June 2000: In The Can – pet food tests exposé

June 2000: In The Can – pet food tests exposé – The BUAV has uncovered alarming evidence of animal testing in the international pet food industry.

Well-known companies that promote themselves as caring for the health and well-being of our pets have in fact carried out, collaborated on or funded experiments on animals.

A large proportion of the research has taken place in the USA, but some has also been conducted in other countries including the UK.

The animals involved, mainly cats and dogs can spend almost their entire lives as experimental tools, enduring years of procedures that have the potential to cause anything from discomfort and distress to severe pain and suffering.

Our investigation makes disturbing reading and will shock loving pet owners everywhere.

Beagle at Waltham

The global pet food market is highly competitive and lucrative.

In the UK alone it is worth £1.5billion, and worldwide it is estimated to be a massive $25billion.

The evidence we have uncovered involves major companies (or researchers employed by them) such as Alpo Pet foods (Nestlé), Pedigree Pet Foods (Mars), Hill’s Pet Nutrition (Colgate-Palmolive), Ralston Purina and Iams (Proctor & Gamble).

Examples of pet food experiments from outside the UK:

15 cats, fed until obese, were then starved by only being given completely unpalatable food (called ‘voluntary starvation’ by researchers).

They lost 26-40% of their body weight and developed severe muscle wasting, dehydration, lethargy, major blood abnormalities and swollen and damaged livers.

When finally given normal food, 11 were unable to eat and had to be tube-fed. (Part funded by Alpo Pet Foods, USA).

To discover the sodium requirement of kittens, 18 kittens aged between 11-15 weeks were isolated in small steel cages for up to 26 days.

Sodium deficiency resulted in loss of appetite, stunted growth, excessive thirst and urination. (Part funded by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, USA).

10 dogs had a tube surgically inserted through the abdominal wall into the stomach.

They were then fed a formula directly by the tube, either intermittently or in small continuous amounts, for 10 days.

After an 11 day ‘rest’ the dogs were tested again with the feeding regime. (Funded by Ralston Purina, New Zealand).

9 dogs had their stomachs opened up and a tube sewn in connecting the small intestine with the outside of the body.

The tubes were in place for on average 26 weeks during which a number of complications occurred, including post-operative wound infections, leaking of caustic gut effluent causing ulceration, inflammation and abscesses.(Funded by Alpo Pet Foods, USA).

42 puppies fed a zinc-depleted diet for 2 weeks suffered deficiency symptoms such as crusted plaques on their face and feet, lethargy and anorexia.

In a further test, 5 out of one group of 6 puppies kept on a zinc-free diet had to be removed from the test as their symptoms were so severe.

At the end of the test, dew claws, one canine tooth and testes were removed from all puppies for zinc analysis. (carried out at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, USA).

Labradors at Waltham

In the UK, Pedigree Pet Foods carries out experiments on cats and dogs at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition.

In 1997 Waltham claimed to have carried out studies on over 25 breeds, ranging from Yorkshire terriers to Irish Wolfhounds.

Shockingly, some of the dogs were purchased from registered Kennel Club breeders.

Waltham experiments are considered to be ‘low-invasive’ compared to other pet food research conducted primarily in the USA.

However, the cats and dogs still endure years of unnecessary procedures with the potential to cause real suffering or distress.


  • isolation of dogs for long periods – dogs are highly sociable animals
  • endoscopy (tissue samples taken from the colon via the anus)
  • frequent changes in diet during trials – dietary changes can cause digestive distress
  • giving warm water enemas and inserting flexible tubes into the colon
  • regular anaesthetics – in 1998 one dog was anaesthetised 5 times in 13 weeks
  • application of a skin irritant
  • plucking 50 hairs from the base of the tail

In one test, water levels in the colon were measured. 6 ‘sensitive (known to be sensitive to diet) and 6 ‘robust’ dogs were used.

All the dogs were given a food that is known to cause diarrhoea in the sensitive dogs.

While sedated, the dogs were then given an enema and dialysis bags made of flexible tubing were manually inserted through the rectum.

Prior to granting a licence to experiment, UK legislation dictates that the Home Office shall weigh the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned against the likely benefit of the experiment.

The BUAV believes that the granting of licences for pet food companies cannot be justified under this cost/benefit assessment.

Some individual researchers who had sabbaticals at or collaborated with Waltham, have performed much more severe experiments, often funded by pet food companies.

One researcher at the University of Bristol was supported by Waltham in an experiment where cats were isolated in a plastic chamber 30x45x30cm for 6 hours or longer.

Each cat underwent this procedure four times, once whilst fully conscious.

Beagle at Waltham

It is ethically unacceptable for animals to suffer in tests carried out or funded by commercial pet food companies.

Just like the happy looking cats and dogs portrayed in pet food advertising, animals should be treated with respect, free from any unnecessary suffering.

Pet owners will be shocked to discover that, behind closed doors, these same companies are prepared to inflict suffering in order to sell their products to unsuspecting and caring owners.

Please support the BUAV’s campaign to end animal testing by the pet food industry.

Latest Update

Since the launch, the BUAV has been working hard to open a dialogue with all the major pet food producers and testers implicated by our campaign.

We’ve also contacted all the major supermarkets and smaller manufacturers, to inform them of the “It’s in the can” campaign and to push for an ethical policy if one is not already in place.

So far, the following companies have sent us assurances that their pet food is “not tested on animals”.

The following products cannot be formally “approved” by the BUAV or listed as “cruelty free”, not least because the majority contain meat and animal by-products.

The “not tested on animals” status of the companies listed, is the result of extensive dialogue with the BUAV and the provision of company testing policies.

Burns Pet Nutrition
Tel: 01554 890482

“I can confirm that Burn’s Pet Nutrition does not carry out any animal tests and that includes palatability trials.

Any evaluation of palatability is purely subjective i.e.

I give a sample of food to friends and ask them to let me know if their dog/cat eats it.” John Burns, Chief Executive, Burns Pet Nutrition.

Dodson and Horrell Ltd – Chudleys
Tel: 01933 624221

“Dodson and Horrell carry out regular palatability trials on both our Chudleys products and our equine products.

Such trials are by way of providing samples of products to staff who have dogs/horses and asking for feedback on how their dog/horse responded to the product.

This is the only type of testing we undertake.”

HappiDog Pet Food (Vegetarian Society Approved)
Tel: 01325 311 444

“Happidog does not undertake testing of any sort on any product.

We believe that producing natural foods to a constant reliable recipe negates any need for [this] type of testing…”

Marks and Spencer – own brand
Tel: 020 7935 4422

“Marks and Spencer sells a range of pet food products which have been developed without the use of any invasive animal testing techniques.

Marks and Spencer will not develop any product using either invasive testing techniques or utilising any captive animals used purely for testing purposes.

Instead we will continue to utilise techniques used in the development of our existing products, namely palatability testing using domestic animals and carried out in the animal’s home environment under the supervision of the animal’s owner.”

NatureDiet Pet Foods Ltd
Order line: 01428 685 050

“As a company we support your stand against the tests being carried out on animals in a laboratory environment.”

NatureDiet Pet Foods conduct ‘palatability’ trials on the final product by placing a bowl of food in front of the dogs.

Assessment is made of how interested the dogs are in the food, how much they eat and whether they eat straight away.

All the dogs used are family pets belonging to some of the company’s customers, and all trials are conducted in the dogs’ own homes. No invasive tests take place at all.

Oscar Pet Foods
Tel: Freephone 0500 855267

“As Oscar Pet Foods sell only to the general public, all tests on our products are carried out by giving free samples to our network of franchisees, along with a questionnaire to check palatability.”

Premium Pet Foods LTD – Nutro
Tel: 01494 775222

“Nutro does not participate in any form of animal testing or animal cruelty nor do any of our ingredients suppliers…

Furthermore, Nutro will not sell its products to organisations that participate in such activities. Nutro supports the goals of the BUAV and does not support any form of animal abuse.

It is our intention to improve the health of animals.”

SUMA Wholefoods
Tel: 01422 345 513

No animal testing conducted or commissioned in the development or manufacture of pet food.

Tel: 01255 830004

“We have used a food technologist and nutritionist who advised on contents and the requirements of dogs and cats. NO experiments or tests were undertaken.

The advice received was purely theoretical.”…