Peer-reviewed research at the University of Sydney published in the Australian Veterinary Journal has concluded that some commercial pet food could cause severe illness or injury to adult cats. This is shocking news. This is outrageous news. But it does not really surprise us. It should not surprise people who are in tune with the situation regarding pet food in general; the country where the food is made is irrelevant. The pet food manufacturers are primarily concerned with one thing: profit. This research should concern people in countries other than Australia.
In an online discourse about this research, Richard Malik a “feline specialist” at the University of Sydney answers questions from the public about the research which indicates that the domestic cats in the households of around 2 million Australians are at a health risk because of the food that they are eating. Eight out of twenty products tested did not meet nutritional standards which I presume means standards as set by the government.
What is as shocking as the conclusions is that the authors of the university were the research took place will not reveal the names of the companies that make the dangerous pet food. Quite naturally people are highly concerned and are asking why they have taken this stance.
The research clearly indicates that there are serious issues with the nutritional composition of pet food in Australia with concurrent health implications with cats.
Mr Thomas, a reporter, states that pet shop foods labelled as “nutritionally complete” were tested and of these nine did not adhere to the Australian standard guaranteed or the typical content claimed on the labelling. Eight of the products were found to contain protein or fat levels that were likely to cause severe illness or injury to adult cats including diseases such as: diabetes, osteoarthritis, shortened lifespan and the possible development of cancer.
It is mystifying why the researchers at Sydney University have refused to disclose the names of the products which are potentially dangerous to the health of cats and dogs. Surely they have an obligation to disclose the names. Perhaps the research was funded by the manufacturers who produce these foods.
Another reason why the names of the manufacturers are not revealed is because the research is a “preliminary” small-scale study which requires a larger follow-up study before the manufacturers’ names are revealed.
However, the study itself does not state that it is of a “preliminary” nature. Any decent person including veterinarians and people in the animal welfare business will insist that the names of the manufacturers concerned are revealed so that they can provide proper advice. It is impossible to justify not revealing the names of manufacturers producing pet food which is detrimental to the health of cats and dogs. It almost feels to me that it is illegal not to do so.
Returning to the sponsorship of the research, the reporter that I mention above, Mr Thomas, believes that the names of the manufacturers have been withheld in order to “protect or prop up university sponsors like Hill’s or Royal Canin pet food.
Another theory is that the non-disclosure of the manufacturers’ names is a way of forcing people to buy the best quality cat food that they can get their hands on. This would seem to be a bit far-fetched. The University of Sydney state that they do not receive any commercial funding therefore they deny that the decision not to publish the names of the manufacturers is a way of protecting them because they have been influenced by their funding.
However, apparently, the University of Sydney is receiving sponsorship from pet food companies such as Royal Canin and Hills. The agreement between the university and Hills results in significant benefits for Hills including product placement in veterinary clinics and branded lab coats et cetera. This is typical of pet food manufacturers. They are continually game playing to max out profits while disregarding the animal welfare consequences.
Interestingly, the pet food industry’s spokesman, Duncan Hall, is also requesting the release of the product names. Duncan Hall says that he has reached out to try and have a meeting with the researchers and sent emails and called the researchers without a response. They don’t trust him.
It is obvious to me and it is common sense that the name to the manufacturers producing dangerous pet food in Australia should be named and then other experts, specialists and consumers can make their own judgements. In the interests of companion animal welfare it is essential that the University of Sydney come clean. It is, quite frankly, shocking that people can play politics while jeopardising the health of companion animals. Why did the university publish the research in the first place if they feel that they cannot publish the names of the manufacturers producing these dangerous foods?
This story reinforces my scepticism about pet food manufacturers. By the way, what about kittens? Are they at equal risk and if not why not?
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