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“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them.”
Martin Luther King
“To think that we can have a viable human economy by destroying the Earth’s economy is absurd. Indigenous people still live in a universe, but we don’t- we live in an economic system.”
Thomas Berry, “The Mystique of the Earth
The coronavirus did not manifest from nowhere. Our sadistic treatment and manipulation of animals for centuries has come back to haunt us. It is time for humanity to absorb the lessons of the animal world.
From the Orient the world has inherited a civilization upending event, this coronavirus feeding on the human strain. It is perhaps not a coincidence that it has manifested at the very time the UN is trying to form a Convention on Biological Diversity to protect what remains of the organic world. The contagion is the karmic result of our own ignorance and disregard of other species that began in China and that has visited us before. As Erin Sorrell, a microbiologist at Georgetown, exclaims, 70 percent of zoonotic diseases come from wildlife.
As the 2003 SARS virus already proved. Then the culprit may have been Asian palm civets. Today’s pandemic may have been caused by pangolins. The scale-covered mammals are kept in caged conditions in markets in Asia in criminally appalling realities, reserved for dinner menus. Most animals in these markets are dying and thirsty and kept in squalid containers moved and shipped around as if they were simple commodities. The conditions are a nightmare and have even prompted many Chinese to close the animal trade. How we treat animals affects entire ecosystems and habitats, the only real wealth we as a species have. China’s ban on wild animal markets may well be the one silver lining in this ensuing global tragedy, but it should become a permanent ban, not a temporary palliative because other viruses may well ensue in the not distant future given climate change is upon us.
Major conservation groups have also pleaded for Vietnam to take stringent measures to close its wildlife markets. Vietnam’s prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ordered the ministry of agriculture and rural development to ban the consumption of wildlife. We can only hope these initiatives manifest quickly and foster a new relationship to what remains of the Mekong basin’s wildlife. Vietnam’s actions will hopefully prevent not only new outbreaks in the future but also keep even more potentially virulent viruses from overwhelming the globe.
Wall Street has had the jitters, tens of millions in China have been as impacted as when the Mongol Golden Horde swept into the Middle Kingdom in the 13th century. But whatever deaths have overtaken our species in the last few months, deaths that number in the thousands, we should not forget the root source of this scourge, humanity’s revolting disregard, manipulation, and outright slaughter of our fellow beings, the animals of the earth.
The deafening silence of absent species marks our time as singular. What extinctions are happening will become more impactful than WWI, WWII or the Great Depression combined because now we have an enormous, almost unfathomable ecological tab to reckon with, and not just the folly of an economic system run amuck. The entire spectrum of nature’s syllabus is being played out. Our relationship with the sentient world will have to reverse or we perish. The coronavirus is the tip of the iceberg.
Animals were always considered cardinal spiritual, sentient and even intellectual beings in the lives of indigenous peoples and many civilizations past. But as colonial and technological powers overran the world, indigenous peoples were treated no better than the buffalo, or whale or pangolin or bat. And now our disregard of the others bears a karmic component we cannot ignore.
The criminal neglect and dismantling of Nature over the last century have led us to a point where globalization itself will have to be rapidly reappraised. Wall Street may have lost some ground, but the mounting possible extinction toll is many magnitudes more vital than the arbitrary machinations of the Dow. The death toll on millions of acres of rainforests lost, coral reefs bleached and species eradicated the world over has brought us to this point. It is the invisible aura of loss we have inherited. It is the karma our species is inheriting. The locust invasion of East Africa is a Biblical cohort to the virus of East Asia. Now our entire immune system as a species and that of the planet is under siege.
Paul Shepard, the eloquent ecologist who wrote triumphantly about the importance of animals, wrote in “The Others: How Animals Made Us Human,” “People are asked to rely on faith in the invisible and intangible, repudiating the beasts on which primal peoples depend as intermediaries, embodying spirits, affirming death, giving form to the mystery of the multiple truths of mortal existence, and acting as a vehicle to other realms.” It is not coincidental that this “Christian-” based society has so neglected its first teachers, the animals, for several thousand years and put so much faith in invisible gods and the afterlife, intangibles that have divorced us from life and the very soil on which we depend for our survival.
We have in Henry Heston’s words become “cosmic outlaws.” If we lose the animals, we will become inconsolable orphans. This most minute but insidious of beings, the coronavirus is a wake-up call to our unconscious selves. We have wrapped ourselves in a cocoon of technological, synthetic and decorative cultural achievement burdened with pride that strains and depletes our full values as sentient beings. In the process, we have ignored the suffering and sentience of others. The physiologist Rene Dubos once wrote that humans could adapt “to starless skies, treeless avenues, shapeless buildings, tasteless bread, joyless celebrations, spiritless pleasures — to a life without reverence for the past, love for the present, or poetical anticipations of the future, but it is questionable that man can retain his physical and mental health if he loses contact with the natural forces that have shaped his biological and mental nature.”
How we converse and conduct ourselves in the next year or two will morph into a different realm of relating, and hopefully into a more respectful species. We may need to grow roots under our feet once again and cultivate what Levi Strauss called an “ecological civicism.” We may need more than a pause from the pace of globalization that began to convulse the world two generations ago. Will we return to the same numbers game of outlandish growth, and greed when already much of the pollution from northern China seems to have dissipated from the map? Is not our entire fixation on profit a psychic numbing that has divorced us from ecological coherence?
Maybe the coronavirus is a warning sign, the first real test of our global community that has emerged from the Pandora’s box of an increasingly incorrigible species. Amazon-size ecosystems are in jeopardy. This insidious half live, half un-live being called corona has taken over our sleep and waking life like an alien invasion. Let us be grateful the next time we see a flock of birds flying miraculously overhead, or the next time we see a koala holding on to a branch for dear life, or the next time we see a dolphin dancing over the waves. And know these beings did not have to die a merciless, hapless, sick death in some market of central China where this virus originated.
The virus has given us a fever, yes, just as we have imposed a fever on the climate of the earth. Milan Kundera in the “Unbearable Lightness of Being” reminds us in one of the most poignant lines ever written, “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test, which is deeply buried from view, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect humankind has suffered a fundamental debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.”
And it is possible that the coronavirus may be just another contagion in a long line of lessons we will have to inherit from our fellow creatures. Recently a wolf’s head was discovered by mammoth tusk hunters in Siberia dating from 30,000 years ago. What viruses are embedded in their flesh? What strains will invade our civilization like ghosts from a forgotten Pleistocene seeping out from under the crying and collapsing torrent of glaciers up north, seeping slowly onto our shores? Will we learn the lesson that the pangolin, one of the most trafficked and severely abused mammals on earth, the one that has filled so many markets in Asia, is teaching us now across the time zones of the world? Will we make sure now that it does not go extinct? Even its exquisite plates, the only armored mammal on Earth, could not protect itself from the diabolic hunger of our species. Will the coronavirus humble us to the reality that humans make up just .01 percent of life on Earth? Will we have to absorb a virus so virulent, so complete in its ability to create havoc from the melting permafrost in the Arctic that humanity will become irreparably crippled?
The coronavirus in its all-pervasive pandemonium is a wake-up call, not just to our well-being and souls but also how we had better conduct ourselves towards the other species of this Earth, they who enable life as we know it. The coronavirus is a karmic test that we need to pass so that we as a species can transcend our conduct on this planet we have maligned and mistreated for far too long.
One immensely vital and fragile bioregion that promises potentially lethal pathogens is the Arctic. The great thaw at the top of the world, with ice melting at an extraordinary rate, with polar bears, whales and many other beings having to survive the immune breakdown of the region, is the main reason Shell and other mining and fossil fuel industries should stay clear from the region. Five years ago French scientists discovered a “giant virus” in a 30,000- year-old sample of permafrost in Siberia that had retained its infectivity. If we industrialize these areas and ride roughshod over the roof of the world we risk waking up pathogens we thought we had eradicated or helped foster the spread of things even worse than smallpox, said researcher Jean Michel Claverie.
Jean Malaurie, the remarkable French geologist and explorer of the Arctic who fought for the preservation of the Inuit from the contrivances and pollution of Western man, once expounded, “Men of science, like men of the state, have a duty imposed by ethics. The Earth is living: it can and will avenge itself: already there are portents. The Earth has no time left for man’s ignorance, arrogance, sophistry, and madness.”
Via The Daily Beast
Celebrities and Family members
- Tom Hanks
- Rita Wilson
- Idris Elba
- Kristofer Hivju, who played Tormund on Game of Thrones
- James Bond Quantom of Solace actress Olga Kurylenko
- Matthew Broderick’s sister, Janet Broderick
Politicians and Spouses
- U.K. health minister Nadine Dorries
- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez
- Spanish Minister of Equality Irene Montero
- French Minister of Culture Franck Riester
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
- Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri
- Catalan regional leader Quim Torra
- Catalan deputy head of government Pere Aragonés
- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife, Begoña Gómez
- Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton
- Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar
- Iranian Parliament members Mojtaba Zolnour and Mahmoud Sadeghi
- Iranian deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi
- Morteza Rahmanzadeh, mayor of Tehran’s 13th district
- Mohamad Reza Ghadir, Iranianhead of coronavirus management in Qom
- Iranian diplomat Hadi Khosroshahi, as well as Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi both died after testing positive
- Fabio Wajngarten, the Brazilian president’s press secretary
Athletes and sports figures
- Anonymous New York Yankees minor league player
- Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell
- Cleveland State women’s basketball coach Chris Kielsmeier
- Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood
- Real Madrid power forward Trey Thompkins
- Anonymous Colonial Athletic Association official
- Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta
- Chelsea winger Callum-Hudson-Odoi
- Troyes AC striker Hyun-Jun Suk
- Hannover defender Timo Hübers
- Paderborn defender Luca Kilian
- Valencia defenders Ezequiel Garay and Eliaquim Mangala
- Three anonymous Valencia players
- From Italian soccer club UC Sampdoria: Albin Ekdal, Antonino La Gumina, Fabio Depaoli, Manolo Gabbiadini, Morten Thorsby, Omar Colley
- From Italy’s Fiorentina: Dušan Vlahović, Germán Pezzella, Patrick Cutrone
- Juventus defender Daniele Rugani
- Swiss Football Association President Dominique Blanc
- Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis
- Unidentified Seattle Dragons player
- Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria
- Russian cyclist Dmitry Strakhov
Other public Figures
- Universal Music Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge
- Chilean writer and journalist Luis Sepúlveda
- Australian TV journalist Richard Wilkins
In this tragic time no one is immune; not even the rich and famous
The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage.
That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle.
Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.
But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.
The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near-perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.
Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency damages the reputation of our country and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.
This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:
The President’s failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.
Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.
Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.
To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?
We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.
Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.
Lisa Ling delves into the world of benzodiazepine use and uncovers the troubling threat these drugs pose when used long term, and the challenges facing patients who try to quit.
They weigh more than 1,000 pounds, are supported by ankles the size of a human’s, and are whipped and forced to run around tracks that are often made of hard-packed dirt at speeds of more than 30 miles per hour while carrying people on their backs. Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries, and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end at the slaughterhouse.
Racing to the Grave
Horses begin training or are already racing when their skeletal systems are still growing and are unprepared to handle the pressures of competition racing on a hard track at high speeds. One study on injuries at racetracks concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented him or her from finishing a race, while another estimated that 3 thoroughbreds die every day in North America because of catastrophic injuries during races.
Strained tendons or hairline fractures can be tough for veterinarians to diagnose, and the damage may go from minor to irreversible at the next race or workout. Horses do not handle surgery well, and many are euthanized or sold at auction to save the owners further veterinary fees and other expenses for horses who can’t race again.
When popular racehorse Barbaro suffered a shattered ankle at the beginning of the 2006 Preakness, his owners spared no expense for his medical needs, but as The New York Times reported, “[M]any in the business have noted that had Barbaro not been the winner of the Kentucky Derby, he might have been destroyed after being injured.”
Drugs and Deception
Trainers and veterinarians keep injured horses racing when they should be recovering by giving them a variety of legal drugs to mask pain and control inflammation. This leads to breakdowns because horses are able to run when, without the drugs, the pain would otherwise prevent them from trying.
Illegal drugs are also widely used. “There are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs every day,” says a former Churchill Downs public relations director. “With so much money on the line, people will do anything to make their horses run faster.” One trainer was suspended for using a drug similar to Ecstasy in five horses, and another has been kicked off racetracks for using clenbuterol and, in one case, for having the leg of a euthanized horse cut off “for research.” A New York veterinarian and a trainer faced felony charges when the body of a missing racehorse turned up at a farm and authorities determined that her death had been caused by the injection of a “performance-enhancing drug.”
Even the ‘Winners’ Lose
When they stop winning races or become injured, few racehorses are retired to pastures, because owners don’t want to pay for a horse who doesn’t bring in any money. Many end up in slaughterhouses in Canada, Mexico, or Japan, where they are turned into dog food and glue. Their flesh is also exported to countries such as France and Japan, where it is considered a delicacy.
Most horses who are sent to those facilities endure days of transport in cramped trailers where there is no access to water or food and injuries are common. Horses are subject to the same slaughter method as cows, but since horses are generally not accustomed to being herded, once together, they tend to thrash about in order to avoid being shot by the captive-bolt gun, which is supposed to render them unconscious before their throats are cut.
What You Can Do
Help end the cruelty:
- As long as the suffering continues, refuse to patronize existing tracks and lobby against the construction of new tracks.
- Support PETA’s efforts to ensure that racing regulations are reformed and enforced. While horse racing can never be entirely safe for the animals, a zero-tolerance drug policy, turf (grass) tracks only, a ban on whipping, competitive racing only after their third birthdays, and other reforms would make a world of difference to the horses.
written by Danny Prater
In 1879—140 years ago—one of the country’s first “bear pits” opened at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. In the startling historical photo below, you can see zoogoers looking on as a bear climbs a lone tree in a barren concrete pit. While our entire way of life has been revolutionized in the many decades since this photo was taken, things have remained shockingly unchanged for bears kept in captivity. In fact, bear pits have stayed relatively the same for so long that, were it not for the period clothing that they’re wearing, the people in this photo might be confused for roadside zoo patrons in 2019.
As our understanding of the complex social and physical needs of nonhuman animals has grown, people have become increasingly disillusioned with the idea of exploiting them for entertainment. In an attempt to more closely replicate animals’ natural habitats, most accredited zoo enclosures have been adapted over time to give animals more space and provide them with more mental stimulation. But bear pits, which are inherently cruel, don’t need to be modernized—they need to be closed down immediately.
While Lincoln Park Zoo’s bear pit, pictured above, has closed, at tourist traps and roadside zoos across America today, hundreds of bears spend their lives confined to small concrete-floored enclosures or pits. Some cubs are separated from their mothers as infants, so instead of being properly nurtured, they spend their days being forced to participate in photo ops with tourists. Their lives are typically devoid of any comfort or outlets for engaging in natural behavior.
These side-by-side photos show how little bear pits have changed over the decades, highlighting just how long this cruelty has been going on:
THEN (1951)NOWLEFT: St. Louis Post-DispatchLEFT: A polar bear in a barren pit begs for food at the St. Louis Zoo in the 1950s.
RIGHT: Two bears are in a barren pit at the Cherokee Bear Zoo.
THEN (1923)NOWLEFT: Bears are shown in a pit at the St. Louis Zoo in 1923.
RIGHT: Here’s a present-day bear pit at the Cherokee Bear Zoo in North Carolina.
THEN (1905)NOWLEFT: This photo, circa 1905, shows bears in a pit in Bern, Switzerland.
RIGHT: In 2018, a bear is in a pit at Three Bears General Store in Tennessee.
Bears are highly intelligent animals who experience a wide range of emotions. In the wild, they forage for a variety of foods and dig in the soft earth, brush, and leaves—but concrete pits deprive them of everything that’s natural and important to them. Surrounded by solid walls, they can’t scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell.
Enough is enough. Let’s end bear pit cruelty.
Take Action to Help Bears Today!
At Pymatuning Deer Park in Pennsylvania, an apparently arthritic bear named Bosco is being forced to live in a concrete pit, even after his female companion, who suffered from arthritis, died. Pymatuning was previously cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for confining the arthritic female bear in such inadequate conditions. Arthritis is known to be caused and exacerbated by living on concrete—but today, Bosco still struggles to walk on the same hard surface. With your help, he could live out his days free from concrete in a vast enclosure and get the care that he desperately needs.URGE PYMATUNING TO CLOSE ITS BEAR PIT AND SURRENDER BOSCO!
Help end this outdated cruelty. Join PETA in working toward a compassionate, humane future when no bears are exploited for cheap human entertainment.TAKE ACTION: HELP BEARS SUFFERING IN TOURIST
There are a few major takeaways from this documentary that every pet parent should know. Here are 10 harsh truths about the pet food industry, exposed by Pet Fooled :
1. The vast majority of the pet industry is monopolized by 5 major companies.
Despite the fact that there are thousands of brands for different foods, toys, and products, only 5 major companies account for most of the $60+ billion industry – and that’s just in America. The overwhelming monopoly means that these companies dictate the bulk of commercial pet products, including what’s in them, how to produce them, and how to increase profits.
2. A massive and deadly recall in 2007 made consumers lose trust in the industry.
You may remember being part of the widespread panic of pet parents after contaminated wheat gluten killed thousands of cats and dogs. The culprit was melamine, a toxic chemical used in plastic and foam products that causes renal failure when consumed. Although multiple pet products and brands were affected, it was discovered that the tainted ingredient came from a single company located in China. This made consumers seriously question the health and safety of their pet’s food.
3. Our dogs’ DNA is 99.9% identical to wolves, so they require the same nutrition.
Biologically, dogs are nearly identical to wolves, with the small percentage of differing DNA accounting for all the different types of breeds that we know today. Dr. Karen Becker compares dogs’ variety of appearances to humans having different eye, skin, and hair colors, heights, builds, etc. Just because we look different, we’re all humans with the same basic nutritional needs – and the same goes for dogs, whose diets should resemble their wild cousins.
4. Every species requires a certain diet to fulfill their biological needs – and most pet foods miss the mark.
In the documentary, Dr. Becker talks about species-appropriate diets, meaning that each animal has a biological need for certain nutrients. While many wild animals will simply avoid the foods that are unnecessary for their bodies (she uses the example that if you give a snake a salad, it won’t eat it and will just die), our domesticated friends have been forced to consume additives and fillers. Cats and dogs are designed to be carnivores, and while they’re resilient, the nutritional deficiencies of their diets manifest themselves in a myriad of health problems.
5. When it comes to our pets’ declining health, grains are a huge culprit.
Dr. Barbara Royal points out that the overuse of processed grains like corn and wheat are a cheap way for companies to add “bulk” to their foods, but provide little nutrition for our four-legged friends. The consumption of these low-quality grains, she believes, is the cause for the widespread obesity, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and allergies that afflict our pets.
6. Kibble was an invention of the pet food industry during World War II, and it has led to some serious consequences.
During the war, there were rations on meat and tin. Up until then, packaged pet food was in cans, meaning it had a higher moisture content similar to their species-specific diets (in other words, fresh meat that they killed). But when meat became limited and tin reserved for ammunition, the pet food industry knew they had to formulate a convenient type of pet food that they could package in a bag – dry kibble. Now that this dry food is the norm, pets live in a state of chronic mild dehydration, and rates of kidney disease, organ failure, and diabetes have skyrocketed among pets.
7. The dietary advice from your vet may be influenced by the major pet food companies.
In the film, Dr. Karen Becker points out that the major pet food brands have a large part in funding vet students, therefore influencing their education. She and Dr. Royal point out that there’s a huge lack of education surrounding raw diets, and they’re taught to promote the big-name brands in the industry. What’s more, the doctors say that many modern vets have learned to discourage raw diets because of potential pathogens and bacteria. But in reality, our pets’ systems are designed to digest this material, in part with a high stomach acidity pH of 1. After all, Dr. Becker points out, dogs eat poop and lick their butts on a regular basis – behaviors that could kill a human. While any food brand is susceptible to being recalled (humans make mistakes, after all) raw food companies tend to make smaller batches, and make them with more care.
8. The people that set the standards for pet food have more to gain from profits than your pet’s health.
AAFCO – or the Association of American Feed Control Officials – is the organization that sets all the standards for pet food, including nutrient ratios, ingredient allowances, and the terminology that’s allowed on packaging. While this group works with the FDA, it is not government regulated. AAFCO also doesn’t approve products for safety, that’s where the FDA comes in.
AAFCO holds a yearly conference to update pet food standards, and according to Pet Fooled, representatives from major pet food companies attend the meetings so they, too, can weigh in. The danger is that these companies can define terminology and slip through loopholes in order to benefit their profits.
9. The terminology on pet food packaging is NOT what you think.
As mentioned above, AAFCO is responsible for defining terminology on packaging. For instance, your dog’s beef “dinner,” “nuggets,” or “formula” only have to contain 25% meat. If your cat’s food is labeled as “chicken with salmon,” the word “with” may only represent 3% meat. And the label “flavor” is the worst – “flavored” foods don’t have to contain any real meat at all. What’s more, foods with added colors are made to appeal to humans – your pets can’t even see the different hues when the food is dyed.
You also may have looked for protein percentages on your pet’s food. While this is a good place to start, that protein may not be meat. It could have been derived from wheat flour or gluten that’s been fortified with protein.
10. By-products are the result of processed animal carcasses from unknown sources.
Meat by-products and meals are commonly found in pet foods. They’re the result of what’s leftover when animal carcasses – feathers, hooves, teeth, and all – are boiled down and processed into a powder. But the most disturbing part is where the corpses could have come from: leftovers from slaughtered farm animals, road kill, diseased animals, and euthanized animals are all examples of what’s being rendered.
According to the National Renderer’s Association, putting the recycled carcasses in pet food is necessary because… well.. where else would they dispose of them?
So, now what?
In the documentary, Doctors Becker and Royal are strong advocates for feeding pets raw diets, food that is very similar to what they’d consume in the wild. If you’re used to feeding your dogs and cats kibble, as most pet parents are, the thought of switching to a raw diet can seem like a huge, expensive, undertaking. But don’t worry, there’s help out there!
If you want to make the switch but you aren’t sure you can commit, even just supplementing your pet’s diet with fresh foods can give them a big boost in heath. (Also, when transitioning your pet to a different diet, you should begin by introducing the new food a little at a time.)
A good place to start is Dr. Karen Becker’s video, The Best and Worst Foods to Feed Your Pet:
For more information about raw food diets for pets, check out these YouTube videos by Dr. Becker. Another great resource is Truthaboutpetfood.com, founded by a pet parent and advocate who made it her mission to uncover the secrets of this industry.
You know your pet better than anyone, and there’s no “one size fits all diet.” It’s up to you, as their guardian, to do your research, be diligent, and decide what works best for your companion and lifestyle.
You can watch the entire Pet Fooled film on Netflix to get all the nitty gritty details that documentary uncovers. You can also rent it on YouTube for $3.99.
Do you want a healthier & happier dog? Join our email list & we’ll donate 1 meal to a shelter dog in need!
Written by Karen Tietjen
Food Recalls and Deception:
A Special Interview with Kohl Harrington
By Dr. Karen Becker
DB: Dr. Karen Becker
KH: Kohl Harrington
DB: Hi, I’m Dr. Karen Becker. Today I am going to interview Kohl Harrington. Kohl is a documentarian,
a film producer, and a film maker. He has put together an amazing project. Kohl you have a lot to share
with us. Welcome, first of all.
KH: Thank you.
DB: Tell me a little bit about the project first. Of course, I have a million questions. What is the project
and what is the inspiration of the project?
KH: The project is Pet Fooled. It’s a feature documentary. The inspiration basically came from my coproducer, Michael Fossat, who had a dog, who had veterinarian problems, itchy skin. The person in
charge or the person hired to basically groom the dog said, “This dog keeps having issues because of the
food. Google ‘grain-free pet food’.” That led to him Google-ing and being confused, which led to basically
a feature film about the topic because it was so confusing.
DB: Kohl, when you were brainstorming about this idea, have you ever investigated anything animal
before? I know that you have been in this industry forever. But were you nervous about approaching, not
much as pets, but pet foods? Pet food as a topic. Were you nervous?
KH: No. I was basically stepping into it clueless. I never heard of anything related to the pet food
industry being a topic alone. I grew up with dogs. I grew up in Florida, so I grew up with dogs. They were
outside dogs. They would roam and hunt things themselves. We had cats growing up too, but the cats,
they would eat the cat food and then go catch their own things. I’ve been exposed to that as a kid. But the
only thing I knew was dogs eat dog food; cats eat cat food. You buy it in can, and that’s basically it. I
stepped into it blind, not knowing anything.
DB: Very blind. You’re learning curve was exponential.
KH: It was about two years into the entire process. Basically the first year was just trying to figure out
what’s the issue. Because whenever you research online, the thing that was interesting to us was that you
had two basic ideas on the Internet about the way the world works: corn is great; corn is bad. Raw is
great; raw is bad. You had basically two worlds that existed. We were just trying to look at both sides to
kind of weave through each side to see which one makes more sense.
DB: Would you say you spent about a year in the research or investigation phase? How long did it take
you to figure out a path?
KH: Basically you’re just online swimming through anything and everything to learn as much as you can.
You’re calling people and trying to dig a little bit more. It took about a year just researching the project
and meeting with people before we had about like, I would say, 15 people who ironically are all in the
Michael and I both looked at each other and said, “We have a lot of people in Chicago. Let’s just pack up
and go.” We packed up and went to Chicago for a week and spoke with a lot of people. The majority of
the film comes from those interviews that happened in that week.
DB: When you were kind of wading through this amazing amount of information, I’m sure that you
realized that not only is it a very heated topic, a very passionate topic, but certainly in the last 40 years,
there have been all sorts of reasons that people have become very concerned and involved with this topic
with the recalls, and of course, the massive amount of animal deaths because of pet foods.
Were you aware of the recall issue? I know that the allergies, food allergies, or skin irritation in a personal
pet kind of introduced you this topic. Were you aware of the recall issue before you investigated or had no
KH: Had no idea basically. I don’t think I had ever thought about pet food before. When Michael asked
me, “Hey, I think this can be an interesting topic. It’s confusing.” I was like, “Really?” It just sounds like,
“OK. There’s a problem in everything.”
The interesting thing after it’s made is I feel like a lot more people are aware today about things. They’ve
heard about things. The advent of the Internet. Everybody’s on the Internet all day, every day. These
things like the recall have lived on, because we still have recalls. People are a lot more aware today than I
was. I wasn’t aware of anything. It took me a year to kind of understand what byproduct was. It was
confusing and it’s set up to be confusing.
DB: It is. I know when I met you, you were still in the investigation phase. I love that because both of you
were very objective. You didn’t have an underlying goal other than to learn more and to figure out what
the issues surrounding this industry were, which I think is a noble goal and also a very confusing,
ultimately a confusing goal. You did a great job of kind of sifting through all the issues. At what point in
your research or in the film making process did you have AHA moments? At what point were you like,
“Oh, my gosh. This is starting to make sense in my own brain”?
KH: The reason I kind of thought it was, “Really? Pet food? You want to look into pet food?” was
because there are really well-made documentaries out there and there are really not so well-made
documentaries. It sounded at first a thought of somebody trying to make something out of nothing. That
was my first reaction to the topic.
Whenever we started going through the research and we came across corn is great, corn is bad. The
industry was saying one thing and obviously had people who were criticizing that. My naive thinking at
the time was, “If this is really not true, if corn is really amazing for the dog, these companies will meet
with me and they’ll just fully explain.” That didn’t happen.
DB: Talk about that, Kohl. When you tried to make contact or made contact with some of the industry
leaders, what was you experience?
KH: I basically kept a spreadsheet of everything. Anytime I would contact a pet food manufacturer or a
person who worked at a pet food manufacturer, I would detail it in the spreadsheet. That went from
calling the number, leaving a message, calling the media department, leaving a message, writing emails to
basically personal emails to Facebook accounts that I knew the person worked for a certain company, and
never received a response.
The only response I received eventually was after I had kind of a debacle at a conference. Hill’s Science
Diet called and they left a voice message, which is in the film. “We don’t want to participate in this film.”
Beyond that voicemail, I haven’t received any response ever from anybody expressing any interest in
being in the film. That says a lot. The fact that you’re being criticized for something and you’re not really
standing by it, because you don’t have to.
DB: In your research phase, initially when you were making contact with all of these pet food companies
asking for their input, their perspective, their side of the story and you had no response, you did a great
job of kind of covering all your bases and getting all of the opinions coming in. The people that did
respond to you had passionate strong opinions and ultimately those were the people you interviewed.
How did you go about finding people that ultimately put together pieces of this film in a logical order for
KH: It was a mix of [inaudible 08:29]. The videos that you had you were reading pet food packages.
Instantly, when I saw that, I was like, “I need that scene. I want to recreate that scene. I need that for this
film.” Because it was so brash and just very well-worded and very clear and concise for the viewer to
The other person that is a major part of the film is Dr. Barbara Royal. We found her in an audio file on a
law website. Basically, there was a guy by the name of Vince Field, who was a law student at the time
and very passionate about pet law. He came to find out there was no money in pet law, so he practiced
another form of law. But he’s still passionate about the subject and that area.
When the 2007 recall had happened, he interviewed Dr. Royal. All he had was an audio file of her. I had
no idea who she was. I just knew that I like the way she spoke about this topic. She was very upfront and
honest. I needed that honesty about the topic. Because there are two types of people that you meet: people
afraid to say anything and people who are brave to say something. These are people who are very few and
The way we approached everything basically is we would interview people. The interviews actually went
a lot longer than anyone expected. I think our first interview was two or three hours. Somewhere up there.
I would basically take these interviews, transcribe them, and every little detail in the interviews would
lead to somebody else. It was just a constant building of, “This person says one, two, and three. I need to
go fact-check that to see if that really exists, if that’s true.”
[—– 10:00 —–]
A lot of information on the real side of the industry started to make more sense the deeper that I got into
it. The deeper I got into the side of corn, for example… If there was a certain pet food industry leader
saying, “Corn is great because of this study,” I would then go by the study. I would read through the
study. It was very clear that they were picking information and using it to their advantage. The study
didn’t outright prove that anything was better than another thing, but they were basically using a line to
say, “Dogs can process corn,” to then market “Corn is the best thing ever.”
It was sort of those types of things that took a long time to do. It took about two years to fully like, “Oh, I
finally understand everything.” I don’t know if the average consumer is going to take two years to fully
tackle and understand this, but I feel like for anyone to really fully understand it for themselves, it’s going
to take around that amount of time as well. There’s a lot of information.
DB: It’s interesting because just wading through the ingredients that are most commonly put into
commercially available pet food is one thing. But trying to wrap your brain around the raw food industry,
or what raw food is or fresh food in general, that’s probably something that you had never heard of prior
to you taking on this endeavor. You probably had never heard of feeding fresh food or raw food diets to
dogs or cats.
KH: In our initial interview, it’s funny. Because throughout the years, I’ve just been going through the
footage and going through the footage and going through the footage. In our first interview, I remember
laughing at myself in the beginning because it’s like, “What do you mean by raw food?” You literally had
to explain in great detail what raw food was because we had never heard of that ever. We just thought,
“OK, no corn. Great.”
We’ve been conditioned culturally through advertising to believe a certain way. Companies are spending
tens of millions of dollars if not more to advertise their products. After a while, it’s just a normal part of
your thinking. It becomes a normal part of your thinking like, “That’s normal. I need a car. I’m going to go
buy one. I’ve seen this commercial.”
DB: Part of your documentary includes some very touching interviews with people who have been
victims of recalls. In fact their pets have died. How did you contact those people, Kohl? Or once you
realized that recalls existed, how did you track down the people that you wanted to interview that had had
personal experiences with the recall?
KH: There were two recalls that we covered for the film. One was the 2007 recall, which was the largest
consumer product recall ever at the time. Of any product, not just pet food. The second was a chicken
While we were filming, an issue had come to light where I’d read an article about pet parents banding
together on a Facebook page because they were having issues with sickness or death relating to treats. I
basically got in contact with a person who kind of facilitated the whole Facebook page. She created a
database of everybody that had reported to her that they had an issue – who the person was, where they
lived on a map, was there sickness, if the dog lived or did the sickness result in death.
She had very detailed information with the chicken jerky. Through her, I was introduced to a lot of
different people. If I were flying to Chicago to meet with somebody, I would go around and meet with all
of the different people who would meet with me to say, “Tell me your story.”
Randomly in Birmingham, we were filming at a conference. I took my camera guy to a restaurant he
wanted to go to. Casual conversation. People were like, “Why are you here?” “We’re filming a little
documentary.” “What about?” “Pet food.” “Oh, my God. My roommate just had the worst issue with this
chicken jerky treat.” Even in a bar in Birmingham, people were having issues. We actually got to speak
with her roommate who makes it into the film, [inaudible 14:43].
DB: I’m sure that those interviews – I have seen them – are very impactful. You had interviews that were
insightful, interviews that were very emotional. What interviews where the most difficult or challenging
during this process?
KH: I would just go back to that question, the previous question just to kind of finish my thought. The
interesting thing about the chicken jerky situation was that I was meeting with people and was basically in
real time. In Birmingham, I met with a lady who this just happened to her three days prior. She was still
confused. She had never questioned pet food at all or treats. She would just go and abide what the
package said to her. It’s all-natural. It’s home-style dog. Whatever that means.
What was interesting to me is what was happening was that you had all of these people all across the
country where the same exact thing was happening to them. Sometimes the dog only got sick. Sometimes
the dog died. There are other pet owners out there that fed that treat but never had an issue.
But the interesting thing was that every person involved in the chicken jerky issue did not want to be
involved in the lawsuit. The only thing that they wanted was for the product to be pulled off the shelf, the
problem to be fixed, and to move on. They had something bad happen to them. They don’t want to be
involved in the lawsuit because they’re not going to get anything. They know that. All they want is the
product to be recalled, so it’s not killing more animals.
Each one had problems with calling the manufacturer and being ignored. That’s what that scene points
out, sort of how the company treats the consumer that they care for. That was a very shocking thing to me
to basically call the company myself and have them respond, “Our treats have been tested. The Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t found anything.”
I was lucky enough as well to have spoken with the FDA about the issue where they acknowledged,
“There is an issue, but we can’t prove that.” It was this Catch-22 of, “There is a problem, but we can’t find
the smoky gun.” What does that say? You just allowed the product to continue to be sold and continue to
kill until you can find the smoking gun? You know that it’s killing. You’ve admitted that it’s killing. That’s
the way the world works.
The most uncomfortable interview that I had was I would say, we were randomly contacted by the Pet
Food Institute, which is the lobbying organization. They contacted Michael and basically said, “We’re
affiliated with the industry. We want to help you out.” My co-producer was like, “Who is calling?” They
didn’t say who they were for quite a while. It was very odd. They invited us to speak with them. We’re
We took a trip to Washington, D.C. where we spoke to both the FDA and the Pet Food Institute. It was
very clear with… Because you just want to sit back and you want to interview. You want to make that
connection and speak from the heart. But with certain questions with the Pet Food Institute… I’ve been
covering this chicken jerky issue, would you please explain what’s going on. It’s their job to represent the
manufacturer. They’re not representing the consumer. The Pet Food Institute is representing the interest of
They said on camera and it made me uncomfortable, “There isn’t a problem with chicken jerky. This has
been tested for years and the FDA has found nothing.” Our response was, “We record your answers.” I’ve
spoken with people. I’m not trying to catch you on camera saying anything to make you look bad. I’ve
covered this issue and people are having issues that result in death. Everyone is aware of it. I don’t
understand why you’re basically saying it doesn’t exist. It was very uncomfortable. “The FDA looked into
this. I trust the FDA.”
Whenever you’re speaking with someone, you’re just trying to get their point of view that they care. It’s
hard to draw that conclusion that they care when something is happening. I met with people. These people
are not making this up. There is no conspiracy. You say that you represent the interest of consumers as
well, but I don’t see any evidence that they’ve ever called anybody that I’ve spoken with and made the
interest or the point that they care and they’re trying to fix the problem. It’s just brushed off as “It doesn’t
exist.” Now, that’s uncomfortable.
DB: Very uncomfortable. I’m actually really surprised that PFI even talked to you. I think it’s interesting.
But I’m not surprised by their kind of evasive responses at all. I’m not surprised at all.
KH: It’s different to have the dichotomy between speaking to you and Dr. Royal and a lot of other people.
Even the FDA was open and honest. They were like, “You can interview us for 30 minutes. Be quick.” It
turned into a couple of hours, because the topic is so in-depth and interesting. At the end of the day, what
I gathered from the FDA interview was “Sorry, there are laws. We follow the law.”
[—– 20:00 —–]
If they were speaking in code with their eyes, that is what I took from the interview. “We know there’s a
problem, but we can’t prove it.” It’s frustrating. They were using terminology to me that said that they
cared. They wanted to help more. But what can they do if it’s not in the law that they abide by?
DB: I know that you have flown around the United States. I know that you have gathered countless hours
of footage. How did you pick and choose? How long is the film?
KH: The final film is 71 minutes. We’ve shot hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage of interviews.
We didn’t know anything. We were shooting and learning at the same time. Interviewing someone for a
couple of hours was very valuable to us, because we were able to have transcripts after interviewing
someone with a lot of information. Especially from interviewing yourself, where we could then use what
you said and find the facts behind everything that you said, which would then help us in the end.
The difficult thing about making a film is that you’re translating this basically what could be a
conversation into a visual aspect. For me, it’s like translating English into a different language. It’s where
you can have a conversation in person with someone, but watching a film is an experience in and of itself.
I had to weigh a lot between this making the most sense for the consumer watching and not getting bored.
It’s like stitching a quilt really. What topic do we talk about first in order to get into this topic in order to
get into this topic? Because if the order became mixed up, the viewer would lose all interest in the topic
and be confused.
DB: I’m impressed that you were able to condense the volume of information down under 80 minutes. I’m
totally impressed. What do you think the biggest takeaway for you personally was? Because your learning
curve has just been like vertical on this entire topic. What do you think you’ve learned the very most from
finishing this entire project?
KH: The reason why I liked the film is that it’s Pet Fooled. It’s about pet food but at the same time it’s
not about pet food. There are many different undertones of this film that represent other industries. The
thing that kept me going throughout the years was the fact that I believe, as an American citizen, you have
a right to question companies. You have a right to question your government. It’s very clear that the
industry does have influence towards people questioning this product, questioning this industry, really,
and the products that they sell.
That’s what kept me going throughout the years, the fact that I believe that you have a right to question
what you’re being sold. You have a right to transparency and know what is in what you’re being sold.
That was what was the biggest shock to me was that it really took a lot of time to just understand the
basics of what’s in these products. What should you have? What shouldn’t you have? What should you
avoid? That was the biggest shock was that how misleading – I don’t know the corrective terminology to
allude to how shocking the way this industry works.
DB: Deceptive. Deceptive is the word that I use.
KH: Deceptive. Yeah.
DB: Yeah. It is. This is a five-year project, Kohl? Is that right? About five years?
KH: We thought it would be two years. Then it turned into five. That’s the way it always goes if you
make a film, a documentary.
DB: Privately funded? I know nothing about the film industry. How do the logistics of funding and the
KH: It was extremely low-budget. Basically, we had the funding for what we filmed. Filmed everything
and hired the camera guy and hired a couple of editors to help us out along the way. Just friends and
family. That was what allowed us to get through. Once we moved into the distribution phase, we said
“Here’s our rough cut product. We can’t afford to finish it.” And so whoever wanted to distribute it and to
like give us finishing funds to finish the movie. It’s a shoestring budget.
DB: Some of the best documentaries I have ever seen have been made exactly this way. I’m so excited to
see the finished version if people – I know everyone watching this is going to want to see this, Kohl.
Where are they going to go to see it? How are they going to get a hold of it?
KH: Basically, Gravitas is a company here in Los Angeles. They’re our distributor. They deal with video
on demand (VoD). It’s basically going to be on all digital platforms. If you have a certain cable provider,
let’s say, Time Warner is big here in Los Angeles, you can tie on to your VoD, through your Time
Warner and find Pet Fooled. You can find it on iTunes, Hulu, Vimeo on demand. Basically, any digital
platform, Xbox, you can find Pet Fooled. We wanted to make it as widely available worldwide on any
digital platform that we could, because that’s where consumers are going to be able to watch this film.
DB: Yeah. Absolutely. What’s your projected release date?
KH: The release date is October 4.
DB: So exciting. Very exciting. I was honored and flattered to be a part of this documentary. I’m excited
about what it’s going to accomplish in the sense that – you’re absolutely right. In five years, there has
been evolution in the industry. But the majority of people still have no idea that there are issues within the
pet food industry that they at least need to be aware of to make the very best choices for the animals that
they’re caring for, certainly.
I appreciate your conviction in hanging in there to finish this. It’s such an important topic. You’re really
one of the few people I know that have had just the ability to want to tackle it and get the job done. I
appreciate everything that you and your team have done. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Thanks,
KH: Thank you, too. Thank you.
Walking your dog is about so much more than just “potty breaks.” Walking your dog provides mental stimulation, physical exercise, chances for socialization, and opportunities for behavioral training. Moreover, it gets both of you out and about while helping to grow the bond you have with your dog.
Walking Provides Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Walking your dog regularly provides a basic foundation for physical and mental health. Like a child, your dog wants to know the world. If he or she is confined to the house for too long, your dog will get bored, and boredom can lead to destructive behavior. Your dog is dependent on you to take them out to explore the sights, smells, and sounds of the world. This is why it’s also good to vary the places you take your pet as dog much as possible. You’ve probably noticed how busy (and excited) your dog gets when he or she is walking, so let them enjoy every opportunity to discover!
Walking is Good for Your Dog’s Health
Remember, too, that a sedentary pooch can quickly become an overweight one, and that brings potential health problems with it. Even if your dog is active inside the home, he or she still needs another outlet for pent-up energy. You’ll benefit from having a well-exercised dog, as tired dogs tend to behave better, and you’ll help your pet avoid unnecessary weight gain!
Walking Helps with Your Dog’s Socialization
While out walking, your pooch is most likely going to meet other dogs. This is a great opportunity to help your dog learn acceptable ways of socially interacting with new animals. It will also help build doggy confidence so your pet will be less afraid to make friends. If your dog does show fear, taking them to a training class is a great way of removing that anxiety in a more controlled environment. Well-socialized pups still like a bit of rough-and-tumble play with other dogs when out for a walk, but they’ll know when to stop and will come away without any battle scars. Walking your dog and exposing him or her to different dogs, people, and situations is a win for everyone.
Walking Your Dog is a Training Opportunity
When walking your dog, consider it a training opportunity. Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk on a leash, so you’ll have to teach your dog how to follow your lead. On these walks, you can begin teaching commands like, “sit,” “stay,” and “heel,” especially if you take treats along to use during the process.
Just Walking Your Dog May Not be Enough
Exercise needs are based on your dog’s age, breed, size, and overall health, but a good rule of thumb is you should spend at least 30 minutes every day on an activity with your dog. Younger dogs and dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more.
If your dog has a yard to play in, walking isn’t the only form of exercise available. However, don’t expect your dog to create their own exercise routine just because you’ve put them outside. Dogs don’t self-entertain, so if you want to tire your pet out, play catch or fetch! Find more ideas on what activities you and your dog can do together in The Animal Foundation’s Guide to Your Dog’s Play Time and Activities.
If you’re at work all day, consider taking your dog to doggie daycare, hiring a dog walker or asking a friend to take your dog out during those hours. Your pet will enjoy the company, and you’ll come home to a happier dog waiting to greet you.
Ready to get out of the house with your four-legged friend? With this insight, you’ll never look at a walk with your dog the same way again! Don’t have a dog of your own to walk? Volunteer with The Animal Foundation and help enrich the lives of our pawsome shelter pooches.