As you all know, last week I spent a couple of days in Dayton, Ohio attending the second Behind the Paw Summit at the invitation of Iams/Eukanuba. When I wasn’t leaving computers on buses or throwing gutterballs in a sad attempt to unconvincingly demonstrate my bowling prowess, I actually did learn a lot about the pet food manufacturing process.
I’m always a little leery of doing trips like this, because I have two competing agendas when writing about them: mine and theirs. My agenda, of course, is curiosity. Who wouldn’t want to see a pet food plant? Is it gross? Is it filled with Homer Simpson-esque characters chuckling as they toss cigarette butts into the pet food bags? (In this case, no and no.)
The agenda of whomever invites a blogger to their facility, of course, is to get you to write about it in a positive manner. And you know, if I didn’t feel positively about it, I couldn’t do that. I value my integrity and the trust of the people who listen to what I say too much to do that. So I don’t take invitations like this unless I feel reasonably confident it’s going to be good to begin with, and take my chances that I’ll be right. And if I’m wrong, well, that’s when I just vaguely mention that I went on a trip and the hotel was pretty good.
Well, here I am, writing about it. And you know, the hotel was pretty good. But so was the rest of the trip.
As you can probably tell by our posture, it was a little chilly in Dayton. All of us huddling there except the Canadian blogger Lynette in her skirt and sunny flats, smiling like it was 80 degrees out. (Whatever, snow bunny.) 😉 This is the group about to head into the Pet Nutrition and Health Center, which is where the dogs and cats participating in feeding trials live and play.
I am happy to report (or perhaps sad, if you were hoping I’d have some depraved tales of mistreatment and horror) that the animals there are in great condition and live well rounded, training-and-enrichment filled existences until their retirement into forever homes. And I’m a tough sell- as someone who ran away from a career in lab animal medicine after seeing dubious ethics in way too many places, this was not the case here.
I’ll go more into that later, since I decided after coming home that I actually did have more questions after all and sent them a long and involved series of questions regarding feeding trials. Once I have that I’ll go into more detail about what is involved in that.
I imagine someone out there is going to be tempted to post a link to the PETA video from 2003 that shocked a bunch of people. If you all want to know what the P&G had to say about it, I can go into the discussion. I will do that as a favor to you, if you want me to. To be honest, I find arguing with PETA people rather exhausting since it’s very difficult to reason with someone who has already arrived at a foregone conclusion and I’d just as soon not, but I will, if you are interested.
This isn’t my battle to wager, and the last thing I have the patience or energy to do is referee a bunch of shouting, but I will offer this: I can give you the facts as they were presented to me and let you draw your own conclusions. I’ll let you guys tell me in the comments if you are even interested or not in me going there. And if not, I’ll just tell you what I saw and leave it at that.
I will say this: as a veterinary professional and someone who has spent years and years studying animal welfare issues, sat in on IACUCs and worked on enrichment programs in academic lab animal research settings: based on what I saw, Iams has nothing to be ashamed of. Their facilities are world class.