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(Updated 1/6/01)

Iams is accused of 'animal cruelty'

by Nick Mays

A leading pet food company stood accused this week of carrying out ‘horrific’ experiments on animals after a Sunday tabloid exposed ‘damning evidence’ of tests on cats on dogs during the development of the company’s products.

Iams petfoods owned by consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble have fast become one of the world’s best-known pet food manufacturers. When the company was taken over by Procter & Gamble two years ago, many pet traders were outraged by the parent company’s decision to eschew the ‘specialist’ retail promotion of the product exclusively through pet stores, but instead to place it on supermarket shelves throughout the UK.
Iams are one of the sponsors of Crufts dog show and were appaled when the Sunday Express newspaper ran a front page story last weekend - the third day of Crufts - about the allegations of cruelty to animals in the testing of Iams products.

The report, written by the paper’s Health Editor Lucy Johnston drew largely on findings by the animal rights organisation Uncaged which, the report claimed, had been “buried in obscure scientific papers”.

The experiments are listed in graphic detail on Uncaged’s website, although the newspaper printed selected extracts. According to the Sunday Express, in one experiment 24 young dogs had their right kidneys removed and the left partly damaged to investigate how protein affects dogs with kidney failure. Eight dogs were killed to analyse the kidney tissue.

Other research included the sterilisation of 24 female cats, which were over-fed until they became obese. Then the animals were starved until they lost 30 per cent of their body weight so that their livers could be examined to investigate the link between weight loss and disease. Also, according to the report, several breeds of dog were “regularly given chest wounds” to see if diet could affect fur regrowth.

Dr Lizzie Parker, Technical Manager for Iams UK spoke exclusively to OUR DOGS newspaper on Tuesday of this week, to refute the allegations made in the Sunday Express report.

The huge Iams stand at Crufts. Photo by W Moores OUR DOGS

When asked point blank whether there was any truth in the article, Dr Parker replied, “If you mean do we conduct feeding studies on animals, then yes, of course we do, but in terms of what was said in the Sunday Express, the article is grossly inaccurate.

“All the studies we conduct at Iams accords with our company’s mission statement which is to enhance the welfare of cats and dogs through their diet. All the research we undertake - and indeed, the studies mentioned in the Sunday Express report are, and always have been, in the public domain. They are certainly not obscure or buried in any way.”

Dr Parker added that the company had undertaken studies in renal disease, effects of weight loss, and effects to the canine immune system and skin and coat conditions.

“The newspaper has taken these studies and totally misrepresented and sensationalised them.” declared Dr Parker.

“Looking at the cats’ weight loss experiments, they use emotive words such as ‘sterilised’. The cats were spayed as any responsible cat owner would spay an animal which was not to be bred from. The study was to determine the causes of obesity which affects 40 per cent of cats and dogs in the UK. The definition of ‘obese’ is animals that are 15 per cent or more overweight. The cats were already overweight and we did NOT deliberately overfeed them to make them obese.

“Also, it is dangerous to make animals lose weight too quickly; no more than 2.5 per cent per week. They were given food, they were not starved. Our intention was to determine that the weight loss factor in our foods was safe and did not cause a condition known as Hepatic Lipidosis. We did a simple needle biopsy on the cats’ livers, there was no operation, they were not cut open and there was no pain involved whatsoever, not as the Sunday Express interpreted it as us going in, cutting them open and studying their livers.”

Dr Parker also refuted claims that over 30 dogs were ‘wounded’ to study see how diet affected fur regrowth.
“This was a study to look at the effects of fats on skin health. The dogs were given simple skin biopsies, as would be carried out by any vet. It was done under local anaesthetic with one simple stitch afterwards. We did not wilfully ‘wound’ any animals.”

When asked whether the study on dogs’ kidneys involving the euthanasia of eight dogs was correct, Dr Parker replied frankly. “Yes, it is correct. The dogs were euthanased. The study was carried out by the University of Georgia in the late 1980s and the results published in 1991, and the papers have been available in the public domain for ten years.

“Colleges will come to us as a pet food company with proposals for study, explaining their methodology and the projected benefits of such a study. Other pet food companies engage in this sort of research partnership with colleges also. Iams has strict criteria with any such proposals involving animal experiments, the foremost of which is that it has a practical benefit for the animals and can be put back into their welfare via our pet foods. Secondly, the studies have got to be unique; we will not sanction repeated studies.

“With regard to the kidney studies, it was because renal disease is responsible for 25 per cent of dog and cat deaths around the world, and the company’s view was that if this research could benefit the lives of millions of cats and dogs, then it was absolutely right.”

Dr Parker then made a very clear statement for the benefit of all Iams customers and interested parties. “Two years ago, the Iams company made a clear, corporate and binding policy decision, and it is simply this: The Iams company does NOT support experiments or research which involve the euthanasia of dogs and cats. The welfare and well-being of the animals is our paramount concern.”

In conclusion, Dr Parker turned her frustration on the tactics of the Sunday Express; “What upsets me most of all is the unnecessary distress which this article has caused to many pet owners. I have been at Crufts this weekend and it is gut-wrenching to see what it has done to them by creating doubts and fears which are totally unnecessary. I myself lost a dog last year who was 20 years old. I had been able to prolong her life happily through our great quality diets. I suspect that this article has broken the bond of trust we have with our customers. The cornerstone of our business is the dedication to the health and well being of animals, that is why we exist. Let me reiterate, Iams do not sanction harmful studies on animals.”

Dr Parker said that the Iams company would be pleased to allay the fears of any individual who was concerned by the newspaper’s allegations and invited them to write in so that they could receive a full, frank explanation from the company.

Other points in the Sunday Express story which were inaccurate concerned the RSPCA “severing all ties” with the Iams company. “This seems rather an unusual statement to make when one considers that we had no business ties with the RSPCA to start with, we have a regular business relationship,” added Dr Parker.

However, the RSPCA confirmed that they had staged a short promotion with Iams which had lasted for a short time, but was now dropped while the charity carried out its own investigations into the newspaper’s allegations.
Similarly, the Crufts organisers never considered at any stage the removal of the Iams stand at Crufts show nor any kind of “review” of the Show’s relationship with Iams.

A number of protesters from Uncaged were allowed to stage a peaceful protest at Crufts and to hand out leaflets on the day the allegations appeared in print.

Sainsbury's supermarket chain has decided to remove any promotion for Iams from their Pet Club magazine but have not yet taken a decision whether or not to remove the actual products from their stores

If you have any queries about Iams products and the points raised in this article, please write to:
P:O:Box 1EL
NE99 1EL