Commercial food is killing our pets

Well-meaning cat and dog owners are causing long-lasting damage to their pets by feeding them commercial pet foods, according to a new book.

Veterinarian Tom Lonsdale claims in his book that all cats and dogs need bones as part of their diet to keep them healthy.

But he says many vets promote and sell the processed foods despite the problems they cause, because of their close links with the multi-billion dollar pet food industry.

“If you own a dog or a cat which you feed with processed food from the supermarket or corner store, you will probably
find this book deeply disturbing,” Dr Lonsdale said in the preface.
The launch of the book coincides with a campaign by the American pet food company, Ralston Purina, using Sydney University veterinary students to promote its products in supermarkets.

The company claimed last week it had hired the students to promote its “optimal nutritional excellence” petfoods because Australian consumers were the most uneducated in the western world about pet nutrition.
But Dr Lonsdale argues in detail, using his own experience as
a vet at South Windsor, the experience of other local vets and overseas research, that dogs and cats need to chew on bones to prevent mouth disease.

According to pet food company Hill’s, seven out of 10 adult pets have some degree of dental problems. Without bones, their gums quickly become diseased, leading to tooth problems, bad breath and an array of systemic problems including a drop in white blood cells.

As a result, they could develop serious immune deficiencies which Dr
Lonsdale likened to the AIDS in people, although it is not caused by a virus. “It’s not a matter of whether artifical pet foods and food-induced periodontal disease give rise to ill health, it’s more a matter of which disease, when and how,” he said. Dr Lonsdale advocates giving cats and dogs raw chicken wings, chicken necks and ox tail to young kittens and puppies when
they most need to chew.

“Older larger dogs need raw bones and cats need raw meat on the bone,” he
Dr Lonsdale said the book was intended to give pet owners the information to challenge their vets and overcome the most common problems for cats and
dogs. He said pet owners often did not notice the problems until they were
far advanced, especially in dogs which intuitively hide ailments.
Although opening a can or a bag of dried food was convenient, he said most
pet owners cared deeply for their animals and wanted the best for them.
“People have been led to believe that owning a cat or dog is a simple matter
and feeding can be dealt with using commercial offerings,” he said.
“But if they start to see themselves as responsible zoo keepers, looking after
animals without bars, they will enjoy pet ownership much more and have
fewer problems.”
Dr Lonsdale had to fight the veterinary profession to make his claims, which
included that the Australian Veterinary Association had become too closely involved with commercial pet food
When he first raised his concerns in 1996, he was accused of professional misconduct and threatened with being struck off the veterinary register.
He was even threatened with jail if he revealed the nature of four complaints
which were made about him to the NSW Veterinary Surgeons Investigating Committee (VSIC), all of which were later dropped.
The investigatory committee claimed then that Dr Lonsdale was “stating
extremist views in a very public forum that he has not supported publicly by
scientific data”. NSW MLA Paul Lynch has raised Dr Lonsdale’s treatment by the VSIC in Parliament several times as well as other concerns
about the committee.
Another of Dr Lonsdale’s targets is the Petcare Information and Advisory Service, which promotes dog and cat ownership.
Although it does not declare this, Petcare is funded by Uncle Ben’s, a subsidiary of Mars Group (which also makes Mars Bars), Australia’s biggest pet food company.
A Petcare spokeswoman declined to comment on Dr Lonsdale’s views and said the service did not really advise people on nutrition.
However, its website strongly advocates the use of commercial foods.
“The most reliable and convenient way to provide a balanced and palatable diet is to feed high quality prepared dog food, both
canned and dry,” it says on its website.
“Puppies have different nutritional requirements to adult dogs and for this reason it is essential to feed your puppy with
specially formulated puppy foods in canned and dry forms.”
Source: Dr Tom Lonsdale, author, “Raw Meaty Bones”.

  1. Bad breath. This is not natural in dogs and is a sign of “mouth rot”.
  2.  Lack of a shiny glossy coat, itchy skin. Dog looks poor, unkempt, unhappy.
  3.  Prolonged sleeping, dull eyes, too thin or too fat.
  4.  Gastroenteritis, persistent diarrhoea, liver problems.
  5.  Arthritis, stiffness, poor circulation, collagen disease.

Raw Meaty Bones is available from the wesbite,


Cuba from different angles

The fact that Cuba is a communist dictatorship where people live in limited conditions is widely known. Many Cuban people emigrated to United Estates and many others to Europe – mainly Spain as we share the same language. Five different people are able to talk about the way they lived and their impressions of a great country for a few, and a very repressed for the majority.

Sanchez works at Buena Vista, the famous Cuban restaurant in Clapham, London. I interview him behind a massive Che Guevara flag. He dislikes Cuba, as it has disappointed him for life. Long before, he was an activist for Cuban rights. This 42 year old man shares his experiences about the situation Cuban people were living back at home and tells me with passion his fight against the system.

Proudly, he tells me: ‘when I was young we always talked about politics in my house. Then I grew up and I went to Florida for work. I started to make friends with other Cuban people who liked politics and they were not allowed to come back to Cuba. They were frustrated. So I asked myself what I could do for Cuba, or what I wanted to do with my life. The repression that we live in Cuba led me to the idea of fighting against the system from the outside as I was in a hurry to leave. I wanted to help reconstructing the country I was born in, but the only way was by coming back, so I did’.

One of the reasons he wanted to change things came from the time his parents started renting a flat to tourists, but they experienced some kind of totalitarianism: The couple were not allowed to make money out of their flat, and they got threatened. Someone came to their home and told them they would lose their flat and their license if they carried on renting it. The authorities were trying to cut down their extra income. Dictatorship and Totalitarianism are not the same, he explains, and when there is totalitarianism the government controls every aspect and element of your life. ‘They didn’t let us have our own income. We were seen as potential creators of a capitalist project that would defy the government’s ideology and would spread the word of a better lifestyle that had nothing to do with humble communism’.

The government analyses every single threat. To say that Cuban people are able to generate their own means in order to contribute to a change, as the government preaches is an utter lie, he explains with nostalgically.

As a tourist, the impression I got when I went there is very different. At the luxury hotel in Varadero I could see people smiling all the time, very friendly and so kind. But I guess nobody wants to speak about the life they are living, they seem scared to do so or to criticise the government.

Then I wonder what kinds of consequences exist for those people fighting against the regime, so I ask him. ‘Well, we’d been threatened many times’. He looks uncomfortable and I know I shouldn’t ask him anymore. I’m thirsty for more information so I go ahead. He briefly tells me an intruder got into his political group and he was very conflictive – he was sent from the government in order to have an excuse to shut them down. Some of his mates went to prison for a few days. I ask him about the personal threats again. But instead of a diverged answer I get the one I didn’t want: ‘I don’t talk about it, sorry’ so I apologise as well and I proceed to my next question: ‘Is there political parties in Cuba or are they all gone?’ He seems more comfortable with my question now so he answers in a more relaxed way.

Mr Sanchez tells me that there are political parties but they are hidden as they are not legally recognised or even allowed. It’s difficult to make politics when there isn’t a base to what you’re doing or who you are, he says. The regime is in charge of dissolving any kind of political association that goes against them. ‘It was very effective in my case. We just stopped and moved on’. Unable to fight for Cuban people’s rights, Sanchez moved to Spain where he lived until the economical crisis hit the country back in 2008.


But as Mr Sanchez said to me, not everyone wants to fight Castro’s dictatorship and some of them simply left to improve their lives when they felt oppressed. Vilma Castro, a shop assistant at Ladbrokes, tells me her experience: ‘I left Cuba after I finished my degree. The government forces you to work for them doing some placements for two years all over the country, wherever they need you, and during that time you have no freedom at all, so I felt overwhelmed and when I got a job offer I simply left’.

Vilma, a happy and kind-hearted woman has always belonged to the Communist affiliation. She was never against the government’s politics as her parents had good salaries when she was young. She didn’t feel the crisis. ‘I only left Cuba because I wanted to have a good job really’. Mrs Castro emigrated to Spain and a few years after she got the citizenship, which allows her to come back to Cuba at any time. Cuba is not in a good situation at the moment. There is no freedom or democracy, things any country need in order to prosper, she tells me. But she still wants to come back at some point. ‘My generation decided to leave as a way to protest against the lack of freedom’.

Until now, all the people I’ve interviewed agreed on one thing: The problem is Fidel Castro. Apparently everyone on the streets talk about it in Cuba. People know that the responsible for the situation Cuban people are living is that elite on the power that Castro allows who are accumulating luxuries. They all live very different lives from the normal Cuban citizen.

Microbusinesses also get restrictions at the frontier, so businesses are very limited. Also, many Cuban people have a better life because they get family in the United Estates sending them medicines or money. They also get new technology that otherwise would be very difficult to get, as a normal shipment can take months to arrive and pass all the controls to the island.

Luis Manuel Álvarez is only visiting London for Christmas holidays. This tourist lives in Santiago de Cuba and has a very different opinion. He tells me Cuba is a very safe country and there is not much crime or homeless people, which I agree with. Cuba is the only country in the world where there is not child malnutrition. There are social services and everyone has a house where to live. Many people are satisfied with the National Health Service as it’s free and we have very prepared and competent doctors. ‘Our doctors are pioneers in investigation, the government invests a lot of money in health, we have one of the best medical systems in the world, but not many people know that. It’s not all misery, but the USA and Europe portraits it like that as they are scared of communism so they are constantly making bad publicity against my country’.

Álvarez tells me his big fear of becoming like Mexico, where the mafia controls the estate. From his point of view, around his circle in they feel they are under risk of becoming an authoritarian country supported by the rest of Latin America. ‘What I wouldn’t like is to evolve into a system in which the government in charge leaves their power to allies or family and we end up with an authoritarian capitalism regime for the next 30 years. The final result would be ending up like Mexico, and mafias would be created, organised crime would take over control, there would be drug traffic, human traffic… Actually human traffic already exists through the cartel group Los Zetas, which take people from Cuba to the Mexican coast to cross the frontier’.


When I share my experience as a tourist in Cuba back in 2013, Yoel Perez shares his thoughts. He’s a Cuban musician currently living in London and playing a few times a week at a Cuban restaurant in Camden Town. Between cocktails and laughs he tells me how everyone talks about politics but not many people will open themselves to tell what it really is to live there. People in Cuba compare their lives to TV shows from the USA and Europe and feel embarrassed because of the conditions. Compared to western countries, where they get their references from, their lives seem so much limited and simple.

‘People won’t tell you that they don’t have Internet at home, or that is really slow and you only get to use it a couple of times a week at universities, but mainly because the are used to it and for them is not a shocking thing, is just different cultures’.

In Cuba everything is under control, the government works really hard to make sure what you’re looking online is safe as well. He believes police work blindly for the government and if there were a revolution they wouldn’t doubt to go against people. Police are a mechanism of control. They won’t inspire safety, he says. Many people in Cuba are afraid of a change because they know what the government is like, they don’t like it but they are used to it. ‘What many people seem to think is that if we change we are going to get a right wing dictatorship which would be even worse, or that’s what they think anyway’.

In order to leave the country you have to apply to a permission to leave that you might get or you might not. Some people are denied it and cannot leave the country if the authorities think the person wants to emigrate or might go against them. With that excuse a wide percentage of people get their visa denied. For short holidays it is really difficult to get one, although if you are visiting family that leave abroad you are entitled to leave the country up to 6 months. If you do not return before the deadline you lose your right to come back, as the authorities see this as civil disobedience and you become a ‘risky person’.

Sagrario López is a Spanish woman who married a Cuban man and the inspiration of this article. She told me long ago how her family in law managed to get out of Cuba and emigrate to Florida. Around twenty years ago, fourteen people crossed the 94 miles of sea that separate United Estates and Miami by using a raft. Many other Cuban dissidents before them have tried, but many others have lost their lives at the sea.

This family faced a storm as they were approaching Miami’s coasts. It ended up with the lives of three of them. On the raft, there was a baby that miraculously survived the storm. It was dragged to the coast and appeared a few hours after on a beach. The survivors managed to swim to the nearest land. They had lost the raft and the baby on it. They still today cannot explain how the baby was dragged to the beach alive, but fishers in the area said they saw dolphins dragging a rough raft onto the beach.

The desperation that many Cuban people must have felt to risk their lives like that is enormous, and although some people live a good life in Cuba, the impression I get is that the lack of freedom and frustration they have to cope with is sometimes insufferable. The majority of the people interviewed for this article are opponents to Castro’s politics, and only people who are allowed to have money do actually enjoy the regime, as they are not affected by the cuts on basic means, but the percentage of this people is minimal. When I went to Cuba I only got one person, a taxi driver in Havana who wanted to talk about the real situation they were having there, and he told me how low on means they are, as in to hitch-hike to work every day because buses don’t run that often. Sadly, and as surprising as this seems, it is actually a very common practice in Havana and other big cities. We will have to wait and see what happens after Castro; hopefully this beautiful country will experience an enormous social and political change that leads into freedom and equality for its good people.

Understanding drug addictions

Loving someone that has an addiction is a struggle that is widely known. The fact that it’s not all in their hands nevertheless, doesn’t seem that familiar to the public. We, as a society, tend to think that drug users are in that situation because they want to. They are seen as criminals, as people to avoid, as dangerous individuals, as selfish people who started fooling around with drugs, or just seen as scary folks. But what would happen if we started changing our perception? Would that help? 

Let’s see how it worked out in Portugal:

In 1999, 1 in every 100 people were drug addicts. In 2001, Portugal approved a law to decriminalise the personal possession of all drugs. This meant users would be encouraged – not forced – to give up drugs. They created a Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, formed by legal, health and social work professionals.

The Bill meant:

Click here for a pdf explanation

  1. Whenever a user was caught doing drugs, he or she would get arrested and fined, but not imprisoned.


  1. One is then noted and told to join a treatment programme financed by the government.


While the same quantity of money is spent fighting against drugs, the criminal department distributes it differently. This is because the targets are only those who sell drugs, rather than the ones who consume drugs. Results are astonishing:


Werther Ramalho completed his masters in Criminal Law in Brazil and also studied in Portugal. He tells us his opinion comparing both countries. “Portugal’s experience inspired a variety of transformations in the legal treatment of users that have taken place across the continent.”


Werther reveals that Portugal has achieved a movement that promotes seeing the issue as a health problem, rather than a crime. This has had a global impact that affected Latin America as well, and Brazil, influenced by Portugal, started to apply this theory in 2006 and made a similar measure in the same direction but Brazil still see it as a criminal offence. What both politics have in common is they haven’t looked at what kind of self harm is tolerable. “For example”, he explains, “Uruguay considered that marijuana is acceptable and they regulated its use. This made Uruguay able to invest much more in public health policies”


The use of drugs in Portugal after 10 years since the law was approved was completely astonishing:

Screen-Shot-2016-11-20-at-16.40.53While the same quantity of money is spent fighting against drugs, the criminal department distributes it differently. This is because the targets are only those who sell drugs, rather than the ones who consume drugs. 

After doing a wide research I came across a study done by Robis, Davis and Nuco in 1974. The results altered my views on drug addictions. Let me explain it, I will try to take you there with me: We are going back to the Vietnam War.

It’s the summer of 1971 and the military are carrying out urine tests on their soldiers. They are worried as the number of servicemen addicted to heroin reached epidemic proportions: 73% of results came out positive. Both army and government are concerned; they won’t be able to cover the costs of adequate programmes, facilities and medication for the soldiers when they get back to the USA. Six months later, after a follow up and some more urine tests, they find out that of all the drug users in Vietnam, only 10% of them are using drugs at home. How can this be possible? Click here to see the whole study


Well, it is much more simple than what we tend to think. The addiction was there for a reason, which was the war. Soldiers were forced to turn to drugs as a way to escape from the reality of killing people and seeing friends die every day. Once they were back home, their reality was a nice environment in which family, friends and a peaceful way of life surrounded them – so the addiction instantly disappeared. This means that our concept of drug addiction is wrong.


Our own case study is Stuart, who has been a drug addict and is now an alcoholic living in North West London. Stuart’s girlfriend committed suicide a few years ago and he has no family left. He is dealing with his own Vietnam War.


Stuart inherited the house that he now lives in. His daily routine is drink a few beers, walk the dog, go to the shop to get dinner and sometimes more alcohol. From what he tells me, he is isolated from society, as he doesn’t have a job or belong anywhere. His front teeth are missing from previous addictions, and even though he looks scary, he has a good heart. His dog, he tells me, keeps him alive and away from harder drugs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 14.19.17

[Stuart’s clip is available at:


Scientists carried out the same experiment using rats: They put one rat in a cage with two bottles, one had morphine and the other one had water. After a few days the rat became addicted to the morphine and overdosed herself to death. But what they found out is if the rat was put in a cage with some other rats and fun entertainment activities to do it wouldn’t become addicted, instead the rat wouldn’t feel the need to use drugs.

Stuart’s life could change if some regulations and the society had a different approach. It’s our laws and our judgements that separate us.

Monica Sanchez