.  So, this is not a blog about raw pet food.  Nor about dog training.  But instead, it's a post about considering the source of information coming at each of us - at light speed - every hour of every day.  

Until we learn that all information is owned by someone....until we learn to consider where information comes from and who is profiting from that information, we will be unable to decipher what is good information, and what is not.

The article I received was the answer to a question about raw feeding.  The answer was provided by the famous (infamous?) Dr. Oz.  While I won't go into the many, many concerns by medical industry professionals about the validity of Dr. Oz's credibility in general, receiving the article did give me something to really think about.  (Despite the fact that the article's author gives no links, footnotes, or other annotation regarding the validity of information stated as fact...I will try not to make the same mistake here.)

No - I gave no consideration to the article's content, which was basically an alarmist response to the 'dangers' of feeding a raw pet diet due to contamination by bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.

My initial response in reading the article was, "Of course bacteria are present - it's raw meat!"  

But being the intelligent, educated person that I am, I use the same precautions when preparing my dogs' meals as I do when handling raw meat in preparation for my human family's meals.

Hand washing, cleaning utensils and dishes, and prep. areas with hot water and detergent, are of course vital - regardless of whom the meal is being prepared for.

So it wasn't Dr. Oz's fear mongering that affected me, but instead the idea that we, as a society, continue to be taken in by almost anything we see or hear - in print or on the screens - be they television or computer screens.

In a world where we are literally battered with information in the form of words and pictures nearly every waking minute, it can be hard to decipher good information from bad.

In spite of the increase in media attention to "Fake News," it seems we're still unsure of how to interpret the messages coming at us.

This hits home for me not only as a raw feeder, but as a dog trainer.  There is a major split going on in the professional dog training community regarding methods, tools, and techniques - with each side having valid arguments.  But instead of working together for the good of the public, the dogs, and our industry, we have been reduced to mudslinging and hurling emotion-laden, often unsubstantiated claims at each other.

The same is true in the pet food world, with big business going to the mattresses to keep commercial pet food bringing in the big bucks. 

As more and more owners are turning to raw pet foods, either purchasing through small companies, or by making their own, the big commercial pet food industry is swinging for the fences - pouring big bucks into sponsorship and 'research' and as much media attention as they can get - that will back their claims that raw feeding is dangerous for pets and humans.  Of course they will argue this point - they don't want to lose profits! 

If you doubt this, check out the yearly financial statements for the 3 companies that own/produce the majority of all dog food brands.

They are grossing $61 billion a year:  Nestle' Purina brought in a not-to-shabby $11 billion in 2015; Colgate-Palmolive was at $15.2 billion for 2017; and the largest of them all, Procter & Gamble/Mars, made $35 billion in 2017.  This information is readily available as public record.

What does this have to do with Dr. Oz's article? 

Well, I did just a bit more research into the good doctor and his corporate sponsorship.  Sure enough, guess who I found?  Direct corporate links to his 'trusted' sponsors include L'Oreal (owned by the Nestle' corporation), and Head & Shoulders (owned by Proctor & Gamble/Mars Corporation - yes, the company that made $35 billion in pet food profits last year.)

What is missing from Dr. Oz's article is the other side of the argument - that commercially processed/sold pet food is just as risky for the very same bacteria found in raw dog foods. 

As recently as January 2018, yet another recall was issued for commercial dog food - with Listeria found in the food - and the source of the bacteria?  Human grade green beans!  You can read more about it the Food Safety News.

In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association updated its online information regarding Salmonella found in commercial dog food, stating in the article that, "No pet food is immune from the possibility of Salmonella contamination."  The entire page can be found here.

The research above took me less than an hour to complete.  But how many of us take even a small portion of our day to question what we read online & in print, or hear on the news?

I would challenge each of us - regardless of what subject matter we're thinking of - to consider the source of the information we are receiving.  

In particular, is the information being presented in a way that is designed to provoke some emotion in us?  (The Dr. Oz article is clearly aimed at causing fear.)

Big business spends billions a year on public relations and advertising aimed at tickling our emotions.  When we act from our feelings instead of our common sense, they've hooked us - and we'll spend, spend, spend with them.

And secondly, I would urge every person to ask themselves, "Who might profit from spreading this information?"  Remember, in our current example, Dr. Oz gets sponsorship from the very companies producing commercial dog food - a source that stands to lose a lot of money if consumers abandon their products.

On the flip side, I can't imagine that my small, corner butcher is out to take over the world by selling me raw meaty bones, organs, and other products I feed my pets.

In the end, I know my family members were only expressing concern for my own safety.  And I appreciate that love and concern - whether the claims for concern are legitimate or not.

Food for thought.

Jennifer Hime is the owner and training director of Front Range K9 Academy in Wheat Ridge, CO.  She can be reached through her website, at

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