Valuing Dogs Markets And Commodities

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Like a 1950s TV show, companion-animal worlds are all about family. If European and American bourgeois families were among the products of nineteenth-century capital accumulation, the human-animal compan-ionate family is a key indicator for today's lively capital practices. That nineteenth-century family invented middle-class pet keeping, but what a pale shadow of today's doings that was! Kin and brand are tied in productive embrace as never before. In 2006, about 69 million U.S. households (63 percent of all households) had pets, giving homes to about 73.9 million dogs, 90.5 million cats, 16.6 million birds, and many other crit-ters.4 As an online report on the pet food and supplies market from MindBranch, Inc., for 2004 stated,"In the past, people may have said their pet 'is like a member of the family,' but during 1998-2003 this attitude has strengthened, at least in terms of money spent on food with quality ingredients, toys, supplies, services, and healthcare."5 The consumer habits of families have long been the locus for critical theory's efforts to understand the category formations that shape social beings (such as gender, race, and class). Companion-species kin patterns of consumerism should be a rich place to get at the relations that shape emergent subjects, not all of whom are people, in lively capital's naturecultures. Properly mutated, the classics, such as gender, race, and class, hardly disappear in this world— far from it; but the most interesting emergent categories of relational-ity are going to have to acquire some new names, and not just for the dogs and cats.

The global companion-animal industry is big, and the United States is a major player. I know this because I have dogs and cats who live in the style in which my whole post-Lassie generation and I have become indoctrinated. Like any scholar, however, I tried to get some hard figures to go with the coming examples. The Business Communications Company publishes an annual analysis of market opportunities and segments, company fortunes, rates of expansion or contraction, and other such data dear to the hearts of investors. So for the first draft of this chapter I tried to consult The Pet Industry: Accessories, Products, and Services for 2004 online. Indeed, I could have downloaded any of the alluring chapters, but all of them are proprietary, and so to peek is to pay. To obtain access to the whole package would have cost me over five thousand dollars, a nice piece of evidence all by itself for my assertion in the first sentence of this paragraph. An alternative data source, Global Information, Inc. (the self-described online "vertical markets research portal"), offers twenty-four-hour, five-day-per-week updates for pet marketers on forecasts, shares, R&D, sales and marketing, and competitive analysis. Ignore these services at your peril.

In the end, I settled for training-sized statistical tidbits from Business Communications and from the 2006 free summaries on the Web site of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc.6 In the United States alone in 2006, pet owners spent about $38.4 billion overall on companion animals, compared with $21 billion in 1996 (constant dollars). The global figure for pet food and pet care products for 2002 was U.S.$46 billion, which is an inflation-adjusted increase of 8 percent over the period 1998-2002. The inflation-adjusted growth rate for 2003 alone was 3.4 percent, driven, we are told, by pet owners' demand for premium foods and supplies.

Consider just pet food. ICON Group International published a world market report in February 2004. The report was written for "strategic planners, international executives and import/export managers who are concerned with the market for dog and cat food for retail sale." The point was that "with the globalization of the market, managers can no longer be contented with a local view." Thus, the report paid special attention to which countries supply dog and cat food for retail sale, what the dollar value of the imports is, how market shares are apportioned country by country, which countries are the biggest buyers, how regional markets are evolving, and so how managers might prioritize their marketing strategies. Over 150 countries are analyzed, and the report makes clear that its figures are estimates of potential that can be drastically altered by such things as "'mad cow' disease, foot-and-mouth disease, trade embargoes, labor disputes, military conflicts, acts of terrorism, and other events that will certainly affect the actual trade flows."7 Indeed. Nonetheless, the report neglected to state the underlying obvious fact: industrial pet food is a strong link in the multispecies chain of global factory farming.

The News York Times for Sunday, November 30, 2003, is my source for the $12.5 billion figure for the size of the 2003 pet food market in the United States ($15 billion in 2006). I did not know how to think about the size of that sum until I read another New York Times story (December 2, 2003) telling me that in 2003 the human cholesterol-lowering statin market was worth $12.5 billion to the pharmaceutical industry. How much human blood-lipid control is worth how many dog dinners? I'd throw away my Lipitor before I shorted my dogs and cats. Marx told us how the purely objective nature of exchange value obviates the trouble springing from such use-value comparisons. He also told us how such things as statins and premium dog food become historically situated bodily needs. For my taste, he didn't pay nearly enough attention to which needy bodies in the multispecies web link slaughter labor, chicken cages, pet dinners, human medicine, and much more.

I cannot now forget these things as I decide how to evaluate both the latest niche-marketed dog food purported to maximize the sports performance of my agility dog and the difference between her nutritional needs and those of my older but still active pooch. A large and growing portion of pet food products addresses specific conditions, such as joint and urinary tract health, tartar control, obesity, physiological demands, age-related needs, and so on. I cannot go to an agility meet to run with my dog without tripping over brochures and booths for natural foods, scientifically formulated foods, immune-function enhancing foods, foods containing homemade ingredients, foods for doggy vegans, raw organic foods that would not please vegans at all, freeze-dried carrot-fortified foods, food-delivery devices to help out dogs who are alone too much, and on and on. Indeed, diets are like drugs in this nutritional ecology, and creating demand for ""treatment" is crucial to market success. Besides diets, I feel obligated to investigate and buy all the appropriate supplements that ride the wavering line between foods and drugs (chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate or omega-3 fatty acid-rich flaxseed oil, for example). Dogs in capitalist technoculture have acquired the ""right to health," and the economic (as well as legal) implications are legion.

Food is not the whole story. The Business Communications Company stressed the growth occurring in all segments of the companion-animal industry, with rich opportunities for existing players and new entrants. Health is a giant component of this diversifying doggy version of lively capital. Small-animal veterinarians are well aware of this fact as they struggle to incorporate the latest (very expensive) diagnostic and treatment equipment into a small practice in order to remain competitive. A special study done in 1998 revealed that vets' income was not growing at the rate of comparable professionals, because they did not know how to adjust their fees to the rapidly expanding services they routinely offer.8 My family's credit card records tell me that at least one of the vet practices we frequent got the point in spades. In 2006, people in the United States spent about $9.4 billion for vet care for pets. As a reality check, I turned to the "World Animal Health Markets to 2010," a report that profiles animal health markets in fifteen countries, accounting for 80 percent of the world share.9 The conclusion: in the affluent parts of the globe, the pet health market is robust and growing.

Consider a few figures and stories. Mary Battiata wrote a feature article for the Washington Post in August 2004; it followed her search for a diagnosis for her aging family member, her beloved mutt, Bear, who showed troubling neurological symptoms. After the first sick visit to the vet cost nine hundred dollars, she began to understand her situation. She was referred to Washington, D.C.'s Iams Pet Imaging Center for an MRI. Or rather, Bear was referred, and his guardian-owner, Mary, wrestled with the ethical, political, affectional, and economic dilemmas. How does a companion animal's human make judgments about the right time to let her dog die or, indeed, to kill her dog? How much care is too much? Is the issue quality of life? Money? Pain? Whose? Does paying fourteen hundred dollars for an MRI for Bear add to the world's injustice, or is the comparison between what it costs to run decent public schools or to repair wetlands and what it costs for Bear's diagnosis and treatment the wrong comparison? What about the comparison between people who love their pet kin and can afford an MRI and people who love their pet kin and can't afford annual vet exams, good training education, and the latest tick and flea products, much less hospice care (now available in a few places for dogs and cats)? What comparisons are the right ones in the regime of lively capital?

Other high-end treatments now available for pets include kidney transplants, cancer chemotherapy, and titanium joint-replacement surgeries. The University of California at Davis recently opened an up-to-the-minute treatment and research hospital for companion animals with the kind of cancer care expected in the best human medical centers. New veterinary drugs—and human drugs redirected to companion animals— emphasize pain relief and behavior modification, matters that hardly appeared on the radar screens of Lassie's people but involve serious money and serious ethical dilemmas today. In addition, vets in training today take courses in the human-animal bond, and this diversifying region of the affectional family economy is as richly commodified and socially stratified as is any other family-making practice, say, for example, assisted reproduction for making human babies and parents.10

Pet health insurance has become common, as is malpractice insurance for vets, partly fueled by the success of court arguments that companion animals cannot be valued as ordinary property. "Replacement value" for a companion dog is not the market price of the animal. Neither is the dog the same as a child nor an aged parent. In case we missed the point in all the other aspects of daily life, efforts both to establish money damages and to pay the bills for our companions tell us that parent-child, guardian-ward, and owner-property are all lousy terms for the sorts of multispecies relationships emerging among us. The categories need a makeover.

Besides vets, other sorts of health professionals have also emerged to meet companion-animal needs. I get regular professional adjustments for my Australian shepherd sports partner, Cayenne, from Ziji Scott, an animal chiropractic-certified practitioner with magic hands. No one could convince me that this practice reflects bourgeois decadence at the expense of my other obligations. Some relationships are zero sum games, and some are not. But a central fact shapes the whole question: rights to health and family-making practices are heavily capitalized and stratified, for dogs as well as for their humans.

Beyond the domains of dog medical services, nutrition, or pedagogical offerings, canine consumer culture of another sort seems truly boundless. Consider vacation packages, adventure trips, camp experiences, cruises, holiday clothing, toys of all kinds, day care services, designer beds and other animal-adapted furniture, doggy sleeping bags and special tents and backpacks, and published guides to all of the above. On September 24, 2004, the New York Times ran ads for dog shopping that featured a $225 raincoat and $114 designer collar. Toy dogs as fashion accessories to the wealthy and famous are a common newspaper topic and a serious worry for those who think those dogs have doggish needs.11 The American Kennel and Boarding Association in 2006 reported that the significant industry growth is in the high-end pet lodgings, such as the new San Francisco hotel, Wag, which charges eighty-five dollars per night and offers massage, facials, and swimming pools. Webcam TV for traveling humans to watch their pets in real time in communal play areas is standard at San Francisco's middle-of-the-market forty-dollar-a-night Fog City Dogs Lodge.12 For those whose commodity preferences are more bookish, look at the companion-animal print culture. Besides a huge companion-species book market in categories from anthropology to zoology and the whole alphabet in between, two new general-audience magazines make my point. Bark is a Berkeley, California, dog literary, arts, and culture rag that I read avidly, and not just because it favorably reviewed my Companion Species Manifesto. The East Coast finally faced its responsibilities in this market segment, and so, with articles on such matters as how to win a dog custody battle and where to find the best ten places to walk with your dog in Manhattan, the New York Dog appeared in November-December 2004, aiming to rival Vogue and Cosmopolitan for glossy values.13 And all of this hardly touches the media markets crucial to hunting with dogs, playing dog-human sports, working with dogs in volunteer search and rescue, and much more. It seems to me that it is all too easy in dogland to forget that resistance to human exceptionalism requires resistance to humanization of our partners. Furry, market-weary, rights bearers deserve a break.

Enough, or rather, almost enough; after all, in lively capital markets "value-added" dogs aren't just familial co-consumers (or coworkers, for which you must go to the next section of this chapter). In the flesh and in the sign, dogs are commodities, and commodities of a type central to the history of capitalism, especially of technoscientifically saturated agribusiness. Here I will consider only kennel-club registered "purebred" dogs, even though those surely aren't the canines that come first to mind in connection with the term agribusiness, no matter how much pedigree-packing dogs return us to crucial nineteenth-century economic and cultural innovations rooted in the biosocial body. In Bred for Perfection, Margaret Derry explains that the public data keeping of lineage (the written, standardized, and guaranteed pedigree) is the innovation that fostered international trade in both livestock such as sheep and cattle and fancy stock such as show dogs and chickens.14 And, I might add, race- and family-making stock. Institutionally recorded purity of descent, emphasizing both inbreeding and male lines that made female reproductive labor all but invisible, was the issue. The state, private corporations, research institutions, and clubs all played their roles in moving practices for controlling animal reproduction from pockets of memory and local endeavors of both elites and working people to rationalized national and international markets tied to registries. The breeding system that evolved with the data-keeping system was called scientific breeding, and in myriad ways this paper-plus-flesh system is behind the histories of eugenics and genetics, as well as other sciences (and politics) of animal and human reproduction.

Dog breeds, not variously differentiated and stabilized kinds, but breeds with written pedigrees, were one result. Across continents, dogs with those credentials could command very nice prices as well as fuel amazing practices of heritage invention, standards writing and maintenance, sales contract development, germ plasm trading, health surveillance and activism, reproductive-technology innovation, and the passionate commitment of individuals, groups, and even whole nations.15

The proliferation of dog breeds and their movement into every social class and geographical region of the world are part of the story. Many breeds have been specifically produced for the pet market, some quite new, such as the cross of Borzois and long-haired whippets to make the little sight hound called the silken windhound. Witness today's explosion in toy breeds and teacup breeds as fashion accessories (and too often, medical disasters). Or the popularity of the puppy mill-produced dogs because they carry an AKC purebred dog pedigree. Or, as I move away from outrage to love affair, I am reminded both of the knowledgeable, talented, self-critical dog people whom I have met in performance dog worlds, as well as in conformation show dog scenes, and of their accomplished, beautiful dogs. And of my dogs, including Roland, the one with the fraudulent (that chow chow dad) AKC Australian shepherd registration, acquired so that he can play agility in their sandbox, as long as he is reproductively sterilized.

But is he necessarily reproductively silenced? What happens when pedigree, or lack of it, meets petri dish? Consider the Dolly technique so insightfully written about by Sarah Franklin in Dolly Mixtures. Dolly the pedigreed sheep might have been the first mammal who was the fruit of somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning, but she was at the head of a growing parade of critters. By tracing the many biosocial threads in Dolly's genealogy across continents, markets, species, sciences, and narratives, Franklin argues that emergent ways of fleshly becoming are at the heart of biocapital, both as commodities and as modes of production.16 Franklin maintains that breedwealth was the crucial new kind of reproductive wealth in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and control over the reproduction (or generation by other means) of plants and animals (and, to varying degrees, people) is fundamental to contemporary biocap-ital's promises and threats. The traffic between industrialized agriculture and scientific medicine for people and animals is especially thick in Dolly mixtures and spillovers. Current innovations and controversies in stem cell research and therapeutic as well as reproductive cloning are at the heart of the transnational, transspecific action.

Stem cells and dogs take us inevitably to Hwang Woo-Suk and Seoul National University. The international scandal surrounding Hwang's announcement in Science magazine in 2004 and 2005 of achieving the globalized biomedical grail of human embryonic stem cell clones and the subsequent revelation in December 2005 of fabricated data, bioethics violations in egg donation, and possible embezzlement have a more authentic canine backstory that only makes sense in light of Dolly Mixtures. In the United States, the well-hyped dog-cloning Missyplicity Project was directed to the affectional commodity pet market.17 Not so the biomedical dog-cloning efforts of Hwang and his nine South Korean associates, plus Gerald Schatten, a stem cell researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, who announced Snuppy, an Afghan hound puppy cloned with the Dolly technique, in August 2005.18 Snuppy is a biotechnical splice to his core, his name fabricated of S(eoul) N(ational) U(niversity) and (pu)ppy. Hwang's research career must be understood in the context of agribusiness animal research moved to human biomedicine. His professorship is in the Department of Theriogenology and Biotechnology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University. Before Snuppy, Hwang reported a cloned dairy cow in 1999, and he was widely regarded as a world leader in the field. A great deal about Hwang's dramatic rise and fall is not clear, but what is clear is the thick cross-species travel between agribusiness research and human biomedicine often obscured in the U.S. "ethical" debates over human stem cell technologies and imagined therapies or reproductive marvels.

Pricey U.S. dog cryopreservation services, university-private company collaborations for canine-cloning research geared to the pet market, and Korean national efforts to become first in a major area of biomedical research are not the only arias in this lively capital opera. However, even if freezing the cells of my AKC-mutt Roland in anticipation of making a nuclear clone of him could happen only over the dead bodies of my whole polyspecific and polysexual family, these Dolly spillovers, especially Snuppy, do suggest just the right segue to the next section of " Value-Added Dogs."

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Homemade Pet Food Secrets

Homemade Pet Food Secrets

It is a well known fact that homemade food is always a healthier option for pets when compared to the market packed food. The increasing hazards to the health of the pets have made pet owners stick to containment of commercial pet food. The basic fundamentals of health for human beings are applicable for pets also.

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