It burns me to write this post.
It is at odds with my belief of limited government interference. I admit I will sound hypocritical but I will justify my position.
According to the RSPCA approximately 62% of Australian households have pets and it is expected that in the next 12 months a further 13% of Australian households will make a pet part of their family. Long are the days where we see a pet as just a pet, now they are seen as loved family members. Australians are spending approximately $12 billion a year on our pets and this proves that we want the best for our furry friends, in fact we are seeing a trend especially amongst millennials that they are opting to have pets rather than children.
If we are to adopt Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on our pets, you’ll see that both human’s and pets need basic (and psychological) needs.
Billy – the Golden Retriever – still needs food, water, warmth and rest just like his Masters. Billy also needs security and safety and of course interaction with his Masters and other dogs (which can lead to self-fulfilment needs). Unfortunately Billy cannot provide food or water for himself, he relies on his Masters to do this. It is important that pet owners have a full understanding on what they are feeding their pets. This can be rather difficult given that there are many products available and given our busy lifestyles we tend to be lazy, humans are like that when it comes to their own choices. (It’s easier to go to McDonald’s than to cook a meal).
The difference between humans making a choice about their own food options and that of their furry friend is that human food is regulated. There are many regulations on food for humans and often can be punishable under law. For example in Queensland, a local Government shut down a Chinese Restaurant after finding rat urine and droppings in its kitchen. Another example of how food regulation (for humans) has worked well is Heinz ordered to pay $2.25 million after misleading consumers that their product was healthy but in fact contained 60% sugar.
In Australia, pet food is self-regulated through the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA). Pet food companies are not obliged to stick to these standards as they are voluntary. These standards are not made public unless you want to pay $128.19.
Currently there is a parliamentary inquiry into regulatory approaches to ensure safety of pet food. The terms of reference of this inquiry is;
- the uptake, compliance and efficacy of the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing & Marketing of Pet Food (AS5812:2017);
- the labelling and nutritional requirements for domestically manufactured pet food;
- the management, efficacy and promotion of the AVA-PFIAA administered PetFAST tracking system;
- the feasibility of an independent body to regulate pet food standards, or an extension of Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s remit;
- the voluntary and/or mandatory recall framework of pet food products;
- the interaction of state, territory and federal legislation;
- comparisons with international approaches to the regulation of pet food; and
- any other related matters
As a free market, free enterprise kind of guy I should be against these regulations because it will put a burden on business, rise up the cost of the product and possibly cost jobs.
In 2008-2009 only 4,543 people were employed in Australia within the Animal and Bird food manufacturing industry. This would hardly make a blip in the economy if regulation were to be implemented and jobs were lost.
As already mentioned earlier, households are choosing to spend more on their furry friend, therefore if the cost of the product increases most households would accommodate this as Billy – the Golden Retriever – is a family member.
Even under a regulatory framework, competition would still be available and it will provide the consumer greater options when deciding what food to buy for their pet therefore pet food companies would be forced by the free market to be better than their competitors.
It’s a win-win!
Overall I generally do not support regulation but when it comes to pets that’s a different story. Pets trust us to make sure we make the right choice when it comes to feeding time. The pet food industry is a self-regulated industry which have standards that are only made available if you pay money to receive it. This alone is ludicrous and proves that the industry is a closed shop. By regulating this industry, you open it up to scrutiny, it provides greater choice to consumers, increases competition, which in return makes the product better. Whilst I sound hypocritical when it comes to regulation the difference here is that animals don’t have a choice when it comes to food. We do!