A standard cop-out …
This “no scientific research” declaration is a standard cop-out claim that has been used to “debunk” raw or real food diets and in the process economize the truth regarding commercial pet food and associated industry. But one must realize that there is no evidence, whatsoever, to prove that kibble or processed foods are good for your fur kids as well.
As the world changes, and information changes, new ideas are born and raised. Some individuals manage to move forward with the new information, and some not. Keep in mind that research can be fallible, research is sometimes biased, and research has come up with as many “truths” as there are researchers. We just need to be cognizant of our dietary and nutritional guidelines in the last century.
Research, by its very nature, should change as new information becomes available, and “stale” research is often used as the only measure or “stick of truth”, conveniently ignoring ideas that does not fit the “stale” paradigm of reference.
The only research that has been done into processed foods was performed to see:
- a) if dogs could be fed a grain-based food,
- b) if dogs could survive acceptably on these processed foods for a short period of time,
- c) if X brand of food can do such-and-such for the dog (help with kidney disease, help with diabetes, help with obesity), and
- d) if X brand of food is “better” (more palatable, better liked, less total stool volume, etc.) than Y brand of food.
So, let’s make sure you are comfortable with this concept – no research has been done to determine the long-term effects of feeding McKibble or McCan, nor to determine if it is actually healthy for your dog, as the norm is to just assume it is healthy because it has passed a 6 month feeding trial, after which manufacturers will advertise their product as healthy, nor to determine if raw diets is better or worse than kibble, and so the list continues. In fact, feeding trials only last 26 weeks and growth food trials 10 weeks. Nutrient profiles do not test nutrient bio-availability, a key factor in good nutrition. Feeding trials or nutrient trials can be conducted with a family member rule, which means if a product is similar to another, nutritionally, it does not need to be tested.
But as for raw, natural, diets: one million years of evolution apparently is not enough evidence for those citing lack of research and lack of studies in scientific literature. Neither the anatomical and physiological evidence of dogs, nor mtDNA evidence, nor circumstantial and statistical evidence of diseases in processed food-fed pets, nor anecdotal evidence are enough from those be-crying the lack of “studies” and “research“. Anecdotal, eyewitness evidence is dismissed because it is scientifically “unfounded” and anecdotal, even when the evidence is standing right before their eyes in easily seen, wonderful health. Considering the current western judicial systems, it is interesting to note that eyewitness evidence is enough to help condemn a man in a court of law, but is not enough for the “scientific” community composed of commercial grain-based pet food manufacturers and their affiliates. Opponents of the raw diet for pets expect raw feeders to take their anecdotal and eyewitness evidence as truth when they have already dismissed the evidence offered by the raw feeder as anecdotal. “I’ve seen so many dogs come into my clinic with nutritional problems because of raw diets!” What about all the sick commercially fed pets that come into your office? “Bones are going to kill your dog” Oh yeah? Says who? Prove it! This distinct bias has been used in veterinary literature to “prove” raw diets are not as good as commercial:
“Although there are numerous claims to the health benefits of raw food diets, all are anecdotal…The raw bones included in many of these diets carry risks, and although the actual incidence of complications resulting from ingestion of raw bones is unknown, there are reports of intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal perforation, gastroenteritis, and fractured teeth…” pg 706, emphasis added. There have been many reports published, you can review them at PubMed.gov1 or download a (PDF) copy. When reviewing the materials, make sure you read the “Facts“, and then review our article titled The Fallacy. It is very unfortunate, this “he says she says” debate that ultimately impacting our fur kids in the name of free market principles.
The claims of raw food diets are dismissed as anecdotal, and then the readers are later asked to consider the similarly anecdotal, undocumented “reports” against raw food diets!
Quick recap – most reports or recommendations condemn the concept of natural diets, either due to lack of science or fear of bacteria. No hard evidence on feeding or nutritional profiles. Many statements containing “potential“, “could“, “might“, “suggested“, none with – “recommended“, “confirmed” …
There is a lack of “scientific” evidence in the form of research studies on raw diets for our fur kids. Why? As the commercial pet food industry is a multi-billion-dollar business in the US alone, one has to ponder whom is going to pay for an extensive research study on raw diets when the evidence may be damning? Most opponents point to all the studies done by commercial pet food companies and cite the lack of similar studies done on raw diets as evidence that raw diets are bad and inferior. But let us look at how studies actually come about.
First, you must come up with a hypothesis and a purpose. What are you studying? Why are you studying it? What do you expect to prove? After you figure this out you design your study, including methods, control groups, and variables. You draw out everything in great detail, and then you incorporate this into a grant; after all, you need a large amount of money to run your study. So where do you get the money? You look at individuals, corporations, and companies that might be interested in your project. Some of the bigger companies and corporations already have pre-existing grant monies for which you can apply. Other times you have to present the grant to a company and ask for funds that have not already been set aside into a specific grant. How do you ensure the receipt of this money? You appeal to people who will have a great interest in what you are doing. You appeal to the companies that in some way have a financial interest in what you are studying (for example, a biomedical company that wishes to branch out from artificial joints into artificial menisci and artificial vertebral discs—which happen to be what you are studying), and will therefore fund your project so as to find out more; it just might pay off for them in some way. That is the key: you are approaching companies that may offer you money because there will be something in it for them.
But what happens if the results actually reflect unfavorably upon the product you are testing or the method you are studying, and therefore reflect unfavorably upon the company that makes said product or endorses said method? It depends on how much is at stake. If there was only a tiny amount at stake initially – perhaps it was a small pilot study with the company looking to see if artificial menisci might even be worth their time – then there should not be a problem. It tells them what they wanted to know and it was not a big loss. However, some would argue that perhaps pet food companies did this with raw diets. But if that was the case, they would have all the facts and figures reflecting negatively on raw food readily available; they could simply parade out the results of that study to prove once and for all that raw diets are worthless. But, they do not do this. Why? However, what if billions of dollars and an entire existing superstructure were at stake? What will happen to the results? In human medicine, this has led to the suppression of information, such as the suppression of information regarding the dangers of Vioxx and many other compounds! To read more about how this happens in industry, visit Mercola.com.
Now let us apply this to the commercial grain-based pet food manufacturers and to studies into raw diets. Almost every single study performed on commercial grain-based pet foods has been partially or fully funded by these pet food companies. An example would be Purina’s own study on extending the life of your pet 2; they “discovered” that by feeding smaller amounts of their Purina dog food and thus keeping the dog from getting fat, you could extend the life of your dog by two years. This, of course, supports the already well-known thought that keeping your pets trim is better for their health. Scientific “studies” being used to prove what is common sense. But by using only their food in the study, they can then insinuate that it is Purina dog food that extends the life of your pet – and the little asterisk on the ad or the fine print on the TV tells you that this is only if you feed less than the recommended amount on the bag 3, thereby keeping your pet trim and not fat. But who reads the fine print, right?
Let us look at raw diets for our fur kids. Who would support a good, solid study into raw diets? What would happen if the results reflect negatively on commercial diets and positively on raw diets? Think of how much these commercial giants have to lose!
Did you know? None of the commercial pet food companies feed raw as part of their control group studies. One has to question the validity of the data and study, when the most natural and wholesome diet does not form part of the control group.
There have been “studies” done on bacterial content, nutritional analysis, according to AAFCO standards, and parasites in raw meat (using only the old, pre-existing literature on what kind of parasites could possibly be found in raw meat), but there are no studies that go in depth and objectively study the health effects of raw diets. Why would there be? This would involve a long, intense study requiring collaboration of vets at a global level and of multiple pet guardians and pet parents, or undue suffering to hundreds of “test” dogs who must be fed improper raw diets in the name of “scientific objectivity“, and there is the possibility that these poor results would then be used to show that ALL raw diets are bad. Indeed, funding is a huge issue as well, but common sense and deduction lead us to conclude that there are underlying issues here – a fear of what may be found, that raw diets will indeed be proven better, that commercial diets will be proven unhealthy. This drastically cuts against the status quo and would destroy commercial pet food companies and the veterinarians who depend on them to provide a clientele.
AFCO Profiles;- Why are the AAFCO standards and profiles important in South Africa, considering that they are American? Simply for the reason that the South Africa Department of Agriculture decided to adopt the AAFCO profiles through the amendment of Act 36 of 1947, FERTILIZERS, FARM FEEDS, AGRICULTURAL REMEDIES AND STOCK REMEDIES ACT, 1947. Through Act 36 of 1947, DAFF introduce the concept of V-Registrations for animal feed, section 17 is of importance, as this covers the Requirements for Complete Pet Foods.
If raw diets were proven better and commercial diets were proven harmful, there would be a tremendous backlash against the pet food industries and the veterinary profession that is so entrenched with it, bigger than any other scandal to date. Legal ramifications would be a highly probable option: people suing vets for recommending a product that harms their pets; people suing the commercial pet food companies for creating a harmful product without warning consumers of its dangers, for falsely advertising that product as healthy, and for lying and covering up the information that indicated otherwise; and vets suing the universities for providing an inadequate, faulty education. Thousands of people would be laid off, a multi-billion-dollar industry would crumble, hundreds of veterinarians would find themselves jobless, and society would no longer have an “acceptable” outlet for disposing of its dead, dying, and diseased meat, its grain waste, and the some 40% of euthanized pets that find their way into rendering plants and kibble, barbiturates and all (see: Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food). All of this is what they have to lose if the results of a raw diet study reflect unfavourably on commercial foods. Hopefully by now you can start feel the undercurrent in this river of misinformation called the commercial pet food industry, and understand why we will never see the incentive to performing or publishing a proper study that objectively looks at raw diets and their effects on the overall health of the dog?
This is not the only consideration when it comes to raw food research. To perform an adequate study that would satisfy all the critics, hundreds of dogs would need to suffer needlessly on improperly prepared raw diets, because in the name of “science” all the major variations of the diets would be tested. That means dogs will be fed all meat diets, all chicken-back and neck diets, veggie glop and some meat and mostly bone diets, all beef-heart diets, etc. when all the researchers need to do is look to nature, who got it right a million years ago … in the end, it is just needless suffering. Next time someone bemoans the lack of scientific studies about raw, ask them if they would like to volunteer their fur kids for the study.
The Great American Rat Experiment
Maybe we need to look at the past, before commercialization for convenience was the order of the day … the following is an account of an interesting three-part experiment comparing the effects of raw foods versus cooked foods in rats. This account is taken from a book titled “Goldot” The Doctrine of Truth, Guidebook of Life, Science of Man by Lewis E. Cook, Jr. and Junko Yasui (1976) (Please note we have not been able to verify this reference yet as we have not been able to source a copy of the book in South Africa.)
“It has been found that a group of rats who were fed diets of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains from birth grew into completely healthy specimens and never suffered from any disease. They were never ill. They grew rapidly, but never became fat, mated with enthusiasm, and had healthy offspring. They were always gently affectionate and playful and lived in perfect harmony with each other. Upon reaching an old age, equivalent to 80 years in humans, these rats were put to death and autopsied. At that advanced age, their organs, glands, tissues and all body processes appeared to be in perfect condition without any sign of aging or deterioration.
A companion group of rats were fed a diet comparable to that of the average American and included white bread, cooked foods, meats, milk, salt, soft drinks, candies, cakes, vitamins and other supplements, medicines for their ailments, etc. During their lifetime, these rats became fat and from the earliest age, contracted most of the diseases of modern American society including colds, fever, pneumonia, poor vision, cataracts, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and many more.
Most of this group died prematurely at early ages, but during their lifetime, most of them were vicious, snarling beasts, fighting with one another, stealing one another’s food and attempting to kill each other. They had to be kept apart to prevent total destruction of the entire group. Their offspring were all sick and exhibited the same general characteristics as the parents.
As this group of rats died one by one or in epidemics of various diseases, autopsies were performed revealing extensive degenerative conditions in every part of their bodies. All organs, glands, and tissues were affected, as were the skin, hair, blood, and nervous system. They were all truly total physical and nervous wrecks. The same conditions existed in the few which survived the full duration of the experiment.
A third companion group of rats was fed the same diet as the second group to an age equivalent to about forty years in humans. They displayed the same general symptoms as the second group. They were sick and vicious so that they had to be separated to prevent them from killing each other and stealing one another’s food. At the end of this initial period, all rats in this group then received the natural (raw) diet of the first group of rats. Within one month, the behavioural pattern had changed completely so that the now docile, affectionate, playful creatures were once again able to live together in a harmonious society and from this point on never suffered any illness.
Several rats were put to death and autopsied at the end of the initial period revealing the same general deterioration as that exhibited in the second group of rats. However, the remaining rats lived out the full duration of the experiment, to the equivalent of 80 years in humans, and when they were autopsied there were no signs of aging or deterioration or disease just as those in the first group. The obvious disease, degeneration, and deterioration of body parts evident in their first half of life had been completely reversed and excellent health restored.”
The Elixir of Life
We found several interesting authors in the early 1900’s and as late as 1958, most interestingly, Arnold de Vries, an Australian Citizen, that captured data on several experiments in his book titled “The Elixir of Life“. In his book, he references Sir Robert McCarrison, MA, MD, DSc, LLD, FRCP works documented. Below is an extract from Chapter 4.
“While Director of Nutrition Research under the Research Fund Association in India, the celebrated British scientist, Sir Robert McCarrison, followed with the first large scale experiments with white rats which revealed the effects of cooking. One thousand pedigreed albino rats were placed on a diet of raw cabbage, raw carrots, raw milk, raw meat, unleavened bread, and sprouted legumes. Two thousand rats were then placed on a diet of white bread, margarine, tinned meat, tinned jam, boiled tea, boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage, and a small amount of milk. All animals were given the same general care. The laboratory was kept perfectly clean; the tiled floor and walls were frequently washed. The cages were large and spacious, so each rat could run about and exercise as it pleased.
The rats given primarily uncooked foods were remarkably healthy in all respects. From all appearances they suffered from no diseases whatsoever, and all mothers reared their young. At the end of two and a quarter years, corresponding to 55 years in man, all rats were autopsied. The only trace of disease found was an occasional cyst in the liver, which was assumed due to the straw bedding which the rats often nibbled.
The 2, 000 rats eating mostly cooked foods soon began developing a wide assortment of diseases—practically every ailment that one might find listed in any medical textbook. Foremost among these, as revealed in the post-mortem examinations, were: tuberculosis, arthritis, Bright’s disease, gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, glandular enlargements, inflammation of the eyes, anemia, loss of hair, infected teeth, infected tonsils, middle-ear disease, corneal ulceration, and skin diseases of various types. In addition the rats seemed to be affected mentally. In contrast to the raw food rats, which were gentle and affectionate, these animals became ill-tempered and vicious. They would bite the attendant, kill each other, and generally display a state of continuous nervous irritability.“
Further down in the chapter, Sr Robert McCarrison noted the following:
“Cats and dogs fed commercial pet foods, which have all been heat-processed, show various symptoms of disease in experimental tests. M. L. Morris fed a group of cats upon fresh meat and all thrived well, but those animals given samples of many different commercial cat foods did poorly in comparison, and a number of the cats showed emaciation, skin lesions, and neurological signs. Dr. Clive McCay has pointed out that “The meat meals commonly used in dog feeds are often so over-heated in processing that they are entirely devoid of vitamin B1. Recently in a digestion trial of meat meals made by students, the dog refused to eat and became badly constipated.” Koehn observed that dogs may appear healthy and thrive for long periods on cooked rations containing cottonseed meal, “but eventually they will die very suddenly.” Dogs fed upon raw foods are resistant to experimental amoebic infection, but those animals given a diet of canned meat have very low resistance. E. C. Foust found that he could produce amoebic infection at will in poorly nourished animals and then establish a cure by feeding raw liver. This food arrested the amoebic lesion and at the same time lessened the danger of secondary bacterial infection.“
More about Sir Robert McCarrison (see: Wikipedia), and you can request a copy of De Vries’ book from the Soil & Health Library in PDF format (Online Library Book Request).
All is not lost when it comes to the sciences. Thomas Sandberg (LongLivingPets), decided to do something about the lack of data and initiated, as a private individual, his own 30 year study on raw! If you are thinking about switching, or have do so for a while, why not consider joining the research group? It’s easy (Register to Participate).
Additional Articles and Videos
- NZ dog diet study a wake-up call for animal nutrition (Article);
- The Science of Raw Pet Food, Plear Littlefield through her blog The Raw Feeding Community (Blog Article).
What’s Really in Pet Food, Dr Ann Martin
References and Research
- 1.Freeman L, Michel K. Evaluation of raw food diets for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001;218(5):705-709. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11280399.
- 2.First-Ever Study Proves Diet Restriction Can Add Nearly Two More Years Of Healthy Life for Canines. Purina. http://newscenter.purina.com/LifeSpanStudy. Published May 6, 2002.
- 3.Doggie Fountain of Youth? Thruth in Advertisigin. https://www.truthinadvertising.org/long-live-our-profits/. Published February 2, 2012.