Pet Food & Animal Testing: A Horror Story

cruelty-free-dog-food

Pet food is a controversial topic when it comes to animal testing. Because our beloved pets will ultimately consume the goods, some claim that animal testing for pet food should be necessary in order to ensure our animals’ safety.

But just because pet products and animal testing both involve animals, it doesn’t mean they must be tied together. When we refer to animal testing in the pet food world, we’re talking about laboratory animals being subjected to invasive tests. This is, I believe, what many animal testing advocates fail to recognize. Sadly, animal testing facilities often conduct unspeakably cruel and inhumane studies.

In this post, I’ll list 35 cruelty-free pet food companies and give you options for dog food as well as cat food. But first, I want to tell you what animal testing for pet food involves.

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Pet Food & Regulations

The thing is, nothing ever has to be tested on animals. Not even pet food.

Advancements in technology are allowing scientists to use microchips instead of animals to test drugs, questioning the necessity of any animal testing for any purpose.

But pet food is highly regulated in the US by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Organization). In addition to the nutritional analysis, the food has to be fed to live animals. This is called a “feeding trial”.

Feeding Trials In Laboratories

In 2003, an undercover PETA investigator filmed dreadful footage inside a feeding trial laboratory. The animal testing was commissioned by renowned industry giant Iams.

The footage shows sick, neglected suffering cats and dogs confined to small cages. Dogs were thrown on the floor after their vocal chords were cut off and their back-leg muscles removed. A dog was found dead, bleeding from his mouth in his cage. The footage also showed laboratory workers talking about a live cat that had been washed down the drain. (You can read the full story via Uncaged.)

Has anything changed since? Yes and no. Thankfully the conditions are better, which isn’t to say they’re ideal.

pet-food-animal-testing

Companies To Avoid

The following pet food brands still conduct laboratory feeding trials and/or test on animals in other ways. They are not cruelty-free.

  • Iams (owned by Procter & Gamble)
  • Hill’s Science Diet (owned by Colgate-Palmolive)
  • Pedigree (owned by Mars)
  • Purina (owned by Nestle)
  • Friskies (owned by Nestle)
  • Natural Balance
  • Blue Buffalo
  • Whiskas (owned by Mars)
  • Eukanuba (owned by Mars)
  • Sheba
  • Bakers Complete (owned by Nestle)

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Humane Feeding Trials

Today, some companies choose not to conduct feeding trials on laboratory animals. These companies provide cruelty-free dog and cat food. To be in compliance with the AAFCO, these smaller, alternative trials must adhere to the following rules:

  • conducted on at least 8 healthy dogs, of at least 1 year old
  • the trial must run for at least 26 weeks
  • the dogs must only eat the trial food, and their daily consumption must be recorded
  • the dogs’ weight be tracked weekly and they must undergo blood tests throughout the trial

Since these trials are not performed on laboratory animals, they do not involve animal testing. Some companies’ employees will sometimes volunteer their pets for feeding trials. The pets will be weighed daily, but there’s otherwise no change of lifestyle involved.

Cruelty-Free Dog Food Options

The companies below don’t use laboratory animals as part of their feeding trials. They only perform humane and non-invasive feeding trials. For cruelty-free dog food, try:

honest

The Honest Kitchen

halo

Halo, Purely For Pets (Vegan!)


flint

Flint River Ranch (Vegan!)


burns

Burns


fish4dogs

Fish4Dogs


pooch

Pooch & Mutt


yarrah

Yarrah

Cruelty-Free Cat Food Options

Cat lovers, I’ve got you covered as well! Please keep in mind that unlike dogs, cats can’t thrive solely on a vegan diet. They require taurine, which can only be obtained from animal-based proteins. If you’re choosing a vegan food for your cat, you might want to consider a taurine (or meat) supplement. Here are some cruelty-free cat food options:

yarrcat

Yarrah


catflint

Flint River Ranch (Vegan)


weruva

Weruva (Gluten-Free)

35 Cruelty-Free Companies

Need more choices? I’m going to end this post with a list of pet food companies that don’t test on animals.

  • Almo Nature
  • The Honest Kitchen
  • Weruva
  • Flinch River Ranch
  • Halo, Purely For Pets
  • Yarrah
  • Solid Gold
  • V-Dog
  • Stella & Chewy’s
  • Nutri-Vet
  • Burns
  • Pooch & Mutt
  • Fish4Dogs
  • Happy Dog Food
  • Holistic Blend
  • Newman’s Own Organics
  • CaniSource
  • Fromm Family Foods
  • Pet Guard
  • Feline’s Pride
  • Oma’s Pride
  • Dr. Harvey’s
  • Primal Pet Foods
  • Dingonatura
  • Dynamite Marketing
  • Timberwolf Organics
  • Artemis Pet Food
  • Pet Chef Express
  • PoshNosh
  • Bravo Raw Diet
  • Raw Advantage
  • Azmira Holistic Animal Care
  • Sojourner Farms
  • Sauder Feeds
  • Veterinary Nutritional Formula
  • Wysong Professional Diets
  • http://www.kissandmakeupsbeautyblog.com/ Kiss & Make-up

    Never even thought about this :-O Thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Thanks for reading! :)

  • Loula

    I love that you are sharing this. People need to know more about the pet foods they are buying, and the companies that own the majority of the brands. But, there is one major issue here. I and many others would agree that feeding a cat or dog a vegan diet is a form of animal cruelty by itself! This is more serious with cats as they are obligate carnivores. We should not be feeding them a diet based on our lifestyle when it is not appropriate for their bodies. Feed them what they were designed to thrive on and find a reputable company. I feed my furbabies frozen raw.

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Definitely agree with you when it comes to cats. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Loula. :)

      • Lexi Alexandra

        I’m a vegan crazy cat lady, lol, but wouldn’t ever feed my cats a vegan diet for that reason. I just assumed that their animal-based food is a result of cruelty, and therefore I have to live with that guilt 😔 but didn’t consider less cruel ways of acquiring their food. Dammit now I’m sad, so I’ll just end with: thank you for *all* your research. I love your blog, and it’s a great resource for those of us (trying to live) living a more compassionate lifestyle. Thank you.

  • Rizza

    Do you know anything about Canidae? From what I’ve read they don’t test on animals but I haven’t emailed to confirm, and I know you have specific questions that you.

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Hi Rizza, I just e-mailed to verify but here’s an excerpt from their FAQ:

      “CANIDAE neither conducts nor condones any inhumane laboratory live animal testing. After many years of making pet food and over a million tons a month being fed without incident world wide, we have passed the real world test without harming or inhumanely caging a single dog or cat.”

      It’s not totally clear based on that so please stay tuned for their reply!

      • Rizza

        That’s what I found as well! It seemed really vague. Thanks so much for contacting them! Looking forward to their response.

  • Lexy Johnson

    Thank you for posting this!!! I had never even thought to check if the stuff I’m feeding my dog has been tested on animals! Luckily my pet store carries halo for the same price as blue buffalo so I’ll definitely be making the switch.

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      That’s great to hear, I bet your dog will like Halo too. :)

  • Erin

    Thanks for this up to date info. I am not surprised but saddened to read all the academic studies that supported these experimental methods. Money talks, animals can’t. Thank you for being their spokesperson.

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Erin.

  • Kitty O’Possum

    Thank you for this! I have a couple of questions. Do all the companies listed as testing on animals actually do lab feeding trials, or are some included because their parent company tests other products on animals? I’m also interested in how to find out whether a company who’s not on these lists tests on animals? For instance, Nutro, Merrick, and Rachel Ray’s Nutrish. Thanks!

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Hi Kitty! Yes, all companies mentioned here test on animals themselves (as opposed to their parent company) as far as I know. From my research, I couldn’t find any evidence supporting that Rachel Ray’s brand is cruelty-free. I haven’t looked into the other ones, but I’ll do my best!

      • Loula

        Merrick is owned by Purina and Nutro is owned by Mars Corp. so I wouldn’t trust either one.

        • Lexi Alexandra

          OK, I just checked your Nutro info above, only to be disappointed that it is indeed owned by a company whose products I do not like for their skimpy nutritional value. I thought Nutro was better than that! I’m going to try Halo again (it means going to a big box shop vs local) as my boys used to eat it, even if they pushed the veggies aside – hehe… I try to feed them carrageenan-free canned food, so I’m limited on that account. OK, here we go! And thank you :-)

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

    I’m not familiar with this company, but I couldn’t find anything stating they don’t test on animals. Definitely contact them to verify.

    • Lynette

      I contacted them and here is their response:

      Dear Lynette,
      Thank you for your inquiry.
      We would like to assure you our commitment to animals includes superior nutrition and the humane treatment of the animals involved in any necessary feeding trials. In order to ensure the safest and most nutritional food possible, our formulas are analyzed for nutritional content. The USDA regulates facilities used for this testing and we choose them based on their reputation and dedication to nutritional research and animal care.
      Sincerely,
      April
      Product Specialist

      kind of ambiguous! i think i might be finding a new pet food! that stuff isnt cheap either, but I thought it would be better for my dog. i try to not buy any cruel products. If they cant give me a definite answer it is just as bad as saying they participate in testing.

      • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

        Sounds to me like they do test on lab animals, sadly. “Facilities” would mean laboratories.

  • Chelsie

    I’d like to stress the necessity of meat in a cat’s diet. Gluten free foods are perfect for them, but I’d try to shy away from any vegan options for cats. Dogs, on the other hand, can safely be vegan if absolutely necessary. I’m a vegetarian myself (future vegan), but I can’t deny my cats and foster cats what they need to survive and thrive. Thank you for sharing this, Suzi! I’m happy that our Fromm (from Wisconsin) is cruelty free! Everyone adores it and it’s healthy for them!

    • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi

      Thanks Chelsie! :)

  • Lexi Alexandra

    Good to know! I stopped feeding dry Blue Buffalo to my cats quite a while ago. They now eat Orijen. For wet food they eat Halo and Nutro. I’d be interested in finding out whether those brands are cruelty free as well. What are your thoughts on how to phrase questions when I inquire about it?

  • Conchi Foranimals

    Thank you so much for this post. I believe that LILY’S KITCHEN – APPLAWS – ACANA – ORIJEN are also cruelty free. They are on PETA lists and Orijen & Acana are owned by CHAMPION PETFOODS who confirmed to me that they do not test on animals but rather have their pets do the food test trials.

  • Jade

    i suggest another cruelty free company: Nova Foods http://www.novafoods.com all their brands are cruelty free! 😀

  • Anna

    Hello, Suzy! Found another petfood company: http://www.brit-petfood.com/about-us/company-profile/ Can we trust them?

  • Karis Moore

    Can anyone find out if Petsmart carries a cruelty free brand of cat food? I’ve been researching but I’ve come up with very little so far.

  • EY

    Wondering if you know whether Authority cat food by Petsmart is cruelty-free? It’s a Petsmart only brand and I tried to do research to see if they are owned by a larger parent company, but couldn’t find anything. Thanks.

  • Becky Teague

    I wanted to contact Merrick about their testing policy, since they were recently purchased by Purina. However, I have never contacted a non-beauty company before, and the various laws for the pet food industry seem a bit less straight forward than cosmetics. I was curious what the emails you sent contained. I want to ask in the most direct way.

    Thanks!

  • Alison

    Unfortunately I have 2 diabetic cats and they’re on prescription diets, so I’m kind of screwed there.

  • Stephanie

    We have dogs with special dietary needs and love Merrick. I didn’t see them listed on either list. Do you have any information on them?

  • Yessica

    Are any of these available at petsmart/petco?

  • Sonya Deschênes

    Ok so after reading this article, I was wondering if the food I give to my dog is cruelty-free and I can’t found it.. I give Acana to my dog and when I look on google it’s the only part I can read :” Oct 22, 2015 – Pet food often involves painful animal testing on laboratory animals. … They are on PETA lists and Orijen & Acana are owned by CHAMPION … ” the link brought me here but I don’t see the answer.. Can you help me ? Is it cruelty-free food or no?

  • Nicole Joyce

    As far as I know, Natural Balance is cruelty free and they also donate money to local animal shelters.

  • Scott E. Myers

    In addition to animal testing, there’s also the question of where and how the meat in the pet food is sourced. Are there any dog food companies that do not test on animals, and also have relatively cruelty free means of sourcing their meat? By “relatively cruelty free” I mean the cows/chickens do not live miserable lives in cramped, inhumane quarters and are killed in a manner that seeks to minimize pain and suffering as much as possible.

    • Chelsea Metcalfe

      I’ve been thinking this same thing throughout the article as well… All of the regulations about the pet food industry aren’t as easy to understand as the cosmetic regulations, so I don’t know how to find it out myself

  • Sarah

    Wow. Never thought about pet food being tested on animals. Will definitely make sure what I feed my pets in future is cruelty free. Do you know anything about Oxbow? I feed it to my rabbits, a quick google search seems to say its okay, but I trust you much more!

  • Shameni Vasuthewan

    Hi, does anyone know if the brand Addiction cruelty free?

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    They don’t test. :)

  • http://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ Suzi | Cruelty-Free Kitty

    They’re not vegan, but they’re cruelty-free (which means not tested on animals if you look it up).

  • Kevin B

    Hi, just wanted to share my e-mail exchange with Victor Dog Foods, an affordable brand, with quality ingredients and great reviews. Does anyone else know anything about this company’s testing procedures? Or would you take this response as acceptable?

    My initial inquiry asking if they tested on Laboratory animals got this response:

    Greetings Sarah,
    Thanks for your growing interest in Victor Super Premium Pet Foods. We Scientifically formulate our products without lab animal testing. We have enough faith in our products that we feed them to our own animals.
    Thanks again The Victor Team

    Further exchange ensued to garner more details:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the response, I’m glad to hear that your products are formulate without lab animal testing! I’m looking for the very best food for my dog as well as other animals. Would you be able to go into more detail on your product test process?

    Thanks!
    Sarah

    We source the best quality ingredients from trusted producers. Most of our ingredients come from the USA. However, in certain circumstances some ingredients do come from another country (like lamb from New Zealand).
    All Formulas are proudly made in the USA. Victor Dog Foods are free from Corn, Wheat, Soy and Gluten Free as well as all Processed Grain by-products. All Formulas Are Naturally formulated with Added Vitamins and Complex Minerals. All Victor foods are formulated with scientifically advanced ingredients from Alltech, ZinPro and Diamond V ; that work together to support excellent digestive and immune system health.
    Each and every ingredient must meet our own high quality standards. Ingredients are tested upon arrival, samples are tested throughout production, and all pet food is tested before we release it for sale.

    Thanks for the information. I guess the process I’m most interested is the last part when you say “all pet food is tested before we release it for sale”
    What methods do you use for this testing?

    Thanks! Sarah

    This are chemical test.We check the finished product to make sure it meets our quality standard before we will release it for sale. If does not pass this test it is not released to be sold.

  • Lindsay Oberle

    I switched from blue buffalo to Solid Gold for my kitties because of this site. Thank you! Im tryi g very hard to change out all my products to cruelty free and mostly natural, i find this site to be very helpful as it can be a stuggle

  • shana18

    all animals raised on factory/conventional farms live tortured lives and their entire existence involves cruelty …. and almost all meats used as ingredients in pet foods are from factory/conventional farms …. but i think the article was referring to the pet foods being used in labs and tested on animals ….. sort of an inaccurate read … as the entire pet food industry is based on cruelty ….. they even use euthenized pets as ingredients ….. they have contracts and agreements at ‘kill’ animals shelters for this http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/rendered-products-in-pet-food/ …..

  • Viola

    Hi, what about sanabelle cat food? It is manufactured by bosch tiernahrung.
    And hier is their statement:
    “No. Our standpoint on animal testing is clearly defined by our quality management handbook:

    The developping of new products is based on projects which rest on a scientifically researched and recognised foundation. We are strictly against any kind of animal testing which majorly affects the life of animals or which is associated with any kind of pain or suffering. Therefore we judge all animal testings associated with torture and pain that recently became public news and in which sadly pet food companies had been involved also.
    In our opinion, the tests, pain and suffering is in most cases in no relation to the results and consequences for which purpose the tests are taking place. Sometimes there is even an impression that tests are misused as a cover to promote marketing statements.

    Of course, our products have to be “evaluated” through animals, in order to see the influence of e.g. new raw materials or a new manufacturing process on the quality of our products. Dogs and cats are living creatures, and reactions cannot be foretold. Therefore, when developping new products, there might be an acceptance test which only proves the acceptance and digestability of the food. The manners of intaking food, stool consistancy, fur quality and, if applicable, the over all development and condition of the animals is monitored by the pet owner. Those acceptance tests take place in either private house holds or in proper kennels and are administered exclusively by the owner himself. Since it’s in the best interest of the pet owner to keep inconveniences from his pet, the acceptance tests we use have nothing in common with animal testing.”

    Thanks for all those helpful lists:)
    It is very sad to get to know that we have to take care even with our pets food….
    Unfortunately out of this list here in Austria i only found the happy cat, but they only sell here dry food.
    Would be very helpful to get to know is there any more companies who do not test on animals but also available in the EU.
    Thanks for ur help and infos

  • Claudia

    the only issue for me is that my cat is the fussiest eater. i’ve tried to feed it tons of different brands and every time we go back to purina fancyfeast because its all she will eat. also, i’ve never heard of any of these brands before, nor do i think i’ve seen them in the supermarket. i really don’t know what to do

    • Carrie Nicole Daly

      If you would like to try new foods for your cat you can always go to Petco and try a few brands out. The great thing is you can return open bags of food in exchange for a different one. The open bag of food gets donated so it doesn’t go to waste and you don’t waste your money. They usually have someone who understands pet nutrition and can answer a lot of questions.

  • Tiffany Montes

    I feed my dog Natures Recipe and I’ve been researching if it’s it’s cruelty free but I haven’t found any information that confirms whether it’s cruelty free or not.
    Can anyone help me out?

    But other than that great article and it’s very informative.