Susan Thixton Interview

Neal: Hi, this is Neal from Growlies. I'm here with Susan Thixton from truthaboutpetfood.com, one of my favorite websites to learn what's going on in the pet food industry in North America and even the world sometimes. I've been a big fan of her work for many, many years. We came out of Growlies and our values came out of the biggest pet food recall in history, I believe, the Menu Foods recall in 2007-2008. I believe you reported extensively on that Susan. When did you start Truth About Pet Food?

Susan Thixton: Truth About Pet Food was started in October of 2016. I was just getting my feet wet,

Neal: 2016?

Susan: I'm sorry, 2006.

Neal: I recognized that that was totally-- because I've been following you for 15 years.

Susan: 2006, sorry. The brain doesn't always connect with the mouth, [laughs] 2006. I was just getting my feet wet and then this happened. Thank heavens that recall I firmly believe would have been much more devastating had it not been for the internet because pet owners, and forums, and just the emails were connecting with each other even before the first recall came out, alerting each other to problems. That recall was the deadliest pet food recall in history.

We were promised laws from those recalls and we've never been given what was promised. In fact, Congress went in, thanks to Kentucky senator Rand Paul, went in and just wiped the slate clean, erased what was promised millions of pet owners, to prevent another deadly recall like that from happening. Senator Rand Paul and everybody, but one person on this committee, voted yes.

They just erased the laws from record. FDA never did them. They were required to be completed by September of 2009. It was called Ensuring the Safety of Pet Food. Here we sit at the end of 2019 and conditions are no different today than they were in 2007. That could happen again at any moment.

Neal: I've heard numbers bandied about from sky-high numbers and tens of thousands of animals that were injured or killed through that recall to thousands. Do we even know?

Susan: The FDA, I think it broke a record even with human recalls for the number of complaints and phone calls that the FDA received. I don't recall the exact amount, but as far as kidney disease and death, the estimates that I've heard, which I feel are very accurate are in the 300,000 to 500,000 range.

Neal: Oh gosh.

Susan: Because what that did, and that's not necessarily quick death.

Neal: Yes, kidney disease is not [inaudible]

Susan: That destroyed pet's kidneys and pet owners nursed them along, but it still destroyed their kidneys. The numbers are massive of the damage done. It was more than a hundred different products. Probably billions of pounds. Not millions, but billions of pounds of pet food recall.

Neal: Do you know what happens to that recall product? Do they end up in a landfill, in a compost heap or--?

Susan: That's a good question. We don't really know. Nobody says. The pet food industry is allowed-- it's a process called regrind. They are allowed to, say a batch comes out and they test it. If they're responsible enough and they test it and they go, "The vitamin D is too high." They don't have to destroy their product. They can go back, dump that product, mix it in with other batches which is lowering the vitamin D and the consumer is not told anything.

Part of the pet food could be for one, cooked more times. A kibble pet food, the ingredients are cooked at least four times before it ends up in the bag. If they happen to regrind, for regrind material is in that, then these are ingredients that have been cooked eight times.

Neal: Crazy.

Susan: We're not told any of that.

Neal: It's the power of lobbying, isn't it?

Susan: Yes, they have very wealthy and very powerful lobby influence.

Neal: Then of course, we pet owners, we don't, except we have you.

Susan: We have, fingers crossed and I'm not going to say a name yet because we're not there yet, but we have a congressman and their office are starting to help us.

Neal: Awesome.

Susan: Fingers crossed, because once we get this person to take a stand, then the goal is to get pet owners to write their government representatives, and urge them to partner with this person, because we've got to get changes. Law is being violated. It's insane. It can't keep going on like this. I don't understand. I would have never-- as I started doing this and then you uncover, I can still remember that day when I found the FDA compliance policies that said diseased animals and animals that have died other than by slaughter are suitable for use in animal food. The FDA compliance policy.

Neal: These are the 4-D animals. These are dead, dying, diseased and--

Susan: Disabled.

Neal: Disabled animals that are not fit for human consumption.

Susan: Correct.

Neal: May have been passed away in the field, and left in the field for some set amount of time so that they're as horrible as you can imagine a corpse to be. That ends up at a rendering facility, which then ends up in a pet food that has the word healthy on the back.

Susan: I'm trying to remember my numbers. I'm thinking it's more than a billion pounds of just dead animal carcasses. Just dead animal carcasses per year that need to be disposed off and that's where they go.

Neal: It's because people don't understand how much agriculture has to happen to feed a city. We have no idea how many animals it takes that we churn through first to feed a city of the size of LA. You need millions of chickens growing all the time in order for that city to have enough chicken, for instance. That's true of all of the feed animals that we have, and what you're saying and I just want to try and break it down a little. I don't mean to interrupt, I apologize.

Susan: No, that's fine.

Neal: What you’re saying is that the law states explicitly that when they die other than by slaughter, that they shouldn't really be used in pet food, but that the FDA is currently allowing that practice just because it's a pain in the butt for the companies. Am I basically laying it out there?

Susan: Absolutely. It is illegal. US federal law says that any food- and food is defined as what humans and animals consume, so pet food under the law is considered a food. An adulterated food, an illegal food would be one in part that consists of a diseased animal or an animal that has died otherwise than by slaughter. Yes, that is a direct violation of law and FDA gives their stamp of approval on this material to be used in pet food with no disclosure or warning to consumers.

Neal: Then just to help clarify some of the things. AAFCO was an organization that you were an advocate for pet owners in that organization for many years. I understand you've lost that position recently. I think you were basically forced out, but I don't know enough about that. That AAFCO organization, we all believe it's a regulator, but it's not. It's an industry association that regulates the industry or lays out rules that the industry should play by. Am I correct?

Susan: Well it's not an industry organization. It is a private organization whose members consist of state Department of Agriculture and FDA representatives. The members, the people who get to vote and make the decisions are regulatory government employees, but they are acting within AAFCO as a private organization. They're there as part of their job description, but the organization itself is a private organization.

Neal: It's interesting, so you have a public servant working for a private organization?

Susan: That's right, and that private organization, government employees participating in a private organization, sharing work, they charge for that shared work product, it's not free to the public. In their government job, their work cannot be charged a fee for because they're the government. They start this other organization which gives them the ability, even though they're government employees to kind of play and bend the law to their own discretion, because the organization itself is not a government organization. Its members are, but the organization itself.

The regulation of pet food I compare it to tag-team wrestling. It's crazy when you try to hold one accountable as example with these illegal ingredients. We go to FDA and we go, "Wait a minute, this is law. You can't have an ingredient definition that allows a diseased animal or animal that has died otherwise than by slaughter in the pet food, because that's against the law."

FDA raises their hands and goes, "Whoa, not our problem, we didn't do it, AAFCO did," so they tag their wrestling team member and then you go to AAFCO and go, "Wait a minute, you can't write these definitions allowing illegal material in it." They raise their hands, "Well, we don't enforce law, FDA and state Department of Agricultures do." They keep you with this tag team wrestling method and it works really well because its hard to get through the door. They just keep sending you in other directions.

Neal: It's the classic case of government plausible deniability?

Susan: Yes.

Neal: It wasn't me, maybe him. Go look over there. It wasn't me, hands-off.

Susan: Yes, absolutely.

Neal: This AAFCO organization, I was-- and this is an important point, how they charge for the, while it's public employees who are creating the content and then they charge, and it's not cheap because Kohl Harrington who made the Pet Fooled film, I'm a friend of Kohl, I think he does amazing work and I look forward to what he's doing next. He invited me to the last AAFCO and I couldn't go, it was outrageously expensive to attend.

Susan: Very expensive, yes. It's $550 just to walk into the door, plus your airfare to get there, plus your hotel room, and then the rule book-- I don't have one close, I was going to grab a rule book. The rule book itself which is a book about this thick, here it is. There's the book, you see how thick it is, costs $120.

Neal: It's almost like it's designed to keep the public out?

Susan: Do what?

Neal: It's almost like it's designed to keep the public out?

Susan: Absolutely. Absolutely, it is. They no more want pet owners there. Several years ago, it was in 2015, at an AAFCO meeting, it was in Denver, Colorado. A veterinarian, but at the time she was there representing pet owners. The discussion was recycled garbage, behind every grocery store there are dumpsters, and most people think those dumpsters are taking it to the landfill.

That's not true, there are dumpsters back behind every single grocery store across the United States that is there for expired foods, such as heads of lettuce when they go bad, or loaves of bread when they get past the- mold and get past--

Neal: Yes, frozen pizza and Twinkies.

Susan: The example given was yogurt. In those little six-pack of the yogurt cups, in six little containers. That dumpster is picked up, all of the material in there, including the plastic packaging is ground and put in cattle feed, and chicken feed, and hog feed.

A veterinarian stood up at this meeting and went, "Wait a minute, you cannot do this. I don't want my daughter drinking plastic in her milk." The entire room, 400, 450 people, booed her, I kid you not. I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. I still regret to this day not jumping up and going to the microphone to defend her, but I was so blown away at their attitude. They don't care, and this was regulatory, too. No, everybody in the room, except for our little bitty group, booed her. It was awful, they just want cheap ingredients.

Neal: It's antagonism, it's antagonistic towards the consumer.

Susan: Absolutely.

Neal: I want to touch on this difference between, and you've hinted at it, between feed and food. That there is this feed, so normally we would say there's chicken feed which is ingredients we are, like as you just described, that are clearly not really safe to feed to anything we care about, I guess. They have used this stuff because I think they're not allowed to dump at the ocean, they're not allowed to really fill our landfills with it. They have to use it instead of composting it, they feed it to chickens, but the problem is is that feed grade on a bag of pet food, is called pet food. How is a consumer to know what they're buying when there's no real way to find out from the company who sells them the feed, like where are we left?

Susan: Exactly, there is no way. Consumers have to become a private detective. It's that bad, where you have to call the manufacturer, and as an example, you, one of the most important questions is if these ingredients are feed ingredients or are they food ingredients. The question to pose to the manufacturer is are the ingredients- this is for the US- USDA inspected and passed as edible? Many manufacturers will respond, "Oh yes, absolutely, all of our ingredients come from USDA-inspected facilities." That's not what you asked, that was a trick answer. These condemned materials, inedible materials come from a USDA facility.

Neal: But it's waste.

Susan: Yes, so it's so much digging for a consumer to do to learn. Then you want to learn country of origin of ingredients. Many companies will be far less than forthcoming in disclosing this information. Then there is who manufactures the food, because some manufacturing facilities have a less than desirable reputation or cleanliness in manufacturing. That's another issue is that since pet food is regulated as feed, the same way cattle feed and chicken feed is regulated, their manufacturing standards are not the same as food standards.

Through Freedom of Information Act request documents, we found out that a Mars Petcare facility had a horrible roach infestation problem in the manufacturing plant. FDA inspected them in 2016 and 2017, both years, employee documents quote, stated millions of roaches in the plant. FDA noted that the roaches were in the food production area. FDA also noted in their inspection report that Mars did not take steps to prevent the deterioration of ingredients, but yet there was no recall on this food. All of these things, two years in a row happened, no recall because this is acceptable in feed.

Neal: A couple of things for the people listening. Mars is the same people who make Mars Bar. I think they're the largest pet food manufacturer on the planet.

Susan: They are.

Neal: Is number two Nestle or is it Del Monte?

Susan: Two is Nestle Purina.

Neal: Nestle owns Purina, of course. It's weird to me that they would allow-- see, I know that when you talk to somebody at that plant and you say, "There's this gigantic roach infestation, you guys got to deal with it," they're going to say and I know they're going to say, "Well, it's added protein. What's the problem?" You know, I'm right.

Susan: I know. Well, that's not what customers are paying for.

Neal: Correct. That's the thing.

Susan: If it's full of roaches, then they need to disclose that ingredient on their label.

Neal: Absolutely agree. Exactly. That's the point I'm trying to make ultimately is that we don't know what we're buying. As a company, us, we decided not to play in kibble at all. We do freeze-dried, dehydrated, canned, cooked and raw. They have their own problems and talking about some of the problems about canned. Let's go to those guys, because we see a lot of problems in can nowadays, especially around and you have to explain this to me because I cannot fully wrap my head around it, pentobarbital. That is the drug that my veterinarian will use to put my dog to sleep. I don't know that it's used for much else. How is it ending up in pet food?

Susan: Because euthanized animals are in pet food. Since 2017, January 2017, 91 million pounds of canned pet food has been recalled for pentobarbital. If you lay those cans end to end, they would reach from Key West, Florida to Los Angeles, California, all the way to Washington, D.C., FDA headquarters. More than 5,600 miles of cans of pet food that contained a euthanized animal.

Neal: Because we don't euthanize horses or cows or anything like that with pentobarbital, so it's not like they got or that could be by mistake.

Susan: Horses are chemically euthanized, yes. At public universities, this might be where some of the cattle being euthanized are coming from, from a university. Universities with their veterinary programs or so forth, if they have to put a cow down, any animal down, they are chemical euthanized, but then that body has to be disposed up.

Neal: I've never bought a canned horse meat for my dog, so I don't know.

Susan: It's not disclosed. I don't believe that in the US horse meat, even in pet food, is allowed. I don't believe.

Neal: Yet, we are with millions of pounds.

Susan: None of the regulatory authorities tasked, with the majority of that 91 million pounds was Smucker's, and that was the fat ingredient. When they go pick up all these dead animals, euthanized animals, they're ground up, cooked, and imagine a big pot of dead animal stew. They ground-up material, the fat floats to the top. That fat, plus everything else, the dry ingredients go one direction the fat goes to another direction. With the Del Monte, the majority £91 million was fat, but it still contained pentobarbital. It's still illegal, per federal law because it contained an animal that died other than by slaughter.

No penalty was incurred. They did recall the pet foods. Right now last week, I guess, Smucker's announced another recall of cat food and very mysteriously they did not disclose the cause. I called them. They would not tell me. They said they didn't have that information. I also reached out to the FDA. Of course, this is not true, but FDA said they did not have that information. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for that information and who knows when FDA will get it to me.

Neal: In a year or two, maybe, if ever.

Susan: It takes that long, a lot of times. They've told me two years. Expect to wait two years.

Neal: That's just insane.

Susan: Fun group.

[laughter]

Neal: It's weird to me how, and it scares the hell out of me, given that the FDA essentially regulates Canada's pet food too, because here in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is not mandated nor funded to monitor pet food at all. We don't have monitoring. We rely on AAFCO and the US to do our basic monitoring, because most of the products that we get are from the US. I believe we have one or two representatives in AAFCO, but they're very industry-friendly, like seemingly most of the AAFCO board. For us, we primarily do raw. We don't only do raw, we do everything but kibble. We look now for something called HACCP certification in raw pet food manufacturing. Are you familiar with it?

Susan: Yes.

Neal: Is that the kind of thing you want to see?

Susan: It still depends. They might have a really-- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control--

Neal: Control Program.

Susan: They might have a great HACCP program on paper and say they abide by, but do they? I will bet that Mars plant infested with roaches will tell you, "We have absolutely a HACCP plan in place."

Neal: Have a plan.

Susan: I bet. It's so difficult for retailers, for pet owners to, who do we trust? How do we know? It's so wrong in Canada that all consumers are paying a sales tax to the government on these products, and they're getting absolutely nothing back in return. That's crazy.

Neal: I'm not a big guy. I have a single store. They get thousands and thousands of dollars from my one store every month, and they use none of that income to govern the products that I sell.

Susan: I really encourage Canadian pet owners, maybe you can lead this charge in your spare time. This needs to change. It absolutely needs to change. The pet owners there have no one to turn to. What if their pet got sick from a pet food? You have no one to turn to. That's exactly what happened in Australia with the megaesophagus. Now, Australia they have no regulations and now Australia is working on that.

Neal: Only because it was police dogs.

Susan: That's the only reason, I agree. That's the only reason. The police dogs changed the game. They ignored pet owners for decades, but now that it was police dogs it got media attention. [crosstalk]

Neal: The thing that really shocked me there was the first time I'd ever seen anybody connect megaesophagus to food.

Susan: There was a vet in, I don't know, a European country somewhere that had a year prior to. She's got a TEDx talk on this linking it to a pet food, but I don't think she ever found the cause.

Neal: That was the first industry essentially admitted that that was the case down there.

Susan: They were forced to admit.

Neal: Because again, it was police dogs. If it was your and my dog, they wouldn't have cared.

Susan: Sad, but true.

Neal: Tell me about, not only do you run the Truth About Pet Food website, you have an association that helps advocate for this stuff. Can you tell me about that organization, and what you're trying to do, and how people can support you?

Susan: It's associationfortruthinpetfood.com and that was started because of AAFCO. I tried to become an advisor or a consumer representative to AAFCO committees and every year they told me no, no, no. Then when one president finally was off the board, he was like, you're on the board of directors, when you're president-elect, when you're president and the year after. It was second year after. I went up to him at a meeting and said, "I'm still not an advisor. I don't understand." He went, "Okay, I'm off the board now. I can tell you. We can't allow a blogger-", they considered me a blogger, "-to be an advisor. You have to be a stakeholder organization." I appreciated the advice so much.

That's how the association got started. It was the right thing to do because as an official stakeholder organization, our stakeholders are pet owners. No manufacturer is allowed, even if you are a pet owner and a manufacturer, you still cannot join our consumer association. It is strictly for consumers and that gets us at least a foot in the door. They still ignore us, but at least it gets us a foot in the door with FDA, with AAFCO, with regulatory. I had to set up a separate bank account, register the association in the state of Florida. AAFCO made me jump through every hoop in the world, but I jumped through them.

Then yes, they did allow me to be an advisor for a few years, and then they kicked me out because again, through Freedom of Information Act request documents, that exposed some horrible conditions at a pet food manufacturing facility in Missouri and the Missouri State Department of Agriculture representative was just about to become president of AAFCO when this post came out. AAFCO was very unhappy with my post, because his name was mentioned, because that state Department of Agriculture did nothing. This manufacturing facility had a six-foot hole in the roof.

Neal: That's the one where the it's just raining in the manufacturing facility.

Susan: It's right over the mixer. Every time it rained bird poop, rust, nasties all went right down into the batch of pet food. The same Missouri Department of Agriculture that was about to be president of AAFCO, Stan Cook, I went up to him at an AAFCO meeting and said, "Stan, I don't understand why you all didn't force that company to recall these pet foods. I don't understand." "Well, we just are going to have to agree to disagree." I went, "All right. Well, but what about the hole in the roof? That's absolutely a violation. No ifs, ands or buts about it, of good manufacturing practices. What about that?"

I kid you not his answer was, "It wasn't raining the day we inspected." That story was included in this post as well. I shake my head on that to this day. I shared that information in this post.

Neal: I remember it.

Susan: AAFCO were very unhappy with me and they kicked me out.

Neal: Really? Is it BC who took over from you?

Susan: Yes. BC took over my position. Now we're all kicked out. All consumers are not allowed to attend AAFCO.

Neal: Even if I paid my $500 right now, they wouldn't let me in the room?

Susan: They wouldn't let you in the room.

Neal: That's insane.

Susan: They won't let you. There's a online of this book. It's an online version. When you subscribe to the online version, there's a forum where regulatory authorities and manufacturers talk back and forth to each other, ask questions, answer questions. They won't even let you subscribe to that either. You can only buy the paper book. They're keeping, "Get out. We don't want you, but we'll still take your money to buy the book."

Neal: See when they want to do things behind closed doors, at arm's length, with no oversight, you know they're doing dirty business.

Susan: Absolutely, they're doing dirty business. Absolutely. To kick us out for no reason, and they're using the excuse of Answers Pet Food suing FDA Colorado Department of Agriculture-- [crosstalk]

Neal: [crosstalk]-- follow the law.

Susan: They're suing the tag team.

Neal: Good for them.

Susan: I have nothing to do with that lawsuit. I have nothing to do with it. The pet owners that were kicked out, has nothing to do with that lawsuit. It was a cheap excuse to me. It was an absolutely cheap excuse. "We don't want them here. Let's get rid of them." "Okay."

Neal: Sweeping grand gesture. Is there any way to stop that? I saw on your site, you're asking people to contact their local representatives, asking them to stop the FDA, and AAFCO from doing this. Do you think that's enough?

Susan: We're trying. I have an attorney that's helping me. We're trying. It ain't over 'til it's over, and it ain't over yet. We continue to try and we will continue to try. If we have to arrange a protest at the January meeting. I hope we can get a bunch of pet owners to show up and get the media there. We'll do whatever it takes. This is wrong. It's absolutely wrong.

We shouldn't have to pay to go to meetings. The meeting should be held at FDA headquarters, everybody free to attend. FDA has facilities where this could happen. AAFCO could still have their organization, but they should not control and own the meetings, the content provided in the meetings, and the work product that government employees put together.

Neal: This is one thing I actually don't get quite completely. How does PFI fit into all this? PFI for the people who are listening who don't know, is the pet food industry association. It's their lobby group from Mars and Nestle and Smuckers and all those guys. They all buy into this-- it's been around since the '60s I believe, and that is the group that ultimately carries a lot of the weight here that's hiding in the background. Am I right?

Susan: Yes. Pet Food Institute and AFIA, Animal Feed Industry Association. AFIA is actually the powerhouse of the trade associations. PFI works closely with AFIA. National Renderers Association is there as well, too. There's National Grain and Feed Association. There's quite a few. They're stakeholder organizations, similar to our consumer association, and they hold advisory position.

What's interesting what they do, so Mars is a member of PFI, and AAFCO provides PFI with advisory positions to committees. Well, instead of actual employees of the PFI being the advisor, the PFI gives that advisory role to Mars to Bernstein.

Neal: To their members?

Susan: Yes, to where then these individual manufacturers are having influence over future laws. To me, that's wrong, but it's been that way since I've been in the door. It used to be, AAFCO relied a lot more publicly. There's a representative from AFIA, Leah Wilkinson. I really like her as a person. I don't like her organization, but I like her as a person and she's excellent at what she does. She's excellent.

When I first started going to AAFCO meetings, she would finish the sentences of regulatory authorities. They'd go, "Leah what was that?", and she'd do it. It was appalling to me. You can't help, but respect the woman because she is so good and so smart about her industry, but at the same time, I was horrified that a trade association was given so much authority at AAFCO. They've never given consumers that much authority.

Neal: There's one thing about pet food I've never understood, and I still can't fully wrap my head around it today, is that with veterinarians and kibble companies. What's the deal? How is that continuing and how is it that they're the only medical profession left recommending convenience food over fresh food?

Susan: I don't understand. It's heartbreaking to me that veterinarians are not as appalled just the same way pet owners are when you learn that more than a billion a year, cows that died in a field, laid there for three days, its decomposing carcass is ground up, cooked, and put in pet food, in multiple different products. Why veterinarians are not going, "Whoa that's dangerous, you got to stop that." I don't understand.

I've written the Academy of Veterinary Nutritionists and ask them that, why are you not on your rooftop screaming this is wrong, this is not nutrition. They gave me a no-answer answer. It makes no sense to me. I don't understand, but we are getting more and more veterinarians that are going, "I get it. This is wrong. You don't want to feed your pet." You don't want to go out and buy recycled garbage which is what a lot of these pet foods are.

Neal: They really are.

Susan: Yes, they are. Pet food is a waste disposal system. That's what it is.

Neal: Due to that fact, that simple fact, and it's a fact and there's no arguing that. I don't know that anybody would argue that. Dogs die of cancer more than every other mammal on the planet. Even animals like the naked mole rat who are prone to cancer die less often than dogs.

Susan: Kidney disease, DCM, the list goes on and on. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib had a video, their inside scoop stuff about genetics recently. They've talked about how some of these dogs don't even have the genes to properly process protein or the so forth. To me, what this feed is doing to animals is doing even more damage to their DNA.

Neal: It really is. We find more breeders now looking for multi-generation raw-fed animals.

Susan: Absolutely.

Neal: In the shows, they are doing much better than multi-generation kibble-fed animals because the generations are so short, we see that in a decade, the difference between those breeding lines. Dr. Meg Smart, I don't know if you're familiar with her, Marion Smart out of the University of Saskatchewan, recently retired. She has a lovely write-up about saying how the veterinary profession will pay a price for them getting into bed in the way that they have with the industry.

Susan: It's very, very disappointing that they don't stand arm and arm with their clients, and stand up for the animals they took an oath to protect. It's very disappointing, but we are getting more and more vets standing with us.

Neal: At the same time that we're getting more and more vets understanding that fresh foods have benefit over industrial or convenience foods, at the same time, here in my area, in British Columbia, we're having a lot of our private clinics purchased by the VCA. VCA being the Veterinary Clinics of America, and that's owned by the pet food company that they sell.

Susan: Yes, Mars.

Neal: Now suddenly the professional I require medical information from is now an employee of the pet food company that is being sold in the clinic. I don't think a lot of people understand that and do you have that down there even more than we do?

Susan: Absolutely, yes. Great way to control any bad press isn't it. Sick dogs, it's a great way to control. I think Purina, that's VCA, Blue Pearl, those are all Mars. I think Purina, if I'm remembering correctly, just purchased some veterinary clinics in Europe. We'll probably see that next in the US. That's heartbreaking as well, too.

Neal: The weird thing for me is how do the professional organizations allow that? Because you can't censor the vet when he's just an employee of a pet food company. You censor the vet, but then the management still brings in somebody else to do what they told them to do last time. They've removed the ability to actually manage the profession, doesn't it?

Susan: Well, their stakeholder organization, the AVMA, and Canada's CVMA, if you look at who sponsors their yearly events and sponsors their website, it's the same companies. It's another tag team wrestling. They work together. Intentionally, they set up the system like tag-team wrestling, so if somebody gets boxed in over here, they've got other people to tag to bring in and protect them, protect the whole group.

Neal: They're all going for that plausible deniability.

Susan: Absolutely.

Neal: Let's try to finish off these last ten minutes talking about hopeful things.

Susan: Is that possible? No, I have lots of hope, I'm kidding.

Neal: For the informed consumer who's trying to do better by the pets that they love, where do you send them, where do they need to look besides Truth About Pet Food, which is one of the best websites for information out there in pet food?

Susan: There's so many. Follow Rodney Habib, follow Dr. Karen Becker, Dr. Laurie Coger, Dr. Judy Morgan, Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging. There's a lot. You follow just a few and you're going to learn about a whole network of other ones. A great resource website for cat owners is catinfo.org, Dr. Lisa Pierson's website, and she's like the cat guru. Dr. Jean Hofve, Little Big Cat. There's a lot of good information out there, and you're going to learn of other ones by going to those and I know I left people out and I'm sorry.

Neal: I guarantee it, it's okay. We weren't looking for a comprehensive list.

Susan: I know I had to leave people out.

Neal: Tell me about your pet, Susan. You recently lost a bird, I'm sorry.

Susan: Yes, and I miss having a bird. I have two dogs, five cats, and a fish. You can probably see, it's a little betta fish I carry in back there, he's swimming around. We have a small zoo, so all rescued animals, which rescue animals it makes your soul feel so good, but sometimes with rescue animals you get issues and the two kittens we adopted, they're a little over a year now. The boy kitty, it was brother and sister, eats everything, literally everything. He's a pica cat, he eats paper, he eats towels, he eats bedding.

Neal: You can't stop it. It's an obsession.

Susan: Gosh, it's been very difficult, and knock on wood, we've got him and ourselves, everything gets put up now, it's made me be a better housekeeper. He's taught me to be a better housekeeper, but knock on wood, he's doing a lot better now. I did a consult with a cat behaviorist, and we tried to keep him on straight and narrow but ever since then his sister rats him out if he does find something. He likes to soak stuff, especially a piece of paper. Even the cash register receipt, he'll eat anything, but he likes to soak it in water.

While it's soaking in water, he's guarding the water bowl and his sister comes over and tries to see what he's got. Then he'll growl, and that's her helping to let us know he's got something he's not supposed to have.

Neal: That's hilarious, it's like a dog who eats socks. It's the worst thing ever.

Susan: It can be life-threatening, it really can be bad. He scared us. He's eaten tennis shoestrings, real long, and thankfully everything came out okay.

Neal: That would be so--

Susan: Oh my gosh, the list goes on. He is a bad, little boy, he's a cute little boy, but he's a bad little boy.

Neal: Little bugger.

Susan: He's getting much better. We taught him to walk on a leash from this, put a harness on him, and taught him to walk on a leash. I watched a lot of Jackson Galaxy.

Neal: He's awesome.

Susan: On him, and this cat, he will even sit on command. He's really cute, he goes out in the yard, you can walk him. He gets a little scared anywhere other than his normal place, but we're doing our part to help him, and he's stepped up and doing his part.

Neal: You're sure he's not a dog who just looks like a cat?

Susan: No. [laughs]

Neal: That Jackson Galaxy, we sell two of his bowls that are especially made for cats. A lot of people come in and say, "My cat is really picky." Then I ask them to describe what they mean by that, "He only ever eats half of what we fed him." I'm like, "Does he eat everything in the middle and leave a big ring of food around," and they're like, "Yes, totally." That's that whisker fatigue. He sells his bowls that are easy on the whisker so they can eat all their food.

Susan: He's great.

Neal: Some of these smart things that he's just thought, if all of his toys weren't the worst plastic in the world, I'd sell some of them too, but I'm not a big fan of plastic.

Susan: Me either, I understand.

Neal: I guess, how would you want to wrap up this? We've been talking to people for an hour on pet food and stuff. I want to encourage everybody to go to Truth About Pet Food and the association, give me the correct name or the correct URL?

Susan: Association for Truth in Pet Food.

Neal: The associationfortruthinpetfood.com, and there is a link on your website, truthaboutpetfood.com and I don't think you're a blogger, I think you're a journalist and that we need you, Susan.

Susan: Thank you, to wrap this up for your viewers, know that all of you can change the future. You can make a difference. I'm lucky enough to be out in front of the camera let's say, so to speak, and go to these meetings, and go to FDA, and be the voice for everybody, but I couldn't do it without everyone. We are all a team, and one single person can make a huge difference. What you learn, pay it forward, tell other pet owners, understand what you're talking about, dig into it and really get a good understanding of it, and then pay it forward.

That's all I'm doing is paying it forward. As I learn it, I share it. We're all changing the future, all of us together and we couldn't do it as individuals, we're all a big team and I just want everybody to know that. Everybody is important and of value in this effort. We've got a massive battle in front of us, but we're going to win, because there's more of us than them and we're more determined than them.

Our mission is for the health of animals. There's is money and our mission, the old- dating myself here- the old Camelot movie with Richard Harris as King Arthur has a saying in it that right is might. I love that saying and we're right, we're doing all of this for the right reasons, and everybody out there can make a difference.

Neal: Then one last point, just because I wanted to get on this earlier and I didn't. What are the implications for the FDA if they're screwing up pet food this badly? They regulate a lot more than just pet food.

Susan: Yes, it's scary. I can't say if, because I don't watch it enough and then not neck-deep in that, but the Center for Veterinary Medicine is a division of FDA that regulates pet food, feed, animal feed. They are a rogue agency, and the best I can say is there's going to be another lawsuit against them.

Neal: I expect there'll be more than one.

Susan: They won't listen, I don't think they could care less. Their major concern is waste disposal, not the health of pets, not law, so they won't listen until a judge says, "Yes, you will listen."

Neal: It's surprisingly common.

Susan: Yes, absolutely.

Neal: They won't listen until the judiciary says you have to listen.

Susan: Yes, and then a judge will force them to listen.

Neal: We see that a lot in Canada with things like working with our aboriginal communities where they have to sue the court in order for the contract to be honored.

Susan: Yes, well that's coming. When you sue the government you have to exhaust all other efforts.

Neal: Yes, it has to go to the Supreme Court, essentially.

Susan: We have reached that point.

Neal: Well, thank you, Susan. I don't want to occupy any more of your time. You've been most gracious and it's been a real pleasure. I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Susan: Well, thank you for having me, I enjoyed it.

Neal: I appreciate it, thank you very much.

Susan: All right.

Neal: I'll just going to stop it. Yes, I want to stop recording.