AVMA’s Raw Feeding Policy Debate — From 2012 Archives

Just when I thought the uproar over the American Veterinary Medical Association’s asinine raw food policy was dying down, the stupidity that goes with trying to spin this as anything but inspired by the pet food industry has resurfaced. On AVMA’s own blog site, a wrap up of the House of Delegates actions at the annual meeting was devoted to the raw food policy. Evidently all the other actions of the HOD were so unimportant that reporting them was put off to focus on the raw food policy. (You can read the whole post and the comments here.)

I was particularly puzzled to see the following statement near the end of the AVMA site post: “Please keep in mind that this policy is NOT a ban on raw foods for pets and it is not a regulation that requires veterinarians (regardless of whether they’re AVMA members or not) to comply, or even agree with it. It’s not a debate on the healthiness of or risks associated with raw foods versus other commercial pet foods. Nor is it an attempt to force a ban or restrict pet owners’ rights to feed their pets how and what they want.” If it is not a ban or regulation, and you’re not speaking to the advantages or risks of raw or commercial foods, and you are not trying to restrict owners’ feeding practices, what the hell is the policy for? Just how will it advance the health of pets, or improve the level of service, knowledge, or skill of veterinarians?

Please take a moment and read the comments on that AVMA blog — consumers clearly get it. This sort of policy only benefits one group, commercial, non-raw pet food producers. And notice the comments that state how this policy erodes consumer trust in veterinarians — now there is something AVMA should dig their teeth into! Oh, wait, they would rather chew on some Science Diet. Look at the first five ingredients for Adult Large Breed.  From the Hill’s website, Adult Large Breed Dry contains “Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Soybean Oil…” As a veterinarian with some knowledge of animal nutrition (my undergraduate focus at Cornell University, and subject of my Honors Research), this ingredient list horrifies me. Corn and soy are completely inappropriate for a species that is naturally a meat eater, as well as some of the more common allergens I see in practice. Chicken by product meal is the cheapest of meat meals, and can include heads, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, and more.  And what animal was the source of animal fat? If it can’t be named, it is also likely to be of the lowest quality, and could even include dog or cat fat.

Clearly this issue is not going to go away — the real question is where are the AVMA and the pet food industry going with it.  Will it be a policy that is on the books but six months from now is not even remembered? Or will it be trotted out at opportune moments for the benefit of commercial non-raw pet food manufacturers? Will AVMA members be resigning their memberships over this apparent sell-out to “Big Pet Food”? I confess I am considering it, especially if my professional liability insurance premiums increase or my policy does not cover the recommendation of a natural diet. I believe it is my responsibility to recommend what my training, experiences, and research have shown me to be the best for my patients. Whether that is a way of feeding, a specific medication or surgical procedure, or other treatment plan, I will not recommend a lesser or potentially damaging approach for my patients just because a veterinary organization has a policy against what I know to true. First and foremost, my duty and obligation is to my patients. As it should be for any health care professional.

One of the most inspiring and moving parts of the graduation proceedings at Cornell University’s Veterinary College was taking the Veterinarian’s Oath. I  believe it would benefit all veterinarians to review the oath often, and strive to practice in such a manner.

Veterinarian’s Oath

Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.

I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

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