Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Poor marketing decision made by Hill's Pet Nutrition

I really try not to talk about work on this blog, but today is a bit of an exception.  An issue completely blew up in the lab animal community this past week and is still ongoing.  I'm part of a few laboratory animal medicine listservs and this is literally the only thing people have talked about for the past 9 days.

It appears that Hill's Pet Nutrition may have internally hired a former ALF/PETA/HSUS employee and/or their marketing team is doing their best to push Hills out of laboratory animal care (definitely not confirmed, this is only my opinion).  Hill's is now requiring facilities to sign a "welfare commitment" with inappropriate stipulations in order to continue purchasing food for their laboratory animals.

A colleague of mine stated the current situation best: "I was shocked to discover that Hill's will no longer sell feed to research institutions unless they sign a letter saying the institution will abide by their 'commitment to animal welfare'. Apparently, this commitment precludes doing any research that may be invasive or end in euthanasia. Most research institutions will not be able to make such a pledge, regardless of 100% OLAW-assurance, AAALAC-accreditation, USDA-registration, and regardless of their own deep commitment to animal welfare."

Hill's may have the luxury of being able to make high-and-mighty statements about non-invasive procedures due to just researching pet food, but they certainly haven't gotten to where they are today without modern uses of laboratory animals, which includes invasive procedures and humane euthanasia.  Denying the history of your company is terrible PR.  Labs that work in high-containment emerging infectious disease certainly do not have the luxury of signing such a ridiculous policy.

Full policy from Hill's can be found here:

Hopefully this matter will be clarified/fixed soon and research with laboratory animals can continue as normal.  It would certainly be a shame to see Hill's Pet Nutrition permanently leave the laboratory animal community.

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