Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seven glorious moments with Pluto

Bored? Why not waste a happy 7 minutes watching this 1932 Disney cartoon of Mickey Mouse washing Pluto?

Daily Mail slams pet food manufacturers

Hurrah! The national press are turning the heat up on pet food manufacturers. In last week’s Daily Mail there was a long, well-researched and highly critical feature article attacking the industry. After giving a couple of examples the author, Alison Smith Squire, got down to business. ‘Few people,’ she pointed out, ‘are aware of the little-publicised concerns about processed pet foods - and that includes wet (i.e. tinned and packet) foods as well.’ She went on to emphasise that part of the problem is that ‘much of the veterinary industry is inextricably linked to the pet-food manufacturers.’

I always feel that it is poor form to lump the whole veterinary profession in together just because a number of diehard reactionaries refuse to acknowledge that they have made a mistake. Nevertheless, there is some truth in what Ms. Smith Squire went on to say:

‘Research into pet food is carried out by the pet-food companies but, more surprisingly, the training of vets at some universities is also funded by pet-food manufacturers. Crucially, lectures on nutrition at a number of vet schools, and for veterinary nurses at individual practices, are also often paid for - and even taught - by these huge corporations, giving them the ideal platform to promote their products. One could argue that given this information, it's hardly in vets' interests to promote a more natural diet for pets.’

Nor did the fact that many vets earn a substantial income from pet food escape the newspaper’s notice:

‘The pet-food manufacturers appear to be promoting their brands with the help of veterinary practices, sponsoring food displays in surgeries which help to generate business for vets (via commission and the fact that some specialist food can only be bought at veterinary surgeries). Hills Science Plan, a pet-food brand owned by Colgate-Palmolive, boasts that: 'More vets feed Hills than any other pet food.' Last year, Hills sponsored the British Veterinary Association's 2009 Congress (the biggest meeting on the veterinary calendar). It also signed a partnership with the British Veterinary Dental Association to sponsor tooth care in animals. Royal Canin Foods (owned by Mars/Masterfoods) boasts on its website of 'its partnerships with leading veterinary schools and universities'. It runs Pet Health Counsellor Courses, training veterinary nurses in diet, and says stocking its food in veterinary practices can 'increase practice turnover'.The message from the company is clear: sell our pet food, and your business will profit.’

Thank you and well done, Alison Squire Smith! Meanwhile, if you are interested the whole article is available online just click here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A shameless plug for Speedy Connections

I wouldn’t have made it to last week’s talk in Port Lympne if it hadn’t been for Darren Bentley of Speedy Connections who collected me at short notice from Gatwick and whisked me down to Kent in a very smart people mover thing. He is now expanding into other travel related areas and as he is not only a really nice chap, but a dog lover to boot, his business is to be strongly recommended.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our first public talk on raw feeding

Thank you, thank you Pippa Ducat of Best Behaviour School for Dogs. Last week she invited Vicky and me to speak about raw feeding at a special evening event at Port Lympne zoo in Kent. Over a hundred people turned up, which is amazing as the weather was foul and the zoo is miles from anywhere. Guests were greeted with a drink and when everyone had settled Pippa gave a fascinating presentation on canine behaviour. I’ve been involved with obedience training since I was, literally, a toddler (I was raised by someone who ran training classes and used to take me along in my pushchair) but Pippa gave me lots of new insights into canine psychology. She was a tough act to follow but I did my best to make canine biology interesting (which it is, once one gets into it) and to explain why dogs are biologically designed to eat raw food. Vicky finished with a few words about diet. A really great bunch of people – the whole thing turned into a party after we had finished – and we came away having made lots of new friends. Thank you, again, Pippa.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More dogs in art

If you live in London or the South East and you are looking for a photographer to produce a portrait of your dog then I rather like the work being done by Sammie Luck. Visit the Dogaholics website ( for further details. Incidentally, Sammie also runs a range of other dog-related services including home boarding and walking. She is based in Kent.

Another Kent-based animal artist I really like is Maika Spooner. She is young (barely at university is my guess) but talented and last week I saw a brilliant oil painting she had done of her own dog that was absolutely packed with expression and personality. You can reach her on

Two mentions of Kent in a single blog entry. Why? I’ll explain tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dogs in Art

Just back from a fantastic trip to Naples with my son, Bert, who is now backpacking around Europe. Highlight of the week was a visit to Pompeii where, outside the House of the Tragic Poet we spotted the world's most famous 'Beware of the Dog' sign (below) which is, incidentally, incorporated into this very clever Dogs in Art video (above) by Veronica Betty...whoever she is.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The dog with a 340 word vocabulary...

Was I surprised to discover that there is a dog capable of recognising a stunning 340 words? Yes and no. On one hand everyone with some experience of dogs knows that they are considerably more intelligent than they are given credit for. Darling, our English pointer, for instance, can definitely count. If I show her how many treats I am putting in my pocket and reward her with one at a time she always knows when she has had them all. On the other hand, a 340 word vocabulary is pretty impressive especially compared to certain teenage children of my intimate acquaintance. Anyway, here is the footage of this amazing dog:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

'Health, whether of soil, plant, animal or man, is one and indivisible...'

Here is a Christmas snap of my two favourite pigs - Patti and Selma - in their new home. It is, sadly, over two hours drive away so I haven't been to see them since they left us. They were my pride and joy but a couple of years ago Marianne developed an anti-pig attitude probably because I was keeping them in our best field – sheltered from the wind, overhung with shady trees and full of lush grass – and she wanted it for her equine pals. Plus she had started composting to international competition standards and begrudged the pigs our kitchen scraps.

Speaking of compost due to the prevailing weather conditions last summer my normal pastime – sailing – was replaced with a new passion: soiling. I was in love with soil as a child, of course. I played with it, rolled around in it and – if photographic evidence is to be believed – ate it. When I became interested in gardening I understood, in an abstract way, that it was important to care for the stuff. It wasn't until much more recently, however, that I came to realise the essential wisdom of Lady Balfour’s remark: ‘that health, whether of soil, plant, animal or man, is one and indivisible.’

Which is why it is so important to source food - whether for ourselves or our animals - from farmers who look after their land. Lots of big food businesses - including many of the supermarkets - pretend that they are buying from small, ethical farmers but by and large it is simply a marketing ploy.