So one day I was consulting at the PDSA with a very desperate young man with gaunt anxious eyes in the consult room with me. He had a 14 year old Akita that he adored but could barely feed himself and it was very obvious that she was his lifeline. Any mention of her age and the need to start pain relief as she was an old girl brought tears to his eyes. I also mentioned the need to keep up with her basic healthcare and that she needed wormers that he would have to pay for. Pain relief is supplied but wormers are not subsidised by the charity and cost £4.50 for his large dog. He could not afford this.
Then the very next day, I took myself completely out of my comfort zone and I caught a train to London for a 2 day Petcare Convention to meet with all the big players in mainly the petfood market but also to meet with the likes of the very humble and lovely John Howie – owner of Lintbells who make Yumove. He gave me so much valuable information about when he first started his business. I spoke to other large retailers from Europe and beyond as well as the CEO of Pets at Home and figures that were mentioned were in the billions of pounds or euros, not even in the millions, it blew my mind and frightened me – I felt so far removed from the safety of my consulting room that I had been in the day before.
I learnt SO much from so many people and feel I have to get it all down and share in my experience with you the pet owners as you are ultimately what the entire 2 days was about.
The overwhelming theme that stood out for me as a vegan vet at the convention was that the love we have for our pets comes at a huge price and big businesses are well aware of this. The more money a company has, the more they are able to advertise and convince you the consumer that what they have is the best for your pet. As you well know…….their motives are not always (some are), but overwhelmingly, I saw that the health of your pet came second to the profits of the company
They had a showcase of the 12 best new businesses who each had a five minute pitch. There were some impressive new businesses – Vegdog was amongst them (I finally got to meet the lovely Tessa and Valerie who founded Vegdog.de), as well as a wonderful new company called Tailwise that works to stop new pet owners purchasing from puppy farms; but the rest of the pitches were start-ups with mainly high meat new homemade diets. The overall winner was sadly one of these with impressive advertising endorsed by Yorkshire Vet – a new dog food diet with beef, chicken duck and turkey – not sustainable and certainly not kind!
The overall message that sells is that the big companies produce what the public demands. I spent a very frustrating 20 minutes with the CEO of Pets at Home trying to convince him that there was a huge gap in the market for sustainable plant-based food and he needed to supply this gap and stock it in his hundreds of stores throughout the UK. He even confessed to the Vegdog team and I that there has been a huge increase in the number of hits on their website since 2020 started for vegan diets, but we went round and round in circles and I stayed calm and listened and did not interrupt (even though my heart rate was racing!), but he was adamant that it was just a fad and that he had to look after the health of pets and not supply foods that could be detrimental to their health! This made no sense to Valerie, Tessa and myself having proved how huge the demand is in Germany and how healthy a plant-based dog food diet is and when he left, they were deeply disappointed that one of his comments had been ‘Maybe the desperate vegetarian ladies would buy their brand of Vegdog if he stocked it in Pets at Home’. This was my only negative of the day thankfully, as the rest of the convention was SO inspiring!
I received such a positive response from Tessa and Valerie – founders of Vegdog. They tasted the Umameos I had baked and brought to the convention and they were so impressed that it was their product (ALL-IN-VELUXE) that had helped create it. They are putting me in touch with their vet and nutritionist in Germany to get the Umami recipe 100% balanced. I couldn’t be more excited!! Finally the vision is a reality as I have struggled through the maze of plant-based diets on my own with our dear little Ruff as our own ‘guinea-pig’, and although he is so healthy with the shiniest coat and he loves the food, I have to be 100% sure that everything I am making and promoting is going to be 100% healthy for your pet!
A final inspiring talk that I attended was given by Klaus Wagner, owner and founder of Veggiedog. His company is all about sustainability and although he has had to stick with the EU ruling that pet food can only be registered if it contains Vit D3 from sheep wool (lanolin contains cholecalciferol), his diets are balanced and healthy (although not 100% vegan with the sheep wool addition). If only all companies could have the same vision as Veggiedog. They have a carbon neutral footprint as they offset any of their carbon footprint of their company (very low compared to other companies); by investing in tree plantations and supporting communities in Tanzania. He visits yearly to check on their progress. He also told us that Aldi too is carbon neutral – wonderful to hear and I will support Aldi with new eyes!
“If nobody changes then nothing changes but if somebody changes then everything changes!”
Vegan Vet 2020
She has written the article with such an in-depth understanding of the importance of dogs going plant-based – all just so positive for the future!
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