The pet food industry, a billion-dollar, unregulated operation, feeds on the garbage that otherwise would wind up in landfills or be transformed into fertiliser. The hidden ingredients in a can of commercial pet food may include roadkill and the rendered remains of cats and dogs. The pet food industry claims that its products constitute a “complete and balanced diet” but, in reality, commercial pet food is unfit for human or animal consumption.
“Vegetable protein”, the mainstay of dry dog foods, includes ground yellow corn, wheat shorts and middlings, soybean meal, rice husks, peanut meal and peanut shells (identified as “cellulose” on pet food labels). These often are little more than the sweepings from milling room floors. Stripped of their oil, germ and bran, these “proteins” are deficient in essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. “Animal protein” in commercial pet foods can include diseased meat, roadkill, contaminated material from slaughterhouses, faecal matter, rendered cats and dogs and poultry feathers. The major source of animal protein comes from dead-stock removal operations that supply so-called “4-D” animals&emdash;dead, diseased, dying or disabled&emdash;to “receiving plants” for hide, fat and meat removal. The meat (after being doused with charcoal and marked “unfit for human consumption”) may then be sold for pet food.
Rendering plants process decomposing animal carcasses, large roadkill and euthanised dogs and cats into a dry protein product that is sold to the pet food industry. One small plant in Quebec, Ontario, renders 10 tons (22,000 pounds) of dogs and cats per week. The Quebec Ministry of Agriculture states that “the fur is not removed from dogs and cats” and that “dead animals are cooked together with viscera, bones and fat at 115° C (235° F) for 20 minutes”.
The US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is aware of the use of rendered dogs and cats in pet foods, but has stated: “CVM has not acted to specifically prohibit the rendering of pets. However, that is not to say that the practise of using this material in pet food is condoned by the CVM.”
In both the US and Canada, the pet food industry is virtually self-regulated. In the US, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets guidelines and definitions for animal feed, including pet foods. In Canada, the most prominent control is the “Labeling Act”, simply requiring product labels to state the name and address of the manufacturer, the weight of the product and whether it is dog or cat food. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Pet Food Association of Canada (PFAC) are voluntary organisations that, for the most part, rely on the integrity of the companies they certify to assure that product ingredients do not fall below minimum standards.
The majority&emdash;85 to 90 per cent&emdash;of the pet food sold in Canada is manufactured by US-based multinationals. Under the terms of the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement, neither the CVMA nor PFAC exercises any control over the ingredients in cans of US pet food.
Pet food industry advertising promotes the idea that, to keep pets healthy, one must feed them commercially formulated pet foods. But such a diet contributes to cancer, skin problems, allergies, hypertension, kidney and liver failure, heart disease and dental problems. One more item should be added to pet food labels: a skull-and-crossbones insignia!