In this issue:
1. News Bites
- June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month!
- Fungal toxins found in 98% of pet food
- Labeling of genetically-modified foods takes a(nother) backward step
- Texas Court refuses emotional damages in case of mistakenly euthanized dog
- When “green” isn’t
- Carcinogens found in pet fur
- Natural Balance sold to Del Monte
- Cats unfairly blamed for bird deaths
2. Are pets too environmentally unfriendly to keep?
1. News Bites
June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month! Celebrate it by bringing a shelter cat home with you! Cats are becoming “America’s most disposable pets.” Nearly 3/4 of cats entering shelters every year are euthanized–that’s millions of loving, adoptable kitties who end up in shelters because their guardians passed away, people are moving, or other reasons that are no fault of their own. Too many people still don’t understand that behavior problems in cats are fixable, with just a little effort and understanding of the cat’s point of view. Shelters are filling up with kittens right now, but don’t forget that older cats need homes too, and are often easier to care for than the little guys. For info on how to prepare for a new cat or introduce one to resident pets, see:
If your home is already full-up with kitties, consider donating to animal shelter and rescue organizations, who are always desperate for support. Recycle items like towels and blankets by giving them to your local shelter or humane society; or better still, volunteer to help!
Fungal toxins found in 98% of pet food. According to the May 2013 issue of Petfood Industry magazine, a company called Alltech, which provides ingredients such as mineral premixes and probiotics to tmanufacturers, recently tested 965 animal feeds and pet foods, and found mycotoxins (toxic by-products of molds and fungi) in 98% of them. Even worse, 93% of samples contained two or more mycotoxins, and 39% contained more than five! Pet food makers are well aware that mold is a bigger problem this year due to drought conditions, but even though many test for these toxins, the tests are minimal and unreliable. The problem is that a typical sample of grain or even the finished product may test clean, while mold is growing elsewhere in the batch. Moreover, mold can also grow as the bags of product sit in warehouses or on store shelves. Mycotoxins are the greatest risk in dry dog food (since most contain high amounts of grain), but any dry kibble is susceptible.
Labeling of genetically-modified foods takes a(nother) backward step: The U.S. Senate just voted 71-27 against an amendment to the farm bill that that would have let states decide if they wanted to require GMO labeling. Yet just last month, senators were outraged about a rider in the budget bill–which they themselves passed–that baldly protected Monsanto and other GMO producers from lawsuits. Senators claimed that they didn’t know anything about the rider (even though Montana Sen. Jon Tester had excoriated it on the Senate floor); and indeed, nobody knows who put it in. But that outrage obviously didn’t extend to taking any actual action to protect consumers from unknowingly consuming GMOs. GMO corn and soy are common pet food ingredients, especially in dry kibble.
Texas Court refuses emotional damages in case of mistakenly euthanized dog: The Texas Supreme Court reviewed a case in which an impounded dog was euthanized after his guardians were found, but before the couple could bail him out. They sued the shelter for emotional damages, but the high court affirmed that pets are merely property, with no sentimental or emotional value. In the ruling, Justice Don Willett stated, “Pets are property in the eyes of the law, and we decline to permit non-economic damages rooted solely in an owner’s subjective feelings. True, a beloved companion dog is not a fungible, inanimate object like, say, a toaster. The term ‘property’ is not a pejorative but a legal descriptor, and its use should not be misconstrued as discounting the emotional attachment that pet owners undeniably feel. Nevertheless, under established legal doctrine, recovery in pet-death cases is, barring legislative reclassification, limited to loss of value, not loss of relationship.”
When “green” isn’t: Some “green” cleaners are not as safe for your pet as you might think. Toxic chemicals may still be present, just at lower levels than in regular products. So-called “inert” ingredients may also be toxic! Other “green” or “natural” products aren’t even remotely natural or safe. There are no laws governing these terms, so companies can put them on their labels no matter what’s in them. See the complete article at HealthyPets.Mercola.com.
Carcinogens found in pet fur: Dr. Turesky, a research scientist working for the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at the New York State Department of Health, was interested in figuring out if hair samples could be used to assess exposure to a carcinogen known as PhIP (2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazol[4,5-b]pyridine). He decided to test his own dogs’ fur for a the carcinogen, which is most commonly found in grilled steak and hamburger. To his surprise (and shock!) the chemical was present, even though they only ate dry dog food. He then set up a small study through the University of Minnesota vet school, and discovered that 13 out of 15 dogs also tested positive for PhIP. As it turns out, cooking tends to produce multiple carcinogenic products like PhIP and acrylamide. The longer and hotter the cooking process, the more carcinogens are produced; and poultry products are particularly susceptible to these chemical changes. Yet there is almost no research on carcinogens in pet food. The meat and poultry meals in pet food are rendered by boiling for hours at 250 degrees F, and cooked again when briefly exposed to extremely high heat and pressure for 30-60 seconds during extrusion. It’s another reason to avoid dry food, and consider a homemade and/or raw diet for your pets. Read or watch the video of Dr. Becker’s interview with Dr. Turesky here. Dr. Becker noted that Dr. Turesky still feeds his dogs kibble. Well, even brilliant scientists may lack common sense! Read nine more reasons why dry is bad for your pet…
Natural Balance sold to Del Monte: Take one more previously-trusted brand of the good list; Natural Balance has sold out to Del Monte Corp., maker of Meow Mix, Kibbles ’n Bits, and other popular but low-quality pet foods and treats. Sadly, the addition of Natural Balance will not likely bring Del Monte’s standards up, but it’s sure to bring Natural Balance’s reputation–and quality–crashing down. The sale will be finalized in June. Read more….
Cats unfairly blamed for bird deaths: A recent article (Loss, S.R., Will, T., and Marra, P.P., “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States.” Nature Communications. 2013. 4) once again blames cats for declining populations of songbirds around the world. But it mainly trotted out all the old anti-cat myths under the guise of new science, and adds a few ridiculous new computations. Gullible individuals and even organizations (including the American Veterinary Medical Association) are simply parroting these falsehoods. Unfortunately, this type of radical anti-cat rhetoric creates a very dangerous situation for cats, particularly feral cats. With every article like this that gets published, more people feel less guilty about poisoning, trapping, and shooting any cat, any time. But the truth is that habitat destruction (by humans), not feline predation, is to blame for the vast majority of worldwide bird population declines. If you’re a science geek (and even if you’re not), you’ll appreciate this excellent rebuttal by Vox Felina (http://www.voxfelina.com/2013/05/the-greater-threat-is-junk-science-an-open-letter-to-the-avma/). While cats may kill just to satisfy their powerful hunter instincts, whether they’re hungry or not, TNR (trap-neuter-release) and managed colonies are effective solutions for feral cats; and there’s a simple solution to the other half of the problem: indoor/outdoor cat predation–keep cats indoors, on a leash, or in a secure outdoor enclosure. Is pet ownership sustainable? “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”
Wondering what to feed your cat for optimal health? Check out What Cats Should Eat: Keeping Your Cat Healthy with Good Food, and many other ebooks in our Bookstore! All ebooks are also available for Kindle!
(You don’t have to have a Kindle to read Kindle books! Freely downloadable e-readers are available at Amazon.com for your PC, Mac, tablet, and smartphone!)
2. Are pets too environmentally unfriendly to keep?
A recent article in Science Daily cited research being done by researcher Kelly Swanson (University of Illinois) and scientists at The Nutro Company on the sustainability of pet ownership. It’s an interesting subject.
Sustainability, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
The Swanson-Nutro study argues three main point:
- Pets should not be fed human-grade ingredients, but rather the leftovers (i.e., by-products) of meat-packing that would otherwise be wasted.
- Plant proteins like soy and corn gluten meal should be used in place of meat, in part because their production uses less fossil fuel.
- Pets are overfed.
Let’s look at each of these arguments in detail:
1. The authors evidently don’t know that the term “human grade” does not mean that the food is fit for human consumption. Even products from a USDA-inspected plant become “human inedible” when the inspector goes home, or when the products go out the back door. They are definitely not “human grade” when they go into the pet food. (Only one company (The Honest Kitchen, which makes dehydrated pet foods) maintains all ingredients in human-edible condition from beginning to end, and is the only one authorized to use that term.)
Many pet foods do use by-products and meat-and-bone-meal as their protein sources; and many use soy and corn gluten meal. It just so happens that I don’t recommend any of those foods, because they do not properly support optimal health in our pets.
If we fed our pets (and ourselves) better quality food, yes it would use up more of the good quality ingredients. But it would save, perhaps even more, by reducing the amount fed (well-nourished pets are less hungry); creating less pet waste (see below); and and reducing medications given to pets for chronic diet-related problems; medications that end up in groundwater, polluting local freshwater and flowing on to the oceans.
2. Today, 95% of soy and 85% of corn in the US is genetically modified (GMO). There are many concerns about GMOs despite the assurances of Monsanto and its friends at the FDA and USDA. Even if they weren’t as bad for humans as feared (though they are undoubtedly far worse), it seems obvious that feeding large amounts of GMOs to your pet every meal, every day, is a very bad idea. Wheat is the latest victim of GMOs; at one time, 16 states planted “experimental fields;” and one of them, Oregon, just found GMO wheat miles away, even though it hasn’t been planted since 2005. Evidently, the guys who gave the plantings the green light had never heard of a strange atmospheric phenomenon called “wind.” Oops. It’s safe to assume that all soy and corn in pet food is GMO (and all non-organic human products, too).
Crop production, especially with GMO plants that need frequent, heavy applications of petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, is extremely high in its fossil-fuel use: 71% more than organic, according to CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), also known as factory farms, use a great deal of fossil fuel to truck food in, move animals out, and cause an insane amount of land, air, and water pollution. But organic food production, and truly sustainable places like Polyface Farms, are proving that truly sustainable agriculture is better suited to providing the food of the future than Big Ag ever was, or ever will be.
Of course, getting consumers to believe points #1 and 2 would be quite advantageous to Nutro’s owner, Mars Petcare, which uses vast amounts of by-products, soy, and corn in its products, which include Whiskas, Sheba, Crave, Cesar, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Greenies, and many more.
3. Pets are overfed. Yes, they sure are. More than 50% of our dogs and cats are now considered overweight or obese by their veterinarians. If most people reduced the amount they are feeding their pets by 10-20%, many pets would be the better off for it; far fewer resources would be used; and the environmental impact would be reduced. (But please discuss any and all significant diet changes with your vet!)
If we took it a step further and fed an organic, pasture-raised/grass-fed, meat-based raw or homemade diet, the advantages we’ve talked about would be multiplied–especially because the power of the pocketbook will let producers and manufacturers know that consumers are paying attention. Only the ones with something to hide will mind that!
So, a little more about pet waste… As anyone with a dog and a lawn knows, canine urine quickly burns grass into yellow not-so-happy faces (actually due to over-fertilization by the high nitrogen content of urine), and cat owners know that urine-soaked litter is a lot heavier than it started. Poop isn’t any better. Most places require that you pick up your dog’s poop in public spaces. Again, cats’ doings are more confined, but no better to deal with. Most of this mess ends up in plastic bags, which end up in landfills: at least 2 million tons of used cat litter alone, and who knows how many little plastic bags full of dog doo? (America’s dogs produce 10 million tons of it a year!) I live at the intersection of a bike path and a trash dumpster; all day and all evening I hear the dumpster lid banging down after dog walkers deposit those bags; I’m sure that everyone on every corner along the path can say the same thing.
Composting is one alternative to dog waste disposal; there are actually composters built for exactly that purpose. Be sure you know what you’re doing with pet waste composting; and don’t use the resulting compost on plants grown for food, as there is a risk of disease and parasite transmission if high temperatures were not evenly distributed during the process.
In northern Denver metro, the Adams County animal shelter has taken this idea one step further. It works with two local companies: Pet Scoop Services, which collects and transports the waste, and another called Envirowagg, who composts the shelter’s 2.5 tons of dog droppings a year into compost on an industrial scale. (Their products are available online.)
Of course, as pampered pets become more commonplace around the world, the problem of feeding and cleaning up after them will only get worse. But is not having pets, or as some have advocated, banning all the cats, the solution? Well, duh, of course not.
Ultimately, all the problems of resource allocation and environmental responsibility are human problems. We made this bed, and have only ourselves to blame if we don’t want to sleep in it. And until humans (individually and as a group) grow up and start figuring out a better way to cooperatively inhabit the earth, keeping dogs or cats in our homes isn’t going to make a difference.
Little Big Cat is now accepting donations to fund travel expenses for Dr. Jean to attend the Annual Meeting of AAFCO in St. Petersburg, Florida! Click on the PayPal donate button to the right, or visit our fundraising site. (www.youcaring.com/other/have-a-voice-in-pet-food-regulation-/63920)
Redox Signaling: Listen to a monthly call with animal communicator Kate Solisti to learn about redox signaling and why it is fundamental to health. Next call: June 17, 2013. http://www.animalcall.info
Casting Call: Does your cat do something that really annoys you? Jackson Galaxy’s hit show on Animal Planet, My Cat From Hell is now casting for next season; click here for more information!
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