Cats: Ethics. With Erin Red, Evolution Diet’s Eric Weisman, and vets Lorelei Wakefield, Andrew Knight, and Jean Hofve
Last show’s investigation of whether cats can be vegan leaves us with an ethical quandary. What should vegans feed cats?
Erin and I reflect on listener’s comments. The three expert veterinarians examine the moral issues. And I ask Eric Weisman, CEO of major US vegan cat food brand Evolution, some tough questions.
There is more information about Lorelei Wakefield, Andrew Knight, and Jean Hofve on the episode page for the last episode, “Cats: Can They Be Vegan?”.
Since then, Lorelei Wakefield’s site, vegetariancats.com, has returned, and there’s lots of information there. She is also conducting a new study, with a focus on the urinary tract issues we discussed in the last show, and is asking cat owners to complete her survey and share medical records.
Erin “Red” Grayson
She mentions a discussion about the ethical dilemma of vegan cats with Prof Gary Francione in a February 2012 episode of Red Radio, and quotes Hamlet.
Lisa Freeman’s 2004 Study of Cat Foods
Lisa Freeman was the senior member of a team that tested:
- Vegecat KibbleMix, from Harbingers of a New Age
- Evolution diet vegan gourmet vegetable stew entrée, Evolution Diet
(Technically, I should be calling it the Gray study, as she is the primary author.)
In our brief conversation, Dr Freeman strongly backed the veterinary consensus, saying there was no safe way to feed a cat vegan.
The study is:
Eric Weisman and Evolution Diet
Loss of Chiropractic Licence
Eric Weisman gained his licence in 1979, but in 1982, he was reprimanded and put on probation for one year; and again in 1986 and 1987. The complaints process ended in a 1997 Order in which Mr Weisman agreed that he’d committed a number of practices, including:
Advertisements in connection with Respondent’s [Mr Weisman's] pet food business which identify Respondent only as “Dr. Eric Weisman” and from which a reader could reasonably infer that Respondent is a veterinarian instead of a chiropractor.
He accepted a penalty of 300 hours of community service, a $15,000 fine, and some ethics courses. In 1999, the board found he had paid the penalty in time or money; and in 2002 the board revoked his licence for breaches of the 1997 order [PDF] , including:
Engaged in advertising that is false or misleading
The memo that the board attached to the order said that:
The advertisements admittedly issued by the Respondent also include claims that his treatment programs for animal and human disease have “good long-term results in most cases.” During his January 9, 2001, conference with the Panel, the Respondent stated that he defines a “good long-term result” as an instance in which an animal using his products and/or treatment programs survived longer than was originally predicted by a veterinarian. Because the Respondent’s definition of “long-term is contrary to its common dictionary definition,” his claims about “good long-term results” also are false and misleading.
The Respondent has disseminated advertisements in which he claims his research or the research conducted by his pet food company proves dogs and cats can live 20-25 healthy years and thereby implies that the use of his products lengthens the life expectancies of animals. He admitted, however, that he does not have a dog that has lived 25 years, he did not conduct any actual research other than calling about 30 veterinarians, and he was not referencing animals that had used his products, the Respondent admitted during his conference with the Complaint Panel that this claim is “just an assumption” on his part because he distributes the food throughout the United States. This claim is false or misleading because the Respondent has no actual data or information to support this representation. His claims about animals’ life expectancies, therefore, are false or misleading.
Those documents, again, are:
- Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Stipulation and Order, 17th July 1987
- Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Eric Weisman revocation order
The Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine sued Weisman in 2002; the parties settled the case in 2003 by agreeing an injunction [PDF].
This banned him from, in part:
Engaging in any conduct that constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine …
… making any claim that Defendant’s pet food or other products for animals will treat, prevent, or otherwise affect a disease or condition … unless Defendant has first obtained written authorization from the Food and Drug Administration …
Directly or indirectly representing or implying, in connection with the sale of pet food or any other product or service, that he or any business in which he has an ownership interest has conducted “research,” including, but not limited to, “clinical trials,” “human studies,” “case studies” or “literary research,” that supports claims about the efficacy of the pet food, product or service.
Directly or indirectly representing or implying that that (sic) any animal’s life will improve through the use of Defendant’s pet food or other products …
In 2011, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office brought 58 charges of practicing medicine – on humans and other animals – against Weisman [PDF]. But in February 2012 all of these were dismissed bar three charges of contempt of court [PDF] – to which Weisman plead guilty.
Local media covered the case:
- Jessica Lussenhop, Minneapolis CityPages, “Eric Weisman won’t stop playing doctor”, 2011 Jul 20
- Jessica Lussenhop, Minneapolis CityPages, “Eric Weisman pleads guilty to three misdemeaonor charges in bizarre veterinary medicine case”, 2012 Feb 28
- Sarah Horner, Twin Cities.com, “In Little Canada, probation for ex-chiropracter, satisfaction for city”, 2012 Feb 23
He has also been criticised by blogger SkeptVet.
This is not veterinary advice. It is a radio show with vets.