This post may contain affiliate links.
In 2014, I decided to start sharing my journey as a raw feeder. I had been feeding my dogs a raw food diet for a year and wrote about what I had learned as part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Looking back, I cringe at how little I knew about raw feeding and decided to update each of those blog posts in 2018-19.
One of the main reason I switched to raw dog food was all of the inconsistencies in commercial pet food. A memory that stands out is a conversation I had with the rep of popular dry dog food brand at a pet blogging conference. I was excited when I learned about their decision to increase the quality of their food to meet the demand of better-educated pet parents. They took me to dinner and showed me their new branding with pictures of fresh protein and vegetables. They invited me to tour their spic and span manufacturing facilities. And then they played their trump card – none of their ingredients were sourced in China.
Wow! Looking back, it makes me laugh that this is all it took for me to happily promote crap food to my readers. The idea that none of the ingredients came from China suddenly made this a quality food? Today, I laugh at my naivety. I wish I would have asked them where the vitamin mix use in their food was sourced.
“China is actually one of the largest exporters of many drugs and vitamins. About 90 percent of all Vitamin C sold in the United States is from China, for example. They also produce 50 percent of the world's aspirin and 35 percent of all Tylenol. Ditto for the majority of Vitamins A, B12 and E.”~ OrganicConsumers.org
A Reality Check About the Pet Food Industry
An hour after our dinner with the pet food rep, a more experienced pet blogger took me aside and showed me article after article on the damage this brand's food has done to pets over the years. I thought I was a savvy pet parent, but I had been taken in by pictures of fresh food on a bag, a design that made me think of a farmer's market, and fancy words from a marketing professional. It was the same food with prettier packaging.
Blogging About Raw Feeding
I had a revelation that year that inspired me to start asking questions. What are the ingredients in the treats that I buy for our dogs? Why should I vaccinate my dogs for rare illnesses that they may not contract? Are annual vaccinations necessary? If I can't pronounce the ingredients in the dog shampoo I buy, is it safe for my dogs?
As the year progressed, I went from writing for brands to writing for pet parents. I stopped promoting products that I questioned and started sharing my experience as a new raw feeder. And I started losing friends because I was no longer willing to accept the loads of bullshit pet food brands were shoveling our way.
Inconsistencies in the Raw Feeding Community
Today, more than four years after I originally published this series, I've come to a new crossroads. I'm beginning to see inconsistencies in the raw feeding community as our numbers grow, as more information comes available, and as people learn how to monetize free information. It's becoming a challenge to find a supportive circle who can help us continue learning about pet nutrition outside of the friends who make in this community.
Last month, I was kicked out of another raw feeding group. Why? Because I asked a question in an effort to learn more about the symptoms of nutrient deficiency and tests recommended to determine that a dog has a nutrient deficiency. A friend of mine said “welcome to the club.” Drama in the raw feeding community isn't new, but it feels like it's becoming dark as people create groups with the sole purpose of trashing brands and content creators. I receive emails weekly from people who are upset because I recommend vegetables, because I don't care that someone chooses to feed their dog cottage cheese, and, most recently, because I admitted that I didn't know something.
The Drama is Real
My friend, Krista Powell of Vibrant K9, had this to say…
What has happened to our close-knit it family? When I started feeding raw over 5 years ago, I was in sheer sheer panic and desperation as my sweet baby was diagnosed with cancer. I was in such a dark and empty place (3rd dog with cancer) that all I could do was hope to goodness that the only place to go was up. I was begging and praying “God please don't take another one of my 4 legged children… PLEASE”. I was led to raw feeding the day of his diagnosis and have graciously taken on this new family of raw feeders and passionate parents into my life. What has transpired in these last 5 1/2 years for me has been nothing short of a miracle not only for myself but for thousands of dogs.
I have sadly also witnessed some of the ugliest and nastiest behavior I have ever seen in my life. I was sick to my stomach reading this post and realizing there are some in this family that is all about the dogs and will move mountains to help each other grow and learn (which helps all of us grow and learn in return).
Then there are the people who are ready to tear down, break down, destroy and character assassinate anyone and everyone to get ahead to make money, become popular, sell their business and themselves, or just plain fulfill their poor self-concept. I have watched people and their dog's lives be saved from the love that many people share unconditionally and I have watched some people and their businesses, blogs, etc be destroyed over some peoples vile and visceral gossip and behavior. It's always the 10% of hateful people who make 90% of the noise and do 90% of the damage. If people are talking more about themselves than the dogs, well there may be a red flag. If people are bashing another company, blog, or platform, there may be a red flag. If people claim their way or brand is the only way, there may be a red flag.
My thoughts on all of this are keep our eyes forward and our eyes on the prize which is those dang little 4 legged beasts that we love more than ourselves. All we (the raw feeding community) want is to improve their health and longevity so we can keep them with us as long as possible. If I can do anything to spare ANYONE the pain, even the smallest amount of pain, we have endured over losing 3 out of 4 dogs to cancer, by God I will. There is no place for hatred, ego, disdain and character assassination at any and all cost to others, and worst of all BEING A KNOW IT ALL in our community. This, the nutritional and health arena, is a fluid and ever-changing arena. What we know today will definitely be different next year as this year we are all exceedingly more evolved than we were just a year ago. This is new uncharted ground for everyone and there is nowhere to go but up from our knowledge base today. Studies are being started, information is being shared, companies are being born every day that will change the lives of our dogs.
And yet, with all these amazing people around the world doing their part for animals, there will always be the dishonest, self-absorbed, egomaniacal, self-seeking and a self-promoting “FEW” attempting to tear the rest of us down thinking it will put themselves ahead. NEWS F-AAAAA-LLLL-AAAAAA-SSSS-HHHHH…. people are taking note of who you are and cutting the stings of the dead weight holding the rest of us down.
We are a strong, dedicated, passionate, educated, “full of HOPE”, rock star community of KICK ASS pet parents and this bullshit will end now!! It will end with those of us who will keep moving forward and give to others what has been given to each of us which is hope, perseverance and an insurmountable amount of love to get and keep dogs healthy. By not getting in the mud with pigs, we stay clean, tidy and ready to do business.
So to all my amazing friends, partners, colleagues or just awesome flippen' pet parents…. ROCK ON YOU AMAZING DOG AND KITTY MOMS AND DADS????!! Eyes forward and let us not look at the trainwreck in back of us??!! Cheers, and keep on giving. I will leave you with one of the best pieces of advise I have ever been given with regards to social media:
“Being unfriended or blocked on social media is likened to the TRASH TAKING ITSELF OUT.”
Being Inspired by Raw Feeding
So, how do we get back on track? Personally, whenever I find myself tempted to be snarky or negative, I remind myself of why I started this journey in the first place. I didn't start my blog to be famous or rich; I started it because I love my dogs. I didn't change the topic of my blog to raw feeding to be able to tell others what to feed their dogs; I changed the topic because I wanted to learn how to feed my dogs a species appropriate diet while helping others on their journey by sharing what I was learning.
I love blogging, I love helping people, and, if I'm honest, I love being recognized at events and conferences. But no matter the attention, both positive and negative, I have to remind myself that I'm here because of my dogs – not to be famous, not to bicker with strangers, not to get rich, and not to tell others what to do.
Pet Fooled Opened the Door
While we have rock stars in the Fresh Food Community, ask someone choosing pet food at your local grocery store if they know Rodney Habib or Dr. Karen Becker and they'll give you a “are you talking to me?” look. And if they don't know Rodney and Karen, they sure as hell don't know me. We've been comfortable in our 4% pond for a long time, only sharing information with others who know the importance of feeding fresh food. And then Pet Fooled was released on Netflix and more pet parents began to search for information about raw feeding. Traffic to my site increased by 50% after the release of Pet Fooled as people began to see bloggers, vloggers, and content creators as authorities in raw feeding. I think we should work together to take advantage of this great opportunity to speak to this broader audience of pet parents.
Building a Stronger Community
A friend and I were discussing the changes in our community and brainstorming what we thought could help turn our community into a more collaborative and positive environment that fostered support and learning.
1 – Stop Silencing Pet Parents – I'm not talking about the trolls who only want to argue online, I'm talking about the people who genuinely want to learn how to raise their dogs better. If I don't know the answer, then I direct my followers to someone who may know the answer or I try to find the answer. We have to stop making people feel stupid for asking a question; at least they're asking.
2 – Collaborate, Don't Compete – there is a growing number of content creators in the fresh food community, but we're not competing with each other. 96% of pet parents feed kibble; that's plenty of readers and followers for all of us to share. It only becomes an issue when we stop sharing our experience and knowledge. The “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY” mentality doesn't help anyone. The more of us who are sharing our knowledge and experience, even if we do contradict, the more animals we can help.
3 – Making Money isn't a Bad Thing – every now and then I get an email from someone who criticizes me for making money on a topic that should be free. If someone chooses to build a business in the pet industry, it doesn't mean that they're being greedy or trying to take advantage of others. They're simply trying to turn their passion into a venture that allows them to work on it fulltime. We've got to stop criticizing people for trying to make a living honestly. The money I make pays my bills, allows me to take courses in animal nutrition and blogging/marketing/analytics, and reinvesting my money into my blog allows me to grow and reach more people. We should all monetize if we want to reach that 96% of pet parents!!!
4 – We're Making it Too Complicated – at least once a week, I receive a question from a new raw feeder who plans to return to kibble because of a complicated step they were told was critical to feeding raw. If we're here to help pets, we have to stop making raw feeding so complicated; especially for the newbies. Of course, there are some things that are simply non-negotiable, like feeding our dogs a “balanced” diet, but let's be open to the various ways in which experienced raw feeders are successfully balancing their pet's diet. The more information shared, the more pets we can help.
5 – We're Not in High School Anymore – a few months ago I received a screenshot of a discussion that involved several women tearing down a few people in the raw feeding community, myself included. People have a right to share their outrage with each other, but when that outrage spills over to nasty private messages, then we've gone too far. We're not in high school anymore. No one is competing for Prom King or Queen. We're all grown ass adults who love animals – let's stay on track and stop tearing each other down.
Inconsistencies in what I was learning about commercial pet food drove me to raw feeding; let's work together to make sure that inconsistencies in the raw feeding community don't turn people away.