Raw Feeding History
Raw Feeding History
In the years before commercial dog food grew in popularity, dogs would eat whatever was available to their owners. A farm dog’s diet would include scraps of raw meat mixed with milk and eggs as well as food found whilst scavenging. Dogs living in urban areas would feed on scraps from their owners’ table along with offal and cheap cuts of raw meat from the butcher. Only dogs owned by the very rich and royalty would be fed meals that had been specially prepared for them with the finest cuts of meat.
In 1860, James Spratt introduced the first processed dog food. The creation of his brainchild – the "Patented Meat Fibrine Dog Cake" – was inspired after his observation of street dogs devouring ship hardtack on the docks of Liverpool, England. His company was established in Holborn, London and his first dog cake, a concoction of blended wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and meat, was prepared and baked on the premises of Walker, Harrison and Garthwaite. Spratt was not only the first to manufacture pet foods but the first to farm out his production. His "Dog Cakes" were initially sold to English country gentlemen for their sporting dogs. Other companies quickly jumped on the bandwagon, and more baked dog products were on the market. Many marketed paid endorsements by veterinarians.
The depression in the 1930’s prompted dog owners to look for less expensive methods to feed their pets. Less raw meat was fed, and more grains and cereal products were introduced in home diets. Canned meat products were introduced in the 1940’s and in 1943, dehydrated dog food was introduced, with the instructions of ‘just add water’.
New debates were developing on feeding dogs, and several marketers of the new dog products were stating that their products were superior, as they were able to utilize waste products such as grain hulls, sweepings and meat unusable for human consumption. Another argument was that fresh meat was just too expensive to feed dogs, and that it actually made them too ‘fussy’. While it was noted fresh meat and vegetables were superior, they argued that dogs could be fed more economically with these factory waste products, and still do well.
The sales of dry processed dog foods picked up considerably after World War II. Mill operators and grain dealers were finding a good source for their by-products in the dog industry. Slaughterhouses were also available to sell non-human grade, diseased meats, unusable parts, and meat by-products to pet food manufacturers. This created a market for products that previously had been discarded. Since many of these meat sources were non-human grade, the practice became common to mix these with the grains and cook them together for many hours or days to kill bacteria and disease. The final mix was then formed into pellets and bagged for convenience of feeding.
As the cost of meat during the post war period increased, so did the number of dogs fed with processed foods. The marketing departments began to adopt more outrageous claims such as only processed foods could fulfil a dogs needs rather than the common sense diets applied by dog owners over the previous hundreds of years. Marketing also began to trend towards what was most attractive to the nutritional needs of the owner, rather than that of the dog as the owner was the figure making the key purchasing decision.
During this post war period Australia had been slow to adopt the new trend in feeding processed foods. Some of the veterinarians could remember the period before processed foods, and began associating illnesses and behaviour problems with the change in diet. This led several vets to create the Raw Meaty Bones (RMB) movement in the late 1980’s. This group of vets from Sydney Australia began to disseminate their ideas. Dr Tom Lonsdale was amongst these vets and is quoted below on the lobby’s progress:
“Besides treating the pets immediately under our care, we lobbied for pets and their owners and lobbied against the pet-food industry/veterinary machine. We identified cheap, available sources of raw meaty bones and recommended the feeding of a few table scraps because they are free and provide nutritional value akin to the gut contents of prey animals. Importantly, we conducted research and campaigned in print, on radio and TV against the veterinary establishment and the junk pet-food industry. In Australia, in the early 1990s, we began to make progress.
As the awareness of Raw Meaty Bones gained pace, another prominent veterinarian called Dr Ian Billinghurst joined the lobby and helped to bring their findings to both the UK and the US.
In 1997 Dr Billinghurst left the RMB lobby and started the Biologically Appropriate Raw Feed (BARF) movement promoting his ideas alongside the RMB lobby which was gaining pace in both the UK and US and has had some considerable success in their fight to highlight the processed dog food manufacturers association with veterinary nutritional training and has had success in the UK parliament with two early day motions passed.
And more recently with the UK media picking up on the story with newspaper articles and TV documentaries.
Fortunately there is a growing public and veterinarian awareness with most Homeopathic Vets actively advocating Raw Dog Food in all its forms over processed food.
Many Raw Feeding books are now available giving good advice on nutrition to help dog owners make more confident decisions with their pet’s nutrition.
The fact that an evolutionary diet promotes health will probably come as no surprise. That a grain based product such as commercial pet food is destructive to a dog’s health should also be no surprise. However, clever marketing (combined with very poor science) has resulted in these atrocious products being the major source of food fed to most pets in developed countries. And yet, feeding our pets according to the dictates of evolution (which is sound science in every sense of the word) is currently regarded by some as a fad, which they assume, will be short lived. I don't think so!
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