The dogs appeared content within their temperature-controlled environment, where the lights go on at 6 every morning and off at 8 every evening, where regulated supplies of air enter and exit the ventilation system, where they can play with their toys and listen to AM radio all day. Fahey said that the kennels exceeded federal guidelines for size and that the lab assistants took the dogs outside twice a week to exercise, romp and catch some rays. “If you had this much money spent on you, you’d be happy, too,” he said.
“They’re spoiled brats,” the lab technician said.
Of course, the installation of plastic plumbing into a living hound did not seem much like spoiling. And in fact there was another way — a more precise way — to determine how much energy a dog or a cat had acquired from its food. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a research method called “total carcass analysis,” which, as the name implies, required the animal to be dead. “You need to have a darned good reason to do a terminal case,” Fahey said to me earlier. “It’s too expensive.” And it is not for the squeamish. “It’s a helluva job,” he said. “You have to grind, you have to sieve, you have to grind again. It’s a good technique, but it’s very labor-intensive.” I cringed.
Now Fahey pointed to the spout sticking out of Wiggles’s side. “There,” he said. “You see the cannula.”
The plugs did not seem to irritate the dogs. “If it is put in correctly, it becomes part of them,” he said. “It heals very nicely, and becomes a part of their anatomy.” The ports must be opened and inspected at least once a week and flushed at least once a month, and when Fahey or his colleagues collect samples they simply unplug a stopper, attach a plastic bag and let the dogs run around, which pushes out the digesta.
And now the why:
The reason Fahey has spent his scientific career investigating all manner of starch, carbohydrate and fiber, the reason he has put tubes inside dogs to analyze what they have digested before they have finished digesting it — that reason suddenly became clear: George Fahey has been confronting the myriad challenges of controlling canine bowel movements. Premium dog foods contain at least 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, he said. “Do we need to feed that much? No. But this way, you have a total tract digestibility of 88 percent, which is good if you don’t want that dog to go in your house when you’re out for the day. A corn-soy diet can’t do that. The dog can’t hold it.”
So, dogs are kept in a basement, denied fresh air and the sun, permanently attached to tubes and fed all manner of concoctions, all for the sake of producing a dog food that is relatively nutritious, palatable and most importantly, produces less waste. These scientists don't grind them up to test the results only because it's too labor-intensive and (presumably) expensive. One could argue that the animals are at least happy. That's debatable, but treating animals in the manner they deserve involves not only restraining from inflicting pain and torture on them, but also from inflicting insults to their dignity as creatures of this Earth.
It is the incoherency of our approach towards animals that produces circumstances like these. It's not only that we value our pets more than other animals that aren't our pets, it's that we value pets to the extent that we clothe them and carry them around with us while other animals which could just as easily be kept as pets wander in the streets to starve, be run over by cars, tortured or otherwise killed in the millions each year as nuisances. This is not an argument for treating all animals equally bad; it's an argument to treat all animals as worthy co-occupants of our planet, not toys for our amusement, wasteful distractions, pests, or worse, completely irrelevant to our human concerns.