Pet Food Animal Testing
Are you buying a pet food that is based on animal testing? Unknowingly consumers could be supporting companies that test on live animals in laboratory/kennel settings.
The American Animal Hospital Association suggests to members that pet food who have NOT gone through feeding trials are a risk; “Formulated foods are manufactured so the ingredients meet specified levels, without testing via feeding trials; interpret with caution.”
Many veterinarians do the same. Example: Webster Lake Veterinary Clinic in Webster, MA states “Foods that have undergone feeding trials are considered by nutritionists to be superior to foods that are only formulated to meet the standards put in place by the American Association of Feed Control Officials.”
As exampled, animal testing of pet food is touted as the highest quality. But should it be? Laboratory animal testing in cosmetics – as example – is considered cruel. Is laboratory animal testing of pet food any less cruel?
What are feeding trials?
Feeding trials – legally known as “feeding protocols” – is testing of a pet food to validate the nutritional adequacy. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has developed regulation/requirements for feeding trials including duration (26 weeks), number of animals in the test, feeding parameters (only the “test diet” shall be provided), and “Clinical observations and measurements” of the test.
The unfortunate thing is…almost all feeding trials are performed at specialty kennels (laboratory kennels) often on animals that are ‘purposely bred’. Purposely bred cats and dogs are animals specifically bred to be test subjects; specifically bred to be calm under laboratory conditions. Most of these animals never have a home, often never see daylight. Most of these cats and dogs are born, raised and die within laboratory kennel settings.
“Marshall BioResources is a global provider of purpose bred animals for biomedical research and related services.”
Marshall BioResources proudly offers the “Marshall Beagle” and the “APD/SPF Marshall Beagle” to companies as research animals. ‘Marshall Beagles’ have been specifically bred for research purposes since 1962. “These dogs display everything one should expect from a typical Marshall Beagle®, including the same calm and gentle temperament.”
Summit Ridge Farms is a company that performs feeding trials for pet food companies. “Setting the Standard for Pet Food Testing.” PetFoodIndustry.com states (about Summit Ridge Farms) “The ‘taste testers’ undergo extensive training and validation. The animals are introduced to two bowl feeding stations and then the temperament of each animal is monitored, including its acceptability of two bowl feedings, and the dog’s or cat’s willingness to make a choice.”
Pet food feeding trials are not the only laboratory settings animals are subjected to for pet foods, pet food flavorings are another highly researched area using animal testing.
The flavoring of pet food is a billion dollar a year industry. AFB International is one company that specializes in testing pet food flavorings. In an interview provided to Popular Science we learn the company’s Palatability Assessment Resource Center houses more than 300 cats and dogs. “To meet nutritional requirements, pet food manufacturers blend animal fats and meals with soy and wheat grains and vitamins and minerals. This yields a cheap, nutritious pellet that no one wants to eat. Cats and dogs are not grain eaters by choice, Moeller is saying. “So our task is to find ways to entice them to eat enough for it to be nutritionally sufficient.”
(The Popular Science post about AFB International used to include a video (insulting video) that made the following statements regarding pet food flavorings: “Kitty crack.” “These flavorings or coatings entice animals to eat food or treats that while nutritious aren’t part of their native diet.” “Scents like Cadavernine and Putrescence tend to grab a dogs attention.” After TruthaboutPetFood.com reported on the video it was removed.)
What happens to these dog and cat test subjects after the testing is over? As the information from Summit Ridge Farms explained, animals used in feeding tests or ingredient tests “undergo extensive training and validation”. Which means, most test animals spend their entire lives in research kennels. The lucky ones get rescued as exampled in the video below from Beagle Freedom Project (a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing research/laboratory animals).
The good news: there have been two companies (to my knowledge) that have not gone the typical path of laboratory/kennel setting feeding trials. Both of these pet foods ‘raised the bar’ in pet food nutritional testing by using pets – animals in their homes – as feeding trial participants. They proved there is NO NEED to test the nutritional adequacy of a pet food on laboratory animals. Those two pet foods are Just Food for Dogs and Answers Pet Food (click here to learn more).
If you do not support the use of laboratory animals for testing pet food/pet food ingredients – do not purchase a pet food that has performed feeding trials through use of laboratory/kennel settings and/or includes flavors tested by the same methods.
How can you know? Ask.
Look on your pet food label (near Guaranteed Analysis) to see the statement ‘Meets the nutritional requirements of cats/dogs as established in AAFCO Feeding Trials or Feeding Tests or Feeding Protocols‘. Most pet foods also brag about feeding trials on their website. If you see the words ‘feeding trial’ or ‘feeding tests’ or ‘feeding protocols’ call or email the company asking: “Were feeding trials performed on animals in kennels/laboratories or were they performed on pets in homes?”
And…Look closely at the ingredient list for any flavor ingredients. If you see a flavor ingredient, call the company and ask: “Were flavor tests performed on laboratory/kennel animals either by the pet food company or by an outside firm?” (Note: I am not aware of any flavor testing performed outside of laboratory/kennel settings.)
At this point, there is no certification program to verify pet foods are laboratory animal testing free, but there is such verification for human products. To find certified human products that are not tested on animals visit LeapingBunny.org.
Personal Opinion: I can think of absolutely no instance where laboratory kennel animal testing is necessary for pet food. Two pet food companies (Just Food for Dogs and Answers Pet Food) have proven there are more humane methods to verify nutritional adequacy; all others should follow their lead.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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