Advertising and Animal Care
At the AVMC, we do not advertise products and we are not supported by advertisers. While this inevitably has a significant negative commercial impact upon us, it enables us to remain independent of manufacturers and not to rely upon sales for our existence. It also means that our advice can be sincere, objective and impartial.
The onslaught of advertising is, of course, a product of the so-called ‘free society’, in which each commercial concern has a right to push his or her own ends. There are some basic controls on advertising, imposed by law, but the ‘spin doctors' of the PR trade are very skilled in pushing out the envelope of truth and reality.
What advertising does is to create a need where, in reality, there is none. It is also used to edge a product into a market area where a manufacturer or sales person sees a commercial opportunity.
In our field, this mainly applies to products such as herbal and other supplements, diets, medications, unatural shampoos and equipment that are pushed on us for the supposed ‘benefit’ of our animals. It can also apply to services and to ‘hardware’, such as saddles and tack. The AVMC counsels due caution when reading advertising literature. The underlying motivation is rarely to help you or to help your animal but to increase sales and therefore profit. Possibly the most dangerous or insidious sort of advertising is the editorial-type, that appears in magazines as if it were written by an independent party, under the guise of ‘information’, whereas it is often supplied to the magazine by the manufacturer.
Medical claims: Medical claims or hints at medical claims, on labels and in literature, should be outlawed by the Medicines Act 1968 unless a proper Product Licence is in place but still loopholes are exploited, giving rise to quasi-legal claims in medical areas.
Dietary claims: Some supplements and diets claim to be a ‘balancer’ or ‘balanced’. These claims are often based on no knowledge of what constitutes a proper ‘balanced' diet and, if it is not known exactly what else is being fed to a particular animal, no such claim is even possible! In most cases, the term is meaningless. One recent extreme example of such hollow but attractive claims in 2010 is: “fully balanced with optimal levels of vitamins and minerals“. I say ‘prove it!
Natural claims: The words ‘natural’ and ‘nature‘ are used to sell products, riding on the wave of current increased ‘green’ awareness. Many poisons are ‘natural’ so the word should not, of itself, impress anyone. The phrase ‘with added herbs’ is used as an emotive seller. Adding a bit of mint to make the product smell nice will satisfy that legal definition but add precious little to the benefit of the product. I have recently seen ‘Nature's Finest‘ on a bag of freeze-dried food. It might have been fine before it was freeze-dried!
Holistic claims: The word ‘holistic' just never used to feature. Now it crops up everywhere, because it is perceived to be a modern buzz-word, that attracts a sector of the market that is desperately trying to find help to restore or to maintain health for their animal companions, whether horse, pony, dog or cat. In many cases, this word has been subjected to so much abuse that it is meaningless when it is attached to many products.
These are just three examples of emotive and often meaningless words, used to exploit our wish to do our best for our animals. Many more spring to mind, such as ‘scientifically formulated’, ‘optimum nutrition’, ‘non-heating’, ‘performance’, ‘nature’, ‘cooling’, ‘meadow’, ‘special’. The words have a feel-good, sales-boosting ring to them. When we are openly cynical about the phraseology of car salesmen and estate agents, why are we so susceptible to similar influence where our animals are concerned?
In general, it is better to have an attitude of healthy scepticism about all this and to seek a truly objective and holistic solution to any situation. This usually means taking everything in the round and having a clear overview of an integrated policy, so that it then ceases to be tempting to dash off at a tangent and spend hard-earned money on tangential initiatives. The pet and horse diet and supplement trade alone is worth multi-millions. Most of it is totally unnecessary, some is irrelevant and some is potentially downright harmful. If confusion arises, seek the advice of someone who has skill and experience in holistic management and who can act impartially as a result of not having a sales motivation. The answers may then become clear.
The AVMC offers this sort of advice to clients, as a routine part of the basic holistic service.