Sometimes you’re picking through the millennia of Web logs (as I try to do on a regular basis) and come up with some truly horrific stuff posted there. Most sane people reading the occasional ignorant thing posted on a random blog simply laugh and move on. That’s me—usually. Today, however, I read a blog post with a graduate student animal rights group logo prominently displayed and was met with a venomous attack on veterinarians with respect to the pet food industry.

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I had no idea veterinarians had become embroiled in the animal rights debate on pet food safety—at least not as targets.

Highlights pertaining to veterinary medicine include:

  • Vets receive minimal nutritional training (from pet food representatives, not professors) so people should not get their nutritional information from vets.
  • Vets are not qualified to sell pet foods, which they do so only as a means of making money.
  • Vets are in cahoots with pet food companies on a number of unethical fronts:
  • vet students receive goodies, pizza, free food and cash from the companies
  • vets accept labor and goods paid for by pet food companies, and, the worst…
  • vets knowingly sell an unwholesome, infectious, and toxic product


I certainly can’t speak for the pet food companies but if toxins or infectious waste were present at any significant level in pet foods the veterinary academics would have sussed it out. Our profession doesn’t accept pet food at face value. We actually research it. This is why schools have nutrition programs. (Nutrition, incidentally, comprises a more significant portion of our training than that afforded human physicians.)

Vet students? You think we worked our whole young lives to get somewhere so that a pizza could buy our loyalty? That essay I wrote that won me a $1500 scholarship check from Hills? If someone were offering to buy my devotion they’d have to pay me a heck of a lot more (especially with my student loan tally)

Moreover, vets like me make a paltry sum off pet foods. I calculate our hospital barely breaks even. Why? The food takes up too much room and requires too much staff time to organize, accept special orders, arrange for pickup, etc. We would love for prescription food manufacturers to deliver directly to our clients. Or let Pet Supermarket sell it. Like most hospitals, we provide pet foods only as a special service to our clients whose pets have specific nutritional needs. Most of us are not in the business of selling food. We’re here to get pets well.

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with animal rights activists` arguments on a number of issues (and the tone that often accompanies their presentation). After all, I spent a good part of my teen years receiving and reading PETA literature (with great relish in those days, I might add).

But times have changed, I guess—as have I. Am I perhaps on the other side of the fence now? Am I the one perpetrating crimes against animals?... or at least perpetuating the evils our society foists on them? Clearly in this blogger`s mind I am the enemy.

Hence my surprise. Especially when I read on…(I’m getting to the good part.)

According to this blogger, most vets don’t depend on a credible cremation service to handle their patients` remains. Instead, vets may legally send the bodies to food service plants where the animals are then used in pet diets. This way we vets don’t have to spend money on expensive cremation. We tell our clients their pets will be cremated and then we sell the carcasses to the highest bidder so they can put it back into pet foods.

OMG I must be living in some sort of alternate reality where things like this don’t happen and laws exist to ensure they don’t. I have never even heard of this supposed scandal. And I devour literature on pet issues at breakfast lunch AND dinner. Where have I been?

If this outrage is indeed widespread why has every hospital I`ve ever worked at (dozens, considering the extent of my emergency and relief work) always used a cremation service? Those uniforms that say Pet Heaven must be a front for my local food service plant. Those pretty, biodegradable boxes with ashes? Alas, they must be filled with Florida limestone gravel. How did I never guess?

Honestly, I’m shocked and dismayed by what supposedly educated people have to say on some of these blogs. This blogger is a graduate student! Of what? Certainly not of any discipline that requires the scholarly vetting of sources or an understanding of what constitutes verifiable information in academic or journalistic circles. She’s trafficking in hearsay, gossip, and pop culture literature—and harming her worthy cause in the process.

So why do I take any of this to heart? Because somebody, somewhere, will. It’s this kind of unsophisticated urban mythology that creates non-compliance and unreasonable fear among our clients. My job is hard enough. I don’t need to have to defend my profession against unsubstantiated (nay, ridiculous) rumor while doing my darndest to make sure my pets and their parents get the care and ethical treatment they deserve.

Addendum: After I posted an indignant reply on the blogger`s MySpace blog, my own MySpace page was hacked and vandalized. I’m sure it wasn’t the blogger`s doing, but it’s this kind of behavior that often characterizes the militancy of extremist groups and hinders the adoption of much-needed reform in how animals are treated in this country and around the world.