Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

April 3, 2007

Pet Food Rats: The Shame of an Industry

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:22 pm

I woke up Saturday morning in Chicago and turned on Headline News, only to to learn to my horror that the pet food my cat (who’s back in my New York apartment) has been eating had only now been recalled by the manufacturer. In the previous week I’d been appalled by the criminal ineptness of the pet food industry in dealing with the potential poisoning of hundreds of thousands of beloved creatures. But I’d felt a bit smug because I’d switched my cat to a prescription only brand of cat food before I left.

Still the behavior of the pet food industry seems to me to be an example of everything that’s wrong with unregulated markets that privilege unrestricted greed over concern for the lives of their customers The failure of testing for rat poison? The delay in notifying the public even after belated testing led to deaths of test animals. Is there a circle of hell low enough for these evil creeps who continued to profit off people’s love for animals while keeping the pipelines of poison (and profit) open? Did they think no one would find out?

Still I must admit I’ve been all too complacent about the whole matter because (at least at first) it didn’t involve my cat’s particular prescription brand. (Bruno has little weight problem; he’s a bit “hefty” as my girlfriend gently puts it).

My own attitude almost reminds me of the epigraph to Nabokov’s Pale Fire. The one from Boswell’s Life of Johnson in which Dr. Johnson is ruminating about a crazed young man going around London shooting cats. And then reverting to thoughts of his own cat, Hodge, Johnson says (I’m doing this from memory: “But Hodge shan’t be shot. No, no, Hodge shan’t be shot.”

It’s some sad, beautiful fusion of wishfulness, wistfulness and dread. The possibility too horrible to contemplate. it sounds selfish, but it’s more self-protective.

But then this morning when I’m halfway across the country, to learn to my horror that my Hodge may be being poisoned at that very moment by the callous morons who can’t be bothered to care enough to figure this out til ten days or so after the first warnings were issued…You know who should be shot? Well I probably shouldn’t dwell on what should be visited upon these dimwit subhumans.

Fortunately I put in place an extensive multi-layered support system for Bruno before I left for Chicago. My sturdily heroic neighbor Larry Rosenblatt rushed over to remove the potentially poisoned food from Bruno’s hungry jaws. My cat care person, the saintly Christine Sarkissian is replacing it with safe food. Although with the pinheads who run the pet food industry, who can be sure what’s safe, since they take their sweet time squeezing every dime out of their customers from the sale of tainted food before troubling themselves to recall it. I hope they all get sued into bankruptcy and have to live on rat poisoned cat food for the rest of their no good lives. (Gee, am I angry about this or what?). And my gifted vet Dr. George Korin is going to take a sample of Bruno’s blood just to make sure that the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean some hidden injury has been done.

But I’d like to take a blood sample myself, from everyone of the pet food manufacturers who allowed this ongoing tragedy to continue to go on. Frankly I’d be surprised to find evidence of human blood in their veins. And if there is any, I hope it turns into red ink overnight.

Rat poison is too good for these rats.



  1. Ron, please lie down, take a deep breath, and dream sweet dreams of the number of beloved pets that would die were an all-benevolent government to replace our greedy pet food producers pursuing only profit at the expense of… well, what, precisely? That greedy industry that you disparage so flippantly hardly ever kills pets. Quite a record if all they care about is profit, non? Well, actually, yes: It is the profit motive that leads them to produce healthful products, or, to generalize a bit, to produce goods and services that others value. I know that you are a proud liberal in the modern sense, and that is fine; but you might want to ask yourself if the profit motive on net is a force for good or evil. Firms invest in their brand names, so it is far from clear that they make money by harming their customers. That this poisoning episode has occurred says little more than perfection lies outside the grasp of mankind.

    I think “hardly ever kills pets”, says it all. If a member of your family died from tainted food that should have been withdawn from sale, would the fact that the food company “hardly ever kills people” comfort you? The fact that they actually did kill pets in testing the tainted food and then didn’t disclose it in a timely fashion thus endangering the lives of thosands of other helpless creatures, seems to me more than an instance of “imperfection”. I’m not a believer in government ownership, but rather effective regulation and the power of legal redress to hold people accountable for their cruel stupidity.

    Comment by Benjamin Zycher — April 3, 2007 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  2. Ron, please ask you pet care person to get your cat examined by a vet ASAP. They need to be checked if they’ve been eating the affected food.
    A blood test can check for kidney function, and fluids given to prevent permanant kidney damage.

    Thank you. Did it. Blood results came back “A-OK” according to vet.

    Comment by M....... — April 4, 2007 @ 4:48 am | Reply

  3. Ron, I’ve been feeding my cats raw food (the prey model) for over a year now. They have never been healthier. My 15 yr old “Spike” has gone from lethargy, a seedy coat and broken whiskers to playfulness, a luxurious pelt and magnificent whiskers. Weight maintenance is easier as well. Carnivores were never meant to eat grain. I encourage you to check out the “biologically approprate” diet.

    Comment by Jack Woodward — April 4, 2007 @ 10:39 pm | Reply

  4. Ron, nowhere do I see unrestricted greed rewarded more than in the Managed Care Industry. Unlike most service businesses, their avarice is rewarded for denying service, which seems doubly egregious.

    Comment by doc — April 5, 2007 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  5. Hi, Mr. Rosenbaum,

    I googled you because there was no email address attached to your article at Slate about how parasites may alter people’s minds. I wanted to suggest that you might be interested in Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature’s Most Dangerous Creatures.

    I went through almost exactly the experience you describe here, with my cats. (Yes, I not only have a blog for me, I have a separate one exclusively for my cats. And I’m not the only person I know who does that — whatever causes such obsession, be it toxo or merely an overload of the brain’s cuteness center, it’s clearly widespread in our culture.) Technically the food I give my girls is not on the recall list — the Nutro pouch chunky food was recalled, but not the canned chunky food. But one of them exhibited symptoms similar to what was described in the news (vomiting, lethargy), so I took her in for blood tests, which came back fine. I still have a bunch of the Nutro food sitting in my cabinet; I switched them over to Triumph, which is unconnected to Menu Foods. I can’t decide what to do with the Nutro; since it’s not recalled, I can’t return it to the store, but I’m afraid to feed it to them, since nobody really seems to know for certain whether the recalled items are an exhaustive listing of what might be tainted. Very irritating.

    Best regards,
    Auros (a.k.a. “Slate’s Fact-Checking Department”)

    Comment by RM 'Auros' Harman — April 7, 2007 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

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