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BBC Radio 4. Saturday 19th March 2005
British Radio - Transcript.

“His Master’s Choice” BBC Radio 4. Saturday 19th March 2005


Clive Anderson........Ah, this is the life. Chauffeur driven Bentley, country house weekend, gourmet cuisine. “Hello Sir, welcome to Cliveden. Do follow me”.

A dog’s life, in fact, if you’re a dog lucky enough to have a master or mistress who’ll book you in to Cliveden, on the leafy banks of the Thames. Once home to the rich and famous, the location for indiscreet romps involving cabinet ministers and good time girls, now it opens its doors to the well-heeled dog.

"Bones, of course, are also available - but of course, only the best".
House Manager Michael Challoner, gives a dog as warm a welcome as any human guest, and it’s not as though a dog is going to hand out any tips. Where once the grounds of this great house might have echoed to the sounds of hounds, working terriers and retrievers, now lapdogs and pooches are allowed to make themselves at home indoors.

Michael Challoner “In the room for the guests there’d be bowls and food ready for the dogs. The dog’s preferred food would have been found out - it could have been it’s favourite brand of dog food or indeed something created by chef that the dog would like.”

Clive Anderson........Something created by chef - and the chef here is Michelin starred - well, this is the top end of the market and obviously not everyday fare for the everyday dog.

But what do we feed our dogs on and why?

Could it be the food we give our dogs is better than the food we give ourselves.

Best place to find out was not really Berkshire, but Highbury Fields, North London, which has some claim to be the birth place of dog food.

These dogs may not eat in five star hotels, but that does not mean that their nutritional requirements are any less important to their faithful owners.

Clive Anderson to dog owner: “What do you feed him on?”

Dog Owner “I feed him on James Wellbeloved its got no additives -

Clive Anderson “Is that why you went for it?”

Dog Owner “All whole ingredients, not having additives, being a healthy option.”

Same question to second dog owner: “He gets nature diet - he’s supposed to get all the vitamins he needs.”

Clive Anderson “Do you think its important, organic?”

Second Dog Owner “Oh he's not going to fuss that much but in the end of the day it’s better for him and I want him to stay healthy. If left to himself, he’d just eat meat constantly”.

Clive Anderson “And dustbins.”

Second Dog Owner “Exactly, exactly.”

Natural food, healthy options, additive free organic ingredients - it’s what we want for our dogs - it’s what we want for ourselves. Even if our dogs are happy to wolf down any amount of junk food they happen to come across, however bad it is for them, which is pretty much like us as well, come to think of it.

Clive Anderson “This is the centre of the dog food world. There was James Spratt in Holloway Road, and their best known employee was Charles Cruft, who lived just over there.”

Nick Mays - Chief Reporter on Our Dogs Magazine “James Spratt was an electrician, from Cincinnati, travelling to London to sell lighting conductors. Coming off his ship at the quayside and he was watching a group of dogs eating some discarded ships biscuits and - germ of an idea grew in his head, wouldn’t it be good if we could produce biscuits just for dogs? One of James Spratts most famous employees - if not his most famous was, of course, the famous Charles Cruft. He used to go around the country houses, the big estates that had hunting packs and provide them with a service of the very best food that could be given to their dogs, Prior to that point, they would essentially not have given an awful lot of thought to the nutritional requirements of the dogs themselves. One thing about Charlie Cruft, it was said that he could sell anything to anyone. He was one of the great PR showman of his era.”

Clive Anderson....... Cruft knew he was on to something. By encouraging the breeding of pedigree dogs, he could shift more dog cakes - and boy, was he right! The first Crufts dog show, in 1891, was to him little more than a canny marketing wheeze . Some claim that Cruft himself was not such a big lover of dogs himself at all - seeing them less as nice little pets, as nice little earners. Spratts were promoting their dog cakes and puppy biscuits by warning the dog owners of the perils of handing out scraps and titbits, that had not been specially prepared for the dogs needs. Titbits were “happy for a moment, unhappy for hours.”

By the 1960s, dog foods, which usually came in a tin, were making all sorts of promises. Scientifically worked out by men and women in white coats, to provide your dogs with just the right amount of every nutrient. More recently the fashionable dog has been fed on a complete diet of dried pellets or kibble. And with special diets for puppies, small breeds, large breeds, senior dogs, overweight dogs, working dogs and pregnant bitches, here was a way to keep the dog healthy, and make an even healthier profit for the dog food company.

I’ve come to the countryside around Canterbury in Kent, to the premises of My Pet Foods, who manufacture food for, not my pets exactly, but for anybody's pet and here is Richard Field, who runs the company.

“You get a smell of the dog food.” (Clive Anderson “you certainly do.”) “This is where the blends are put together - this is Lee, our supervisor here. So it’s all computerised. This is the product that we’re currently making, which is a chicken and rice working dog food and if we go on to the next screen we can see the raw materials that would be in this. You’ve got wheat, rice, wheat feed, which is a by-product from the milling. Soya, poultry meat, yeast and then the salt, vitamins and the poultry fat that goes on. So that gives you an example of the type of raw materials that we would use in the diet.”

Clive Anderson “OK. So you’re going to get all that combination of things and that produces a healthy working dog.”

Richard Field “That's right.”

Clive Anderson “What an elaborate procedure to monkey around with the stuff to make it into something for dogs.”

Richard Field “Well it is, but this - to create a product that is uniform and that feeds exactly the same amount of nutrients, you have to do that. This is where its just come out, so it’s very soft and spongy.”

Clive Anderson “Warm kibble.”

Richard Field “Warm kibble, that’s right. This is the extruder, and what happens here is the meal that has been blended and browned is mixed.... ..”

Clive Anderson.......It looks a bit dull. To the dog denied meat and bones, and the contents of your neighbours dustbin, it must feel like living in a health food store, run by the National Health Service. A model perhaps, for a future government to solve the epidemic of human obesity, and the problems of a junk food diet.

Clive Andersdon to Richard Field “You’ve got a little thing up there that says rabbit- that’s rabbit food for rabbits or rabbit being put into the dog food for the dogs?”

Richard Field “No, no, no. We also, on this line, we also make some rabbit products - some pellets.”

Clive Anderson “It could go either way with a rabbit, couldn’t it!”

Clive Anderson “Yours are always done in little rings, that’s your shape is it?”

Richard Field “No we do, we have a number of sizes - we do rings, we do small kibbles, large kibbles, it’s really what the customer wants, to differentiate a product, to show that it’s different.”

Clive Anderson “So if I want small kibbles that’s......”

Richard Field “If you’re prepared to order two tons you can have small kibbles.”

Clive Anderson “I’m not getting at you but do you think you’re basically trading on the silly sentimental mentality that pet owners have for their animals - they’re going and buying special stuff for them to eat.”

Richard Field “No I think that at the end of the day we all want to do the best for our pets, and I think people want to feel safe around what they feed to their pets. And I think at the end of the day, that’s what we try to do . We try to produce products that are nutritious and do the job that the owners of the pets want it to do. Hence, pets do live longer, and have a more active life these days.”

Clive Anderson....... But before Richard Field and his predecessors Cruft and Spratt came along, with their promises of an active, longer life, dogs had to make do with scraps from their masters table and what they could scavenge for themselves.

In many countries around the world, this remains the case. Ask for dog food in Korea for example, and you might get a local delicacy, rather than a titbit for your dog.

These dogs in Covern Park in Bangalor in India can only dream of a scientifically balanced diet, with essential vitamins and minerals. Retired judge, Michael Saldanna, once dispensed justice. Now he dispenses his own recipe of dog food.

Michael Saldanna “This is a mixture of rice, which is made up in a soup of meat and bones.”

Clive Anderson.............He comes here every day to feed some of the cities 57,000 strays. But just as there is a MacDonalds on the corner of every high street in every continent, globalisation is hitting the world of dogs, and dog food. As the city cracks down on the strays, with the help of local animal welfare organisations, dogs are increasingly regarded not as nuisances, but as pets - and money spinners.

“The market really took off in the year 2001 and is growing at almost 15% a year”. Mr Gicarron is a latterday Charles Cruft and funnily enough, he also started out selling dog biscuits.

Mr Gicarron “The cheaper foods are Pedigree and Nutropet, so naturally that’s a mass product - it sells more, but there is a demand for premium food also. Nowadays, before we had families and now we are going into nuclear families where the husband and wife both work. Most of them don’t cook for themselves, so they’re not cooking for their dog, so they’re going for processed food. The pet becomes a member of the family, probably the most preferred member of the family, and some people say that the children complain that their parents are buying better things for their dog, more than what they used to buy for themselves.”

Clive Anderson.............Across Asia and the far east, pet food companies are cashing in on rising prosperity and changing attitudes to dogs. They’ve learnt a thing or two from Charlie Cruft, sponsoring dog shows and, just like in the West, they’re forging close associations with vets. It all seems to be working very well.

“We give them Pedigree for lunch. It all comes down to convenience of time. It’s a huge time saver - it’s a brand name.” Brenda Lewis and Sema Wasammi, two converts to the canine cause. “The advertisements are hugely influential, in a sense - there was a very recent TV advertisement using a particular breed of dog. Due to that advertisement that dog has become so expensive that the cost of it has gone up by nearly five to six times. Processed food is very important and I think everybody should have it at least for one meal in the day for the animal, considering a lot of us, especially Indians - I talk for Indians, I don’t know about the rest of Asia - considering the fact that they don’t really know how to take care of them, they are obviously not aware of what is important in their diet, so I think that kind of supplements what otherwise they don’t get in their diet. Processed food is good - no doubt.”

Mr Micarron “The future is bright for the pet market, it will grow, like the foreign countries - that is the future for the pet market in India. The future is bright.”

Clive Anderson............It might be a sunrise industry in the East, but back in Britain not everybody still buys into the ‘complete foods’, formulated in laboratories and made in factories.

“All right, now look, I can see from the window that you’ve got four Great Danes”. Mandy Thompson has won prizes at Crufts and the dogs she breeds do take a lot of feeding. She supplements the diet of her Great Danes with dog biscuits but for their main course, she gives them something a bit more flavoursome. “They get the tripe.”

Clive Anderson “Oh that looks disgusting. I would say that looks like a stale haggis that’s had it’s innards removed.”

Mandy Thompson “It’s the cows stomach.”

Clive Anderson “Now why on earth, why in the name of glory do you want to give them tripe, of all the things you can give a dog?”

Mandy Thompson “It’s the most natural meat to give them.”

Clive Anderson “What were Great Danes bred for - were they guard dogs or hunting?”

Mandy Thompson “Boar hounds”.

Clive Anderson “So they really ought to get Danish bacon - that should be their food, if they’re boar hounds and they’re from Denmark.” (ha, ha) “You would have to be mad to want to eat this, but if you’re a Great Dane this is like eating at The Ivy.”

Clive Anderson.......Now not everyone shares Mandy’s penchant for tripe, but she’s not alone in her gut feeling about processed food. Andrew Prentiss is a veterinary surgeon with a practice just a sticks throw from London’s Hyde Park, and when I called in at his surgery, he had his hand in a dogs mouth, performing a spot of canine dental work.

Andrew Prentiss “So you can easily get in under the lip there, and brush the outer surface of the teeth.”

Clive Anderson “So this is ‘Haggis’, a Whippet, having her teeth cleaned. What would you say generally about the condition of the dog of today in the 21st century. Are they being treated well?”

Andrew Prentiss “A big issue is dental hygiene. There are many, many dogs and cats out there who’ve got filthy disgusting teeth with very, very bad breath.

Clive Anderson “I can see Haggis is quite used to this - what flavour toothpaste have you got?”

Andrew Prentiss “This is chicken flavour.”

Clive Anderson “They don’t go for mint?”

Andrew Prentiss “No, it’s not recommended to use human toothpaste on dogs, a) they don’t really like the taste and b) the fluoride levels are completely different and human ones are designed to froth up, which dogs find rather hard to cope with.”

Clive Anderson “Well of course they do because then people decide they’ve got rabies.”

Andrew Prentiss “Yes, (ha, ha,) exactly.”

Clive Anderson “Now why do they get bad teeth?”

Andrew Prentiss “Primarily because their teeth are not getting cleaned by the food that they eat. A dog out in the wild, or a wild animal is going to spend quite a lot of it’s time tearing up carcasses, chewing through meat, crunching up bones, and that has a natural cleaning effect on the teeth, and very many of our patients are not fed like that, and are fed on dry, sticky crunchy biscuits from a packet, or squidgy pate-type food from a tin, which, in many cases does not have an adequate cleaning action on the teeth”,

Clive Anderson “So you’re not entirely buying into that?”

Andrew Prentiss “Actually, I’m a fan of bones. I think dogs should be fed - dogs and cats - should have at least a proportion of their diet coming from raw meaty bones.

Clive Anderson “Yeah - and this thing about what to feed dogs, is this quite a lively matter of discussion”.

Andrew Prentiss “It does provoke some fairly spirited debate - there is an Australian vet, a guy called Tom Lonsdale, who is one of the loudest voices within the profession, for the raw meaty bones diet”

Clive Anderson.........And Tom Lonsdale’s enthusiasm for raw meaty bones and his criticism of processed pet food has kicked up quite a storm in the pet food world. He has, you might say, put the cat amongst the pigeons. Dog food - bad for dogs! James Spratt and Charlie Cruft will be spinning in their graves. But what does he give his own dogs?

Tom Lonsdale “As often as I can I give them a whole carcass. If I find a rabbit run over on the road, or now and again maybe a kangaroo, down here in Australia, then I’ll feed them that. It’s that physical form of the food which cleans the working parts - the teeth and the gums - trouble is that we’ve divorced pet cats and dogs from their origins, and of course the cats and dogs, they don’t have a voice, so they carry on pretending they’re well - what else can they do”.

Clive Anderson “If I go in to my local pet shop, or maybe a shop attached to my veterinary surgery, I can see a whole range of dog foods that I can give my dog, some that have been scientifically worked out, others that have been devised by vets - all that stress of working out what to give your dog has been removed from me.”

Tom Lonsdale “OK well, sadly you’ve been exposed to the propaganda too, and you’ve tended to believe it - you’ve said ah, well there’s a stress involved in working out what to feed your dogs. Mr & Mrs Caveman had no difficulty, they just chucked out a whole carcass, or the remnants of a carcass to their camp followers. The endless trips to the vets, the mountains of dog pooh in the garden, that washes away into the waterways. These are not conveniences at all.”

Clive Anderson “Let me jump in on the dog pooh, as it were. You’re saying you get better dog pooh if the dogs are fed on meaty bones?”

Tom Lonsdale “Oh, much better dog pooh, yeah, yeah, it turns chalky white in the sun.”

Clive Anderson “I though that was just a joke that we no longer had white dog pooh - you’re saying this is because of the food that they’re given, there’s more dog pooh?”

Tom Lonsdale “About three times the quantity.”

Clive Anderson “Why is that?”

Tom Lonsdale “They’re fed as if they were herbivores - they’re fed grains, and you know yourself that herbivore excrement is pretty copious, isn’t it? And it smells. It’s about time that they started to ‘fess up’ and admit that they’ve been misleading the community.”

Clive Anderson...........But what does the dog food establishment make of all this?

“It’s scaremongering to accuse us of making pets ill.” Michael Bellingham is head of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association and Penny Watson is a specialist at the Queens Veterinary School Hospital, Cambridge.

Penny Watson “The problem is that just feeding a raw meaty bone diet to animals as varied as a Yorkshire Terrier to a growing Great Dane to a racing Husky dog in the north of Alaska - it’s not going to provide the varied nutrient requirements for those different breeds, let alone the different stages of life and puppies and pregnancy and so on.”

Clive Anderson “Michael Bellingham, if we went back 150 years and reverted to treating our dogs the way people did before there were pet food manufacturers, would it make a scrap of difference?”

Michael Bellingham “Yes, I believe it would make a huge difference. We’ve seen, er, the health of pets has dramatically increased over the last few decades and that’s mostly down to prepared pet food. They spend a lot of time and effort in researching and creating good products.”

Clive Anderson “There’s a strand of opinion that says well, things like keeping the teeth good in the dog, if you give it a boney diet, that keeps it’s teeth better than if you give mushy food and even hard kibbley type food which doesn’t clean the teeth.”

Penny Watson “I guess there are two things: one is that there isn’t any science to back that up. It would be great if they could produce some scientific evidence that backs up their idea, whereas there is plenty of evidence that feeding properly balanced manufactured diets does improve gum and teeth condition, and I guess you can provide the same chewing action - you know you’re right, chewing on things helps - you could provide the same with rawhide chews and suchlike, without having to feed actual raw meaty bones as the main part of the diet.”

Tom Lonsdale “Well that’s what they say but of course it’s completely untrue - how absurd.”

Clive Anderson “Are you a hero in the veterinary profession - how has it gone down with your fellow professionals?”

Tom Lonsdale “Now that’s a bit of a mischievous question, if I may say Clive.”

Clive Anderson “Thank you.”

Tom Lonsdale “I haven’t gone down very well with my fellow professionals at all.”

Clive Anderson “Now why should that be? Why aren’t you being heralded as the John the Baptist of the veterinary world.”

Tom Lonsdale “Well look, I can’t know their motivations really, can I? I get about 10% of the vote for Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons elections - that’s the governing body of the veterinary profession in the UK. The majority though, I suspect, are voting through their pocket books.”

Clive Anderson “And when you say pocket books!”

Tom Lonsdale “The reality is that if we introduce a natural diet across the board, then the need for veterinary services will go into rapid decline.”

Clive Anderson “That’s quite a charge if you’re basically suggesting that vets are, I don’t know, conspiring with the dog manufacturers to allow the animals to get ill just so they get their regular, um, patients attending their clinics, and they can apply their charges.”

Tom Lonsdale “Whether it’s witting or not, that’s what’s happening.”

Penny Watson “Absolutely not, all of us as veterinary surgeons, our prime commitment is to the welfare of animals under our care - we actually take an oath to that respect when we start our jobs, and certainly part of that is to provide the best evidence based treatment and the best evidence based diets that we can.”

Tom Lonsdale “Eventually, governments will understand the extent their people have been dumbed down and exploited. In the UK there’s been an Early Day Motion tabled in the parliament there and at the last count 43 MPs had signed that motion.”

Clive Anderson “All right, well, we’ll put our faith in the Early Day Motion in parliament as that’s going to improve the early day motions of the dogs.”

Clive Anderson.......Now this is something I’ve noticed before. People who tell you how to feed your dog are always certain that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Tom Lonsdale seems certain that complete dog foods are completely wrong. The manufacturers, and the majority of vets, say that he’s wrong. Is there no room for compromise? Let’s go back to Andrew Prentice in Hyde Park.

Clive Anderson “Is this your little dog here - the Jack Russell?”

Andrew Prentiss “The brown and white one.”

Clive Anderson “Called Bruno?”

Andrew Prentiss “Called Bruno, yes.”

Clive Anderson “According to physician heal thyself, vet, keep your dog healthy, is Bruno fed on all natural products - where would you put yourself on the spectrum?”

Andrew Prentiss “A sort of moderate, veering towards the raw. Bruno’s fed a mixture of things, he has a wide variety, so he - I do feed him some commercial diets, there are different types, varying brands. He has raw bones, chicken wings, all that sort. I’m not at the same time, suggesting we should throw the baby out with the bath water and say, well, the last fifty years of commercial dog foods is actually barking completely up the wrong tree. Erm, ‘cos there is a good deal of value in that. We do understand a great deal more about the minutiae of pet nutrition now than we ever did. What I’m saying is that I think there’s room for a balance, and I think there is room for more variety and adding in these elements of raw meat, raw bones, raw vegetable can make a big difference.”

Clive Anderson “And raw vegetables - they can go for that as well!”

Andrew Prentiss “The issue on vegetables is that they have carnivore teeth, designed to be able to tear through meat, crunch through bone, so if you’re going to feed vegetable matter to dogs, the best way is simply chuck it in a liquidiser and reduce it.........”

Clive Anderson “That’s the carrot into a liquidiser, not the dog!”

Andrew Prentiss “Yes (ha ha) if you look at wild dogs attacking their prey, one of the first things they will do is tear open the abdomen and eat the stomach contents, and what they’re eating there is vegetable matter that has been reduced to a semi-liquid consistency.”

Clive Anderson “As I say, dogs will eat anything.”

Andrew Prentiss “Dogs will eat anything, there’s no accounting for taste.”

Clive Anderson........But whether we give our dogs dried kibbles, dressed tripe, kangaroo carcasses or raw meaty bones, we don’t want to spoil them. Now if you do want to treat your best canine friend to a slap-up meal at Cliveden, executive head chef Daniel Galmeesh is more than willing to oblige.

Daniel Galmeesh “She’s got a small err, West Highland White and he was eating fish, whether it was sea bass, whether it’s cod, lemon sole, he love fish, and taking up to the room, by the waiter on a tray, they are guests staying with the owners, or even the owners staying with the dog, you wonder some time.”

Andrew Prentiss “The old adage is you are what you eat.”

Clive Anderson “You are what you eat but you giving him raw carrot doesn’t make him into a carrot, obviously what a ludicrous thing to ..... (ha,ha,)............ END


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