The highlights from the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society Conference | Gelert Behaviour

It’s taken me over a week to recover from the RFVS conference, which took place in Manchester on Saturday 10th November and sit down and write this. That’s both from being frazzled from organising things and the sheer excitement of connecting with so many interesting and passionate people.

I have to admit to being a little star struck in the company of Ian Billinghurst and Conor Brady. What absolutely lovely, kind, fascinating people they both are, somehow, I hadn’t expected that from such famous names.
The event actually began on Friday evening with the RFVS AGM – not many members attended, which is a shame, but those who were there were passionate in their support of our aims, and had some great ideas for the future, including working out how on earth we can fund some good research to get the sort of evidence vets like in support of raw feeding (whilst we all KNOW it’s a good thing, the veterinary profession, like the medical profession, is increasingly moving towards an evidence based model, so whatever we think of this, we need to conform in order to be taken seriously.)

Dinner followed the AGM, and a rare opportunity for members from all over the world to meet in person. We had delegates from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Eire, Northern Ireland and Japan to my knowledge, and others whose homelands I don’t know, so maybe even more countries were represented. It was really enjoyable to put faces to the names of people I know from our Facebook groups and get to know them a little more.
Saturday morning saw the actual conference, and what a day it was. Thanks to generous support from several manufacturers, we were able to have a really smart printed copy of the proceedings of the day, and lanyards for delegates’ name badges and some very professional pop up banners. Eight of our supporters brought their stands with samples and literature for the delegates, and coffee was served in the area of the stands so everyone had plenty of time to learn about our supporters’ products.

Sadly, Jonathan Self was too poorly to give his presentation, but it was so important that our President, Nick Thompson, stepped in and gave it on Jonathan’s behalf. It was about a food trial carried out in the style of AAFCO, one of the organisations who determine nutritional parameters required by pets, but on raw food and a larger group for a longer time than most studies so far. This is a big step forward, and whilst it was very much acknowledged to be a small beginning, this is truly a fantastic start to “proving” that a raw diet meets nutritional requirements of dogs.

This was followed by Mark Roberts talking about the preferences of dogs in feeding trial – in a nutshell, they didn’t choose carbohydrates! Mark’s extensive research involved offering groups of dogs various foods and monitoring their choices in a very accurate way, and he shared the details with us so no one could be in any doubt that the dogs’ least preferred option was a high carbohydrate diet.

Next was Alex German, who rearranged other commitments to come and speak at our conference, that’s incredibly flattering as he is in great demand. Alex spoke about various models “explaining” obesity and how we should address the problem. Interestingly, few of us who see raw fed patients, see obese patients – that’s not to say it isn’t possible, just much less likely.
Aptly, although this wasn’t the original running order (due to a technical challenge), after lunch we were treated to Conor Brady’s talk. I can honestly say that I have never heard anyone speak so fast, with such passion, and so much information. One of many valuable points in Conor’s talk was that “there is not a single study where dry fed dogs were compared to a control group of dogs (ones fed a biologically appropriate raw meat and bone diet) where dry food fared better”. And I believe him, as he eats, sleeps and breathes nutritional research.

Finally, we heard from Ian Billinghurst about why cancer should be considered a nutritional disease. With Ian’s detailed reminders of physiology learned a very long time ago now, this made complete sense, and is of course as true for ourselves as for our dogs. Truly food for thought. Ian’s book on the subject isn’t easy to obtain in the UK, but he is kindly sending me a bulk order, so if anyone would like a copy, please do let me know.
At the end of the day, all of us were in a strange state of tiredness and excitement from such a stimulating day. Nothing beats sharing time and knowledge with friends and colleagues who share your passion about a subject, and this really was a fantastic day.

May I take this opportunity to thank Cotswold RAW for their support – without them and the other manufacturers who choose to support RFVS, we really couldn’t run such a great day for vets and nurses, so we really are very, very grateful to them all.

If you are interested to learn more yourself, the conference talks will all be available early in December on the RFVS website www.rfvs.info.

Morag