Corporate Charity: When Bloggers Unite, Who Really Benefits?

by Mary Haight on September 26, 2010

Money
Image by TW Collins via Flickr

Editorial

There was a rash of bloggers who broke out in unison to blog about Pedigree. For each blog the company Foundation would provide one 20# bag of food to an animal shelter up to a pre-determined limit.  This is well meaning, something that makes people feel good that they are doing something to help and that is laudable.  Yet thinking about it, this is what I see.

1 bag of food, specialty or not, isn’t going to be very useful for most shelters, unless of course they are already feeding that particular food to a couple of their residents. If a shelter needs 1 bag of food, they should transfer their animals and close their doors. Better perhaps to concentrate such a gift across a handful of shelters in an impoverished area. That can make a measurable difference in lives. Just a thought.

Everyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows I have issues with commercial feeds.  “Adequate” nutrition is a phrase used by many vets to describe commercial kibble.  Is this what we want for our dogs–just adequate?  But then, here’s a litte background of why I think it’s important to speak up now.

Diseased, dying, downed and dead animals(4Ds) are rendered into pet food. The government requires that 4D meat be denatured at the slaughterhouse – a chemical wash of toxics used to prevent the meat from being marketed. The FDA recently reported that while no DNA of euthanized pets have been found during testing, euthanasia drugs have been found in pet food. These drugs cannot be burned off during the heating process.  There are laws against including any diseased/euthanized animals in pet food, but the FDA looks the other way. The link here lends a possible answer to why laws are not being enforced.

I would love to see the same enthusiasm from a rash of bloggers break out asking major pet food companies to change their practices, stop accepting and test rendered product for the “4Ds” showing the test results and batch number on each bag; send emails to their reps asking that current laws be enforced. Such changes would be a service to a large part of the pet owning population who can’t spend more than supermarket prices for their pet’s food. Never mind that it’s right thing to do for any pet food company that wants to get ahead of the curve, and really give our pets what they deserve. There may be a lot of points we can argue about food, but this should not be one of them. And now I’ll toss out one more thing I need to ask.

Some of the participants who wrote blogs for Pedigree were also sponsored by them to attend the Blogpaws conference.  Accepting sponsorship carries with it at least a subliminal if not overt need for reciprocity. Maybe some focused on the adoption drive commercials to change the tune, but that series would have been aired without pet bloggers’ participation. Would all the bloggers who blogged for Pedigree feed it to their dogs?  If I’m missing something, let me know.

(In case you’re thinking sour grapes or something, Iams did offer me a full sponsorship, which was a very nice offer I had to refuse for other reasons. As much as I wanted to go, I don’t know that I could have accepted had I been free to because that principal of reciprocity is tough to get around. Money changes everything. Well, and in my case. the term “hypocrite” also came to mind!)

If nothing else, it’s good for us all to examine our motivations and the value of the end result when joining, or not, a charitable group effort.  How do you see this?

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38 comments
thatjenk
thatjenk

Well put. This was how I saw it in the first instance. While I did write a blog, the intent was to shed light on the issue at large - and hopefully create a little doubt in what seemed to be unwaivering support for pedigree. My original link below, you know, in case anyone is so inclined. I would be thrilled to blog (again) in favour of a better company or against the awful ones. http://backalleysoapbox.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/...

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

OMD - a person after my own heart!! Wow - people really say things like "if it weren't for Pedigree" the shelters would have nothing? What kind of crazy talk is that? Mary Doane (@turtlelady81) also mentioned getting behind a drive more in line with our values - and here it is! We all know the big pet food companies have all the money and market share, but the food companies who put out an excellent product can sure use bloggers help to increase market share. If all these types of companies banded together, they could probably even support sponsorship of things like BlogPaws and more. Thanks so much for speaking up here Kim. I agree it's a good idea to start using our collective to bring better results for shelter dogs and cats especially re food. I look forward to the BTC4Animals call to action.

Kim Clune
Kim Clune

If Pedigree cared about dogs, they'd make better food. Period. This is about super charging their identity using the help of gullible yet trusted bloggers (myself included - until I looked deeper). The plan was brilliant. I give them that. Spending a drop in the marketing bucket, Pedigree bought the good will of 375 bloggers, all their readers and a boost in positive search engine results that reached millions. Each person, beyond the original 9, spread the word about how generous and compassionate Pedigree is - FOR FREE. What better way to clear your name of all those reports about sick dogs than to have trusted bloggers say, "Wow. Look what this great company is doing!" This was never about donations. And I'm so tired of hearing that if it weren't for Pedigree these shelter dogs would have nothing. Shelters won't fail or succeed based on a few bags of food from Pedigree. Our local rescue feeds food with higher nutritional value and would have to downgrade to accept this kind of donation. How is that helping already nutritionally compromised dogs off the streets like Jackson, the emaciated Shepherd taken in just last weekend with ribs that stick out past his flesh? CALLING ALL BLOGGERS: The blogging community has power. This is why we were sought out by Pedigree. Let's take that power into our own hands. Let's take a stand and vote to support a company we believe in - nutritionally and ethically. Let's approach this company and say, "We can spread your message if you support animals in need. This marketing plan is proven to work. We've seen it. We've done it. Let us do it for you - if you agree to help animals in return." BtC4animals.com can launch a central Linky and everybody can take part. I've already contacted the http://www.ilovealldogs.org/ campaign (buy for one, care for two) - which is one I can firmly stand behind. They'll be hosted on http://BtC4animals.com next Monday. Maybe, if we bloggers collectively take a stand, we can do more to push their nutritionally superior food drive for shelter pets. Maybe we can choose a company that supplies food to both dogs and cats. Whatever we decide, it's time we claim our power and use it to support animals who deserve far better. But first we have to recognize that we have that power. It's time we open our eyes and stop waiting to get noticed. We are noticed. It's time we're valued.

Jana Rade
Jana Rade

Interesting you should write this. I was sitting on this idea with hesitation and felt rather conflicted. At the end I did not blog it.

Mary
Mary

I sat this one out as well, for the reasons that have been mentioned. I'm extremely angry about the way that mega-corporations try to control not only the food we eat but also what we feed our companion animals. Companies like Monsanto, who, from what I can see, own the food industry "lock stock and barrel." The first five ingredients of Pedigree dog food are Ground Yellow Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal. So, to me, Pedigree and Monsanto must be pretty good buddies. And by the way... what the hell is "Chicken By-Product Meal?" The stuff that's scraped off the slaughter house floor at the end of the day? I simply can't write a blog post to support that. Even if it's food to sustain shelter dogs. The whole thing stinks of corporate greed disguised as philanthropy. I would encourage all of us to look for better alternatives and support them. Yes! Write blog posts! Feed dogs! Raise money! Create awareness! But stick to a company whose practices are more in line with your values.

@Gooddogz
@Gooddogz

I didn't blog this for various reasons that I decided to keep to myself. There was a time when it made me a bit angry but after running it by a few attendees, I decided to let it go. My local shelters won't even feed Pedigree for free because it makes the dogs sick!!!! My local shelters have a lot of community support and I decided that if a shelter that could use it received it, then, I would keep my hands off the key board on this one. The thing that made me the angriest was that it was after a all just one big marketing campaign disguised at goodness.

Anthony Holloway
Anthony Holloway

As in most issues this is not simple. And I am conflicted. I do not think Pedigree is doing anything inherently wrong. Further no blogger should feel guilty for participating. We all know the food is not very good good but I seriously doubt a hungry dog would object. Pedigree could have done more, executed the program better.... However they are doing something to help feed hungry dogs and raise awareness about the plight of shelter dogs. Whatever food they donate is more than these shelters had. I think the recipient shelters will be happy to get the food. One further point about corporate philanthropy. I have made substantial donations to shelters across the country. I have always done this, for the most part, anonymously. I did not want there to be any confusion about the intentions of the donations. K9 Cuisine was recently criticized for not being more open and public about these donations. The reasons stated was k9 Cuisine could raise more awareness, do more good, feed more dogs, and do more for the cause if we were getting as much press as possible about the donations. There is a part of me that agrees.

kim
kim

I ran a no-kill shelter for about two years. I know first hand how much of a struggle it is cost wise. However, I was adamant about all the animals having good nutrition - as far as I was concerned, they deserved the BEST in every way while they were living there. Even if it came out of my own pocket, they would eat well in addition to play well. Pedigree is definitely not a food I would give my own dogs so I'm certainly not going to feed that type of food to dogs who are experiencing stress of being in a shelter. I'm sure that most of the people that participated in Pedigree's campaign were just trying to do something good and I sure hope that it did get some people to look at shelters for pet adoption. But, there is no doubt that the company was the one that made out in a much bigger way and sadly, that was their prime motivation.

Stephanie Feldstein
Stephanie Feldstein

It's definitely worth thinking about what's in it for the company, and everyone should have boundaries as far as what they're willing to support, but corporate payoff doesn't always trump what's in it for the dogs (or any other similar charitable campaign). I don't know anyone who participated in this who decided to switch their dog to Pedigree. I don't know anyone who read one of these posts and ran out to buy a bag of Pedigree either. I do know people who raised awareness about shelters and adoption, and who felt like their voice made a small difference, which can only lead to bigger and better advocacy. And, while one bag of food may not do most shelters any good, a lot of shelters are running food banks now, and that bag of food can make the difference between someone who is unemployed turning in their dog because they can't feed her, or allowing them to buy more time. The campaign wasn't perfect and the "humanewashing" wasn't subtle, but did Pedigree really get more out of it than the dogs? "I would love to see the same enthusiasm from a rash of bloggers break out asking major pet food companies to change their practices, stop accepting and test rendered product for the “4Ds” showing the test results and batch number on each bag; send emails to their reps asking that current laws be enforced. " Keep in mind that, for the bloggers, this was about adoption and shelter animals, not the food. In the BlogPaws community, many more people went on to participate in Adopt a Less Adoptable Shelter Pet week, promoting pet adoption and raising money (yes, from corporate sponsors) to benefit Blind Cat Rescue and Grey Muzzle. They also participated a few months ago in donating more food to shelters than Pedigree did on their behalf. Food issues would certainly be a worthy campaign ... this just wasn't it. There are pet food companies that make much higher quality products and do nothing for shelter animals. Should it be a matter of choosing one over the other - quality over charity - or should we encourage charitable corporate cultures while also advocating for better practices?

veryvizsla
veryvizsla

well Mary, You took the words right out of my mouth. Nobody does anything for free, big corporations or individuals. The sole purpose of this blog challenge was to reinforce the Pedigree brand with feel good messages about adopting dogs and making Pedigree look like "good guys' for donating dog food. Donating 250+ bags of dog food is a *very* small price to pay for the huge advertising exposure that they got. I had mixed feelings about participating. On one hand, Pedigree does use their marketing might for good by drawing attention to the plight of animals in shelters. But the other side of it is that their messages of adoption always feel like one giant ad for the dog food. So why did I choose to blog about it? Some help is better than no help. Somebody might see one of their ads and adopt a shelter pet instead of getting a new puppy.

Sue
Sue

I just won't feed a shelter dog anything that I wont feed my own dogs, because , HEY, That shelter dog could be mine next week-unless Hubby has a say in it..LOL! But to be serious and to the point....A dog is a dog is a dog to many folks, but proper nutrition is a key ingredient to making a dog into a GREAT dog, so WHY would any responsible person want to feed optimum nutrition when there are so many more than optimum choices? Because it makes them feel good! BUT for a moment lets think about what makes the dog feel good? Yes, for some shelter dogs, just a meal is a big deal, but, imagine a fine dinning experience-shouldn't they at least have THAT before they go to the euthanasia room? Sadly most will,regardless of what we feed them. I want my two cents to help give THAT dog the very best, as well as, offering the cute and desirable puppy in the next kennel the very best chance at a healthy life.

EdieJ
EdieJ

Hear, hear Mary! I participated in the Pedigree blogging campaign because of guilt about dissing the philanthropic urges of BlogPaws and I even defended it on LinkedIn under the aegis of "some food is better than no food," but your analysis makes me realize I was wrong on both counts (well, the guilt is nothing I can easily eliminate but at least I can channel it towards actual good causes rather than bogus good causes).

Mel
Mel

I really struggled with this one too Mary. I wanted to help, but as mentioned by others above, I would never feed this food to my own dogs. So, I decided to focus on the adoption drive campaign. Yes, people could see this on TV or YouTube, but I thought since pet adoption is my "thing" I could focus on that. Rod makes some great points about the PR factor. I thought about that too and it bothered me. Was I just a willing cog in their PR machine? Probably. I regret that. Did I continue to promote what I believe in (i.e., pet adoption)? Yes. But there are other ways to do that. Your post makes a lot of great points. It should make all of us take a second look at who and what we stand for. In my view, for some people, it's not a black and white issue, but for al of us, it is about being consistent in who and what we stand for as bloggers. Great points. Good food for thought.

somethingwagging
somethingwagging

Thank you for considering this issue. I also didn't participate for many of the reasons you cited. I believe mega-corporations are getting a free ride in this country. I don't believe a company that provides a substandard product through a system that damages our environment and economy deserves the grassroots support it got through this blogging campaign. That said, I don't blame any bloggers who participated. It was well-intentioned. But I hope this post opens up some discussions on this topic.

Rod@GoPetFriendly
Rod@GoPetFriendly

We did not participate in the blog for food campaign. I think I experienced a small twinge of guilt - this is something I SHOULD do. In the end, I didn't WANT to do it, so I didn't. Why? Because I wouldn't feed Pedigree to your dog, much less mine. And it was a calculated move. The cost of the food that Pedigree is, obviously, much lower than the retail price - so it cost Pedigree very little. But I imagine that the PR generated by all the bloggers more than offset the cost. Pedigree could have just as easily donated that "predetermined" amount on its own - without blogger support - but it wouldn't the donation wouldn't have gotten nearly the mileage as it did with everyone blogging about it and tweeting about blogging about it.

egoebelbecker
egoebelbecker

I had mixed feelings about participating in the Pedigree campaign too. One the one hand it's Pedigree which, let's just say is not a food I would give my dogs. On the other hand, most shelters can't afford what I feed my dog. On the third hand, it was a big corporation helping and bringing attention to shelters and shelter pets. I felt good about bringing attention to that. I would love to participate in a campaign to push the FDA and/or the pet food companies to raise the standards for pet food. Count me in.

KenzoHW
KenzoHW

It didn't felt right when I blogged "for a bag of food". Whats the harm, at least shelters safe some money on food. Lets give it my 10 cents. Wrong. It is change, but hardly sustainable. And therefore doesn't contibute to any higher end. Thank you for giving a voice to my conscience. I will have to do better next time.

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  1. […] I feel used, angry and I am not alone. Read the comments at Dancing Dog Blog’s article, Corporate Charity: When Bloggers Unite, Who Really Benefits? […]

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