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Animal Welfare
Is a vegetarian diet healthy for my pet? PDF Print Write e-mail
Animal Welfare
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Thursday, 09 December 2010 17:21

Pet dry foods by  Purrs & Paws of A.R.A.S.The choice of the brand or the type of food we feed our pets with is something we sometimes take lightly, in general we don't bother reading the ingredients carefully without going further of the front side of the package where the supposed main ingredients are mentioned. But for some in this choice there are more factors to take into account, is common for a vegan or vegetarian to ask him-or herself, should my pet live under my food choices or habits? And, would it be healthy for my pet to carry a diet free of animal protein?

The pet food industry is currently a multimillionaire market and therefor is highly competitive, is not by chance that everyday a new brand appears on the market. Usually this industry is linked directly with the one that produces human food, being the by-products of the later the main ingredients in the first. In these cases pet food represents a convenient way to use the animal parts that are not normaly use in the making of human food, like heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments and fat trimmings, possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts, grains considered “unfit for human consumption” and other similar waste.

The statement of the ingredients in the packet and the detailed list are two things to take into account when you're choosing the food. Some of the main ingredients in pet food are:

Animal Protein: From different sources, mainly from cattle and poultry parts that are unfit for human consumption. The nutritional quality of these by-products may vary from batch to batch depending on the components of the mix. Some brands self proclaimed “premium”, “natural” or “organic” don't use by-products, however the parts they use are better quality leftovers. Currently there is not regulation in the use of dying, sick or disabled animals, which are forbidden in the human food industry.

Vegetable Protein: Most dry foods contain a large amount of cereal grain or starchy vegetables to provide texture and give an attractive shape. These high-carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of “energy” that replaces expensive animal origin ingredients.

Animal Fat: Is the responsible for the odor when you open a bag of pet food. It is sprayed directly onto the food to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable.

Vitamins and minerals: They are used to compensate the lost of nutrients when they cook the ingredients and the variability of the nutritional quality of the product.

Additives: Some chemicals are added to commercial pet food to improve the taste, stability, characteristics, or appearance of the food. These don't provide any nutritional value. Additives include emulsifiers, currently under study due to its possible negative impact in health, to prevent water and fat from separating, antioxidants to prevent fat from turning rancid, and artificial colors and flavors to make the product more attractive to consumers and more palatable to animals.

Preservatives: Are used to maintain the product fresh and appealing to animals. Syntethic preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin. For these antioxidants, there is little information documenting their toxicity, safety, interactions, or chronic use in pet foods that may be eaten every day for the life of the animal. It is believed that ethoxyquin may cause diseases, skin problems and infertility in dogs, that's why some manufactures, listening to the petitions of their consummers, decided to use “natural” preservatives as Vitamin C (ascorbate), Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove, or other spices, to preserve the fats in their products. The shelf life is shorter, however — only about 6 months.

Due to the nature of the materials used, terrible things can happen, like the case in Venezuela, 2005 when many dogs and cats fed with contaminated Purina food died. Frequently the ingredients used are highly contaminated with a wide range of toxic substances, some of which are destroyed by processing. Some of the contaminants we can find are: bacteria (Is not recommended to mix dry food with water, milk, canned food, or other liquids because it may allow the bacteria on the surface to multiply and make pets sick), mycotoxines (From mold and fungi), chemical residue (pesticides and fertilizers) among others.

But the secrets of pet food industry are not only in the ingredients used, they also include testing on living animals. Some of the companies keep large colonies of dogs and cats for this purpose or use testing laboratories that have their own animals. These test are not required o demanded by any organism, but manufactures use them to perform palatability studies when developing a new pet food. Years ago was brought to light that Menu Foods performed tests on living animals in which these were deliberately fed tainted food. Days after the begining of the tests animals started to die painfully from kidney failure. Videotapes reveal the animals’ lives in barren metal cages, callous treatment, invasive experiments, and careless cruelty.

All of this makes me think, are we, pet owners, aware of all the animal suffering involved in pet food manufacturing? From the mammals and the birds, source of animal protein, to the cats and dogs used in the quality tests.

I've been a vegetarian for several years. The reason why I made that decision was that I didn't want to support the cruelty animals are put through in the food industry, however during these years I've being feeding my pets with by-products of this industry. This made me wonder if there are vegetarian alternatives and if these really have all the nutrients my pets need.

Doing some research I found that some vets don't recommend feeding your cat or dog only with vegetarian or vegan products. ABC published an article in which Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at Ohio State University, said that while it's technically possible to formulate healthy nonmeat diets for cats and dogs, but he would strongly advise against vegan diets for young, rapidly growing animals and those that are pregnant. He also says that for dogs is easier to adopt a vegan or less-restrictive vegetarian diet because their nutritional needs aren't as strict as those of cats.

perropatillaFor dogs is easier to keep a vegetarian diet, despite being mainly canivors because their diets are more varied. These could include eggs and other products of animal origin. Cats need nutrients like the amino acid taurine (Taurina deficiencies may cause heart conditions and blidness), vitamin A, iron, calcium and vitamin B. In the same article Mindy Bough says that she's heard anecdotally of healthy vegan cats, and that she suspects that those cats may be supplementing their meat-free diets on their own, hunting mices or birds. On the other hand the CEO of Evolution Diet Pet Food Corp. states that in the 20 years their vegan products have being in the market they've seen dogs over 19 years old and cats over 22 years in good health.

There are some vegan pet food brands, but they are available mostly in North America. Some of these are Human Choice, Evolution Diet and Amidog. They guarantee their products have all the nutrients needed and are healthy for cats and dogs. There are also supplements to adjust any need caused by the vegan or vegetarian diet. It is always adviced, if you made the decission to change your pet's diet, to ask a vet with strong knowledge in nutrition for advice (most have some knowledge on the topic but are no experts) to guarantee a healthy life to your pet and keep it under the vet's watch, because some of them don't tolerate this type of diet and it may cause vomit, hair and energy loss.

The diet of our pets must be one of our main concerns, regardless of your personal dietary preferences. You have to watch that their food has all the nutrients they need and that with time they don't result harmful for them. Also you should do some research on the manufacturer's background, I wouldn't like to feed my pet with a brand that has been tested on other cats and dogs without any ethics involved, and of course ask your vet when you're choosing the type of food.

Image Credit: 

Petting Day Dry Food 064 by Purrs & Paws of A.R.A.S under Creative Commons

Dog Eating Watermelon by dawgfanjeff under Creative Commons

Source on the ingredients of pet food and the secrets of pet food industry: What's Really in Pet Food

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 December 2010 19:56
Unsustainable wildlife trade in the Amazon PDF Print Write e-mail
Animal Welfare
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Thursday, 25 November 2010 03:28

Draining the Amazon of wildlife

The Amazon is home to different kinds of predators, such as harpy eagles and jaguars. But the most dangerous of all, of course, has two legs, a gun, and traps.

As in Asia and Africa, many species are subject to trade. While human population pressure on natural resources in South America is not perceived to be as marked as on other continents, the trafficking of wildlife remains a serious issue.

The use of wildlife by humans is nothing new. In South America, keeping and using animals has been practised for a long time by indigenous people. The Incas in Peru used to trade wild animals such as alligators and anacondas from the Amazon but this activity increased with the beginning of European exploitation in the region. 1


Guatemala Amazon or Blue-crowned Amazon in a cage for transport. French Guiana

© WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 November 2010 04:18
Can I boil you alive? PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Kristi Kuusk   
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 17:02

Silkworm_Moth_by_pcburgerHey, can I boil you alive to get a good quality yarn from your cocoon?

Science nowadays allows us to grow jackets out from our own skin to replace leather taken from animals. Sure, to develop such concepts takes time and we can't deny animal tissue's good properties to our body and to its appreciated protection from cold. Then, what should we consider, wear, to be sustainable?

Animal welfare is one of the main problems in fashion area social impacts among labour exploitation, in particular child labour and poor working conditions, trade inequities. Some natural fabrics such as wool, leather, angora are either by-products of the food industry or from animals bred for their coats. However, there are concerns over the welfare during breeding, capture, rearing, transportation and slaughter of these animals. This doesn't surprise you I guess.

But did you know that conventional silk production, for example gasses, boils or even roasts silkworm cocoons whilst still alive to ensure a high-quality yarn. While in the creation of "peace silk", moths are allowed to emerge from their cocoons to live out their full life cycle. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled. I would prefer that!

Basically, when an animal sheered for its wool is not injected with any hormones, and feeds on organic substances (either grain or grasses not treated with pesticides) the product is considered organic. Organic wool also refers to the process of making the sheered wool fibre into a spun yarn and textile. In order to be considered organic, the process does not include the typical bleaching and chemical processing. The organic manufacture of wool is very sustainable, but in order to comply with certification programs it is typically on a relatively small scale. (Earth Pledge, 2009)

As follows to dress sustainable, in the animal welfare point of view, we, first of all, need to care where the clothes, yarn we use came from, how the animals were treated, what the whole process looks like and then already using common sense decide if it's the kind of garment we'd like to own.

Some videos to "shake" the mind (click on the image to see the video):

If you have a video about animal welfare in fashion you have noticed, please do include it in comments!

Image credits: The-Dork-Side & pcburger

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 18:20
Is your Pet’s food bowl creating a toxic meal? PDF Print Write e-mail
Animal Welfare
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Thursday, 04 November 2010 22:07


Ceramic is healthier than plastic for your pet's food bowl!

I have only fed my pets with stainless steel bowls since sometime around 1998, when I heard a news story somewhere about how the chemicals used to make plastic bowls can leach into your pet’s food and cause health issues. I didn’t have to dive into the details; hearing the story once was enough for me to make a simple switch and never look back.

Ingesting BPA? Yummy!

Every few years, articles regarding the safety of plastics return to news headlines – most recently in the form of reports of a chemical found in baby and sports bottles: Bisphenal A, or BPA.

From Wikipedia:

Bisphenol A is prepared by the condensation of acetone with two equivalents of phenol. The reaction is catalyzed by an acid, such as hydrochloric acid (HCl) or a sulfonated polystyrene resin.

Bisphenol A has low acute toxicity, with an oral LD50 of 3250 mg/kg in rats, but it is an endocrine disruptor. Low doses of bisphenol A can mimic the body’s own hormones, possibly causing negative health effects. There is thus concern that long term low dose exposure to bisphenol A may induce chronic toxicity in humans.

This caused a run on glass and stainless steel bottles from concerned parents and water enthusiasts. I also traded in my plastic water bottles for one reusable stainless steel bottle, and I must say, the water tastes much better. (Have you ever noticed how the water in your bottle tastes terrible if left in the car overnight and it experiences a change in temperature? That doesn’t happen with the BPA-free stainless steel bottles!)



Stainless steel bowls like this are easy to keep sanitary for a healthy pet.

So what about your pet’s food bowl? There are many different types and materials, but according to the National Institue of Health and other major environmental groups, the chemicals used to make plastic bowls and bottles *can* get into its contents, especially if the container is scratched or put in the microwave. And those chemicals contain toxins that can cause cancer, impaired immune function, hyperactivity, and other health problems.

But there are safe products you can use to feed your pets. Pet bowls made of ceramic, stoneware, porcelain, and of course, stainless steel, are less porous than plastic, so they harbor less bacteria and are easier to keep clean and sanitary (remember all those stainless steel tools you see in the doctor’s office?). They also look more beautiful, for longer! Quality hand-painted stoneware, ceramic, and porcelain products are covered with lead-free glaze (always look for the “lead-free” distinction) and fired at high temperatures to create not only vibrant colors but safe, non-porous, strong, chip-resistant structure.

Article provided by Go Fetch Gifts. Article under Creative Commons license.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 November 2010 09:05
WildAid - Planet in Peril: Shark Finning PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Mariana Bravo   
Saturday, 07 August 2010 01:28

WildAid's shark fin trade segment from the CNN Planet in Peril series which aired December 2008. CNN correspondent Lisa Ling and WildAid Executive Director Peter Knights investigate shark finning and the international demand for shark fins that fuels it.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 07:41
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