In June, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claming that pet food maker Iams’ has posted on its website a policy related to the use of research animals which PETA claims is false and misleading.
Iams policy reads,
The Iams Company Research Policy
Like humans, our canine and feline companions are faced with many threats to their health. Millions of cats and dogs around the world suffer from allergies, skin and gastrointestinal diseases, kidney failure and painful bone problems.
At The Iams Company, we work hard to advance scientific understanding of how nutrition can help pets resist and recover from such diseases, and how this understanding helps optimize their health so they can lead happier and longer lives. Research plays a key role in accomplishing these goals.
Our research is governed by the following principles.
1. The results must help veterinarians and pet owners worldwide nutritionally enhance the well-being of cats and dogs, and manage important pet health conditions.
2. Studies will only be conducted if alternative, non-animal methods or existing research cannot answer the questions raised.
3. We will ensure the humane treatment of cats and dogs, and provide for animal well-being, socialization and husbandry in a manner compatible with the company’s philosophy, creating a total culture of care. We will also meet or exceed standards established by the Animal Welfare Act of the US, the US Department of Agriculture and Directive 86/609/EEC of the European Union.
4. We will not fund or participate in any study requiring or resulting in the euthanasia of cats or dogs. We will only conduct research that is equivalent to nutritional or medical studies acceptable on people, including: urine, feces, blood and immune cell analysis, allergy tests, and skin and muscle biopsies, for which adequate anesthesia and analgesics will be provided whenever necessary.
5. Research will be closely monitored at internal and external facilities – with the goal being to eliminate even minor pain or discomfort and to create enriched environments for the cats and dogs involved. To enforce this principle, Iams will place, at these facilities, a company-designated and funded person responsible for ensuring the well being of cats and dogs. This trained, qualified person will follow guidelines used at the Paul F. Iams Technical Center to make certain that cats and dogs are properly cared for and socialized.
6. We will test our foods on groups of cats or dogs within the general population who already suffer from target diseases or conditions. However, we will not contract for, nor conduct, any study involving surgeries to create or mimic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, or intentional damage to other organs; nor will the company use non-surgical methods to induce or simulate diseases that are not acceptable in nutritional or medical research on humans; nor will the company fund any university positions that may be involved in such activities for the study of cat and dog nutrition.
7. We will not use, in any studies, animals that are already induced with disease or surgically altered through other research; nor will the company conduct such studies under the auspices of any industry association or group.
8. Our findings will be communicated to benefit others who are seeking to improve the health and well-being of cats and dogs, and to help prevent repetition of tests requiring animal involvement.
We are proud that we have led breakthroughs in the health of cats and dogs, and we are committed to continuing this tradition with the principles outlined here as our guide.
In a press release announcing its complaint, PETA claimed that Iams violated its own policy (thereyb misleading consumers) in several areas,
Recently, PETA investigated an Iams contract laboratory and documented horrendous conditions for the animals and cruel practices that it believes show that the company?s claims are deceptive. The claims PETA disputes include the following:
Iams: ?[Iams] will only conduct the veterinary equivalent of any tests on cats or dogs which are acceptable in nutritional or medical studies in people.?
Among PETA?s findings: Tubes were stuck down dogs? throats in order to force them to ingest vegetable oil.
Iams: ?Each animal is given the best possible veterinary care and treated with care and respect.?
Among PETA?s findings: Dogs were dumped together on cold concrete flooring after having huge chunks of muscle cut out of their thighs.
Iams: ?[Iams] will not fund or participate in any study requiring or resulting in the euthanasia of cats or dogs.?
Among PETA?s findings: Twenty-seven of the 60 dogs who had thigh muscle removed were deliberately killed.
Iams: ?We will ensure the humane treatment of cats and dogs ? creating a total culture of care.?
Among PETA?s findings: Cats and dogs had developed neurotic behaviors, including whirling ceaselessly in their cages, from confinement, isolation, and lack of exercise inside barren cages in windowless, dungeon-like buildings. PETA?s investigator witnessed Iams representatives? touring the facility, which was oppressively hot and humid at the time, and failing to take any action to improve the conditions.
Inquiries to the company about PETA’s charges are being met with this reply which outlines Iams responses to PETA’s complaints back in March about an independent contractor that Iams had been using for some animal research,
On March 25, we learned that nutritional studies being conducted for us at an independent facility in the U.S. may have violated our company’s strict
research policy. On March 26, we completed an unannounced visit of the facility to review
procedures and ensure the well-being of dogs and cats at the site.
On March 27, we concluded that the facility did not meet our strict standards regarding air temperature, ventilation, resting beds, and socialization (even though the facility recently passed U.S. government inspections). We made the
decision to end all research at the facility.
In addition, we worked with the facility to relocate Fifi, Maisy, Mickey, and the 16 other dogs to an Iams animal care center. We have an established program for socialization and employee adoption that will give these dogs the
opportunity for a successful transition to a family.
On April 10, we met with PETA to look over the facts and to share our plan for the review of our contract research facilities.
We have now completed comprehensive reviews of all external facilities involved in dog and cat nutritional studies for Iams. This was a major effort which included Iams researchers, P&G veterinarians, non-technical Iams employees who
served as the “eyes and ears” of our consumers, and where possible, independent animal welfare experts.
All of the facilities reviewed comply with government regulations, and the health of the dogs and cats is not at risk. However, we’ve decided to consolidate our nutritional studies at fewer contract facilities, and we will focus more on the implementation of our high standards for dog and cat care.
Also, we are establishing an Independent Animal Care Advisory Board which will be in place and active by July 15. Its role will be to:
1. Actively review external facility compliance with the Iams research policy.
2. Participate in random unannounced inspections of external sites.
3. Critically evaluate our research policy and bring new ideas to enhance animal well being.
4. Evaluate our animal care program to ensure the health and well being of dogs and cats. This evaluation will include site visits to Iams facilities.
Apparently PETA is basing its lawsuit on its belief that Iams has not followed through quickly enough to inspect all of the facilities it uses to conduct animal research. PETA spokesperson Peter Wood told the Cincinnati Post that the complaint was not based on any new information, and in fact Wood casts this as a straightforward animal rights issue. The Post quoted Woods as saying (emphasis added),
Why does PETA have to conduct investigations into what Iams does to get Iams to do what’s right? The tests are inherently cruel. The larger picture is they’re making claims that each animals is treated humanely, which in our opinion is fiction.
If PETA’s position is that any animal research Iams conducts is “inherently cruel” then this is just another frivolous PETA complaint that will do little other than generate a bit of publicity.
Iams, for its part, specifically denies parts of PETA’s claims, including the most sensational part of PETA’s complaint — that almost 30 dogs were killed during testing of food for the company. Iams spokesperson Bryan Brown told the Cincinnati Post,
No dogs involved in Iams studies were killed at that facility. We challenge the accuracy of points made by PETA. We know they have a track record of sensationalism.
Not to mention a track record of inaccuracy and distortion. According to Brown, Iams has already inspected all of the facilities it uses for research. They didn’t find any violations of federal laws or regulations, Brown said, but some did not meet Iams own internal policies and are currently in the process of bringing their procedures into compliance with Iams standards.
PETA says Iams CO. Web site makes false statements. Associated Press, June 11, 2003.
Iams: PETA’s charges false. Alexander Coolidge, The Cincinnati Post, June 11, 2003.
Update on Iams Animal Research. Press Release, Iams, April 25, 2003.
PETA Files Complaint With FTC Against Iams Claiming Ads Are False And Misleading. Press Release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Undated.
The Iams Company Research Policy. Iams, Undated.