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Ethical Cat Food

Finding ethical and eco friendly cat food: ratings for 29 brands with recommended brands and what to avoid.

We rate the major cat food brands and also smaller eco friendly brands, and also look at vegan cat food, organic options, and the plight of animals that become cat food, including the new trend for insects in food. We also look at the packaging and sustainability claims of cat food brands.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a shopping guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying cat food:

  • Is it nutritionally complete? Look for whether a product is FEDIAF compliant and has the complete nutrition your cat needs.

  • Is it vegan? Vegan cat food is a way to help protect the environment as well as animal rights, and may be suitable if it contains all the nutrients your companion needs.

  • Is it organic? Organic cat food is a good way of avoiding most of the nasty chemicals that many agricultural products are grown with.

Subscribe to see which companies we recommend as Best Buys and why 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying cat food:

  • Does it contain palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to massive deforestation and serious human rights violations. Look for brands that source palm oil sustainably or avoid it completely.

  • Is it packaged in plastic or individual pouches which aren’t recyclable? Avoid single use plastic or non-recyclable packaging, which is highly polluting.

  • Is the meat or fish used low welfare? Industrial animal farming is bad for animals, communities and workers, and the environment.

Subscribe to see which companies to avoid and why

Score table

Updated live from our research database

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Brand Score(out of 100) Ratings Categories

Our Analysis

With nearly 30 brands in the guide, there are a few high-scoring brands for you and your cat to choose from, although perhaps not quite as many options as dog food. Caring for the animals in our lives can be done more ethically, with some companies doing better than others to address their impacts.

We highlight the difference between the top ethically sourced cat food, and the more well-known big brands who generally score poorly.

This guide covers adult cat food, although some of the brands in the score table also sell kitten food as well as supplementary treats. We have included dry and wet food, but not raw meat brands or special diets, though raw meat diets are discussed in the guide.

In the UK 24% of adults share their home with a cat, totalling over 11 million cats,  and the pet food sector is booming, with new brands and different products appearing all the time.

As well as toys, beds, medication, insurance, and many other things, our beloved companions need to eat. But while the furry ones in our homes are often members of the family, this can often come at the expense of other animals, workers, and the environment.

Vegan cat food

Only 46% of people with a cat in the UK felt well informed about diet, according to the 2022 PDSA PAW report. This isn’t surprising, as there is so much conflicting marketing and information out there.

Nutrients needed by cats

In terms of nutrients, the UK’s Pet Food Manufacturers Association says that it is technically possible to feed cats responsibly on a vegan diet if it is nutritionally complete, given advances in technology which mean that “nutrients that were previously only available from animal-based ingredients can now be made synthetically or be sourced from novel ingredients”.

There are a variety of ways to fulfil nutritional requirements from different sources, and the nutritional guidelines for cat food nutrition from FEDIAF (the European Pet Food Industry) are seen as a gold standard.

Cats by nature are carnivores. Because of this, some people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of ‘tampering’ with what is seen as being an intrinsic part of a cat’s nature.

For others, nutrition is what matters most. One of the nutritionally complete vegan brands we rated says on its website,

“To those emphasising that a plant based diet is not natural for cats and dogs, please be reminded that in the wild cats do not hunt for tuna, just like dogs do not hunt for cows. Our aim is to offer our four-legged friends a diet that meets their nutritional needs.”

Evidence of health impacts of vegan cat food

A 2023 systematic evidence review titled, ‘The Impact of Vegan Diets on Indicators of Health in Dogs and Cats’, evaluated all of the research to date.

The researchers concluded, “that there has been limited scientific study on the impact of vegan diets on cat and dog health… However, there is little evidence of adverse effects arising in dogs and cats on vegan diets… Given the lack of large population-based studies, a cautious approach is recommended.”

Ultimately, assessing whether pet food is nutritious and healthy is more important than whether it contains meat or not. Needs may also change across a lifetime and as food sensitivities develop.

Companies at the top of our tables include those who produce vegan products as well as those who do not produce vegan products, so there should be something for everyone in this guide.

FEDIAF compliant cat food brands

According to FEDIAF’s code of good practice for labelling, if cat food is labelled as ‘complete’ then the product should meet all of the nutrients needed when given in the instructed amounts, and the diet does not need to be supplemented. The brands in our guide fell into the following categories:

Are there any vegan cat food companies?

Two high-scoring companies in our guide not only make vegan cat food but are fully vegan.

Ami and Benevo are both vegan companies.

Although Yarrah makes vegan dog food none of its cat food is vegan (and it is not a vegan company).

Animal ingredients in cat food

For some, the conditions of farmed and other food animals will matter rather than avoiding animal products altogether. But the need to drastically reduce consumption and the problems arising from mainstream animal farming is indisputable, with implications for animals (including wild populations), the environment, biodiversity, and human rights.

Buying human-grade meat and fish products for cats is a rising trend, so it’s not only the case of using ‘leftovers’ or parts otherwise not consumed. Even if the majority of cat and dog food products are from ‘leftovers’, buying these (profitable) products still acts to feed the demand for meat and fish and support the livestock industry. According to 2020 figures, 94% of non-human mammal biomass on Earth is terrestrially farmed animals, and 71% of bird biomass is farmed poultry.

Ethical trade-offs

The environmental impacts of global animal farming are well documented, as are the animal welfare consequences. Things become more complex when these two considerations are pitted against each other.

From an environmental perspective, poultry and fish species have a lower climate impact than cows and other ruminants. One of the companies we rated, Scrumbles, said that it only used chicken and fish in its products for this reason. However, meat chickens and aquatic animals are the most intensively farmed and killed groups of animals in terms of numbers, with dire consequences for the lives of those species, as well as human rights issues.

Rings of fish farms in water
Image: Fish farm, Norway, Pexels (Barnabas Davoti)

Aquatic animals in cat food

Many cat food brands include multiple fish species in their products, and when compared to land animals, consuming aquatic species is often seen as better in terms of the environment and as a healthy option. But at what cost?

Alarmingly, a 2021 review about the global animal welfare risks in aquaculture found that only 30% of species used in aquaculture have known information regarding welfare needs, with 20 times the number of species used in aquaculture compared to farmed land animals (around 408 aquatic species). As aquatic animals are only reported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in tonnes, it was calculated that this represents 250 to 408 billion animals. This only includes those who are farmed – there are also the animals fished from the wild.

Certifications for fish

Several brands in the guide offer Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified fish products, including Yarrah, Scrumbles, and Sheba.

A 2023 report from a three year project by Human Rights at Sea which investigated international certifications across fisheries and aquaculture found that MSC and ASC both scored 0 out of 16 criteria for human rights (with the exception of ASC’s seaweed and feed standards). Neither certification includes any criteria for animal welfare, either.

Although certifications are usually better than nothing, with no protections for human rights or for aquatic animal welfare in these certifications, MSC and ASC aren’t particularly ethical.

Wild caught versus farmed aquatics

It’s not straightforward comparing the ethics of farmed versus wild caught aquatic animals, as both come with many very ethically troubling issues.

Farmed aquatic animals are excluded from many animal welfare protections including at killing, where the mandatory CCTV legislation for slaughterhouses does not require CCTV to be installed in farmed fish slaughter premises. Soil Association organic fish and aquaculture standards, which are considered to be high welfare standards, do not include mandatory parameters for transporting and killing aquatic species, only recommendations. Despite the vast numbers of animals killed, research on reliable and efficient killing methods for fishes as well as other aquatic species is still under development.

Although left in peace for more time, the way in which wild caught animals are commercially extracted, captured, and killed, in the words of one researcher, involves suffering in a “vast range of violent and painful ways”. Capture, crowding, removal from water, and crushing is an acutely stressful chain of events for wild fishes. Some of the most commonly used methods of killing include mass death through suffocation on ice or in air.

To find out more, the fishcount website and the Human Slaughter Association’s website have useful resources about some of the issues faced by fishes, and what better standards look like. Compassion in World Farming also has several information sheets about some of the main welfare challenges to wild caught and farmed species.


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Voice from the supply chain

Migrant fishers speak of the exploitative conditions on UK boats.

Pet food, vitamins, and supplements often contain fish and crustaceans. There have been widespread reports of workers’ rights abuses on UK fishing boats, as documented in the 2022 Nottingham University report ‘Letting exploitation off the hook’.

124 predominantly migrant fishers across the UK fishing fleet were interviewed in 2021 for the report. They volunteered to share their difficult experiences in an attempt to help others, even if they were no longer in the industry.

Several of these were Filipino workers employed on UK vessels on transit visas (which enable people to pass through countries only, and not stay there).

The experience of Filipino fishers

“Because of the visa, you have to stay on that vessel. If you leave that vessel for help, then maybe you can’t work. You just wait with no money. Or if you ask for help, they will just call the agency and say you broke your visa and you will have to pay for your travel home.”

“When you make a mistake, they hide the helmets and life vests in a locked cupboard ... so we can’t use them.”

“There was a kind of a message that was sent out at the port that if you ask for help with people in the port, then … you could be blacklisted. I think they want to make it general information for everybody, as a lesson for everybody.”

“If you seek help, then everything will stop coming basically. Like all your money. They make it a joke.
The boat owner was talking to the other Filipinos and was telling the crew I’m not receiving money anymore. He was bragging about it and laughing. So, the other Filipinos had to laugh too. My crew members told me straight to swallow my suffering.”

“Putting your head down and getting on with it is easier than saying no if you want to work in the UK again.”

Key findings in the report*

  • £3.51 is the average reported hourly salary
  • 19% reported conditions comparable to forced labour
  • 30% never received 10 hours rest in a 24-hour period
  • 35% experienced regular physical violence
  • 60%+ would never report a grievance
  • 84% paid a placement fee to get the job, leaving some workers with debts of up to £2,700.

Fair fish on the horizon?

The report’s author, Jessica Sparks, says: “there have been several changes (both regulatory and market based) that have happened or are ongoing” since publication.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation and the Fair Food Programme also announced a collaboration in 2022. They hope to develop a Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR) programme to combat human rights violations on UK commercial fishing vessels, which has never before been tried in the fishing industry. WSR models have proven successful in the Florida tomato industry and the textiles industry in Lesotho.

(*Responses taken from 124 interviews with fishers in UK waters conducted in 2021, the majority of whom were migrants. Respondents self-nominated for this survey so it is not generalisable across the UK fishing sector.)

Is insect based cat food ethical?

Yora and Lovebug (Mars) use insects in some of their food. Other insect-based brands we didn’t cover are also on the UK market, including Mr Bug and Grub Club. Insects are being touted as an environmentally friendly solution for dog and cat food (and for other animal feed) – but what do we really know about how these new farming systems affect insects?

Currently, insects are not considered animals under law, so have no legal protections. As such, many invasive procedures can be done on them, with no regard for their welfare. Despite this, there is a growing body of evidence that certain insects feel pain and have sophisticated cognition, summarised in a recent review concerning insect sentience. Books such as The Mind of a Bee by Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology, Lars Chittka, highlight how size doesnʼt matter when it comes to sentience and the ability to suffer.

On its website, Yora says about its insect supplier: “they truly care about the welfare of their bugs, ensuring that they are the highest welfare livestock on the planet.” But it’s not clear what this actually means, and there’s no data to back up its claim.

Intensive insect farming following an ugly trend?

Some might dismiss insect farming as being the least of the world’s concerns. But insect farming seems to be following a long tradition in intensive animal farming of doing first, making profit, then worrying about the potential animal welfare consequences later. See the plans for the world’s first octopus farm from Nueva Pescanova, despite grave concerns on both animal welfare and animal rights grounds.

When evidence is still in the process of being collected, it can’t be fully understood how a farming system affects insects, so claims about high welfare cannot be made. When basic protections, such as those at slaughter, do not yet even exist for certain species, it should be questioned whether a farming system which breeds, raises and kills such animals in their millions can ever be ethical.


Cruelty free cat food

Companies will conduct taste tests of their products on animals, however, some companies do this using captive animals kept in laboratories.

PETA has a list of companies that have signed a statement of assurance which guarantees it does not test on captive animals during the development, manufacturing, testing or marketing of its products.

Of the brands in this guide, they fall into the following categories


Sustainable cat food

Organic cat food

The only nearly 100% organic company was Yarrah, with the exception of its fish which was MSC certified. In a response to Ethical Consumer in 2019, it explained why its fish was not organic:

“Organic fish has to be fed with sustainably caught, non-organic fish. Around 3-4 kg of sustainable fish is needed to raise 1 kg of organic fish” and “A few of our products contain salmon. Salmon is a fish that swims solo in the wild. Organic salmon have to be forced to swim in shoals”.

The only other brand in this guide which had an organic option for cat food was Lily’s Kitchen, one of many brands owned by Nestlé.

Palm oil in cat food

Palm oil is a controversial ingredient.

Only one company, Yora, had an explicit company-wide no palm oil policy on its website.

Although not on its website, when asked by Ethical Consumer, Scrumbles did not use palm oil.

Companies with no explicit policy but ingredients were viewed and no palm oil was found: Ami, Inspired Pet Nutrition (AATU, Harringtons, and Meowing Heads), MPM Products (Applaws, Encore), Pooch & Mutt, Vegeco (Benevo), Yarrah.

Worst palm oil rating: Colgate-Palmolive (Hill's), Nestlé (Felix, Go-Cat, Gourmet, Lily's Kitchen, Purina One, Pro Plan)

GMO in cat food

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, which is commonly found is non-organic farming. GMOs are a source of controversy, as animals and plants can be genetically modified with genes either removed or inserted. If not in ingredients directly, most non-organic farmed animals will be fed on corn and soya which is likely to be genetically modified.  

We reviewed the brands in our guide and found the following:

  • Company-wide, publicly available explicit policy prohibiting the use of GMO: Ami.
  • No policy, but vegan or organic company with ingredients unlikely to be GMO: Vegeco (Benevo), Yarrah.
  • Companies that previously told EC in 2019 were GMO free, but did not respond in 2023: Yora
  • Companies without explicit policies or not tracking GMO in animal feed: Colgate Palmolive (Hill's), Inspired Pet Nutrition (Harrington’s, AATU, Meowing Heads), Mars (Lovebug, James Wellbeloved, Perfect Fit, Sheba, Royal Canin, Whiskas), MPM Products (Applaws, Encore), Pooch & Mutt, Scrumbles, Spectrum Brands (Eukanuba, Iams).
  • Companies found to use GMO products: Nestlé (Felix, Go-Cat, Gourmet, Pro Plan, Purina One)
dried cat food in bowl

Does ethical cat food cost more?

We looked at a range of brands at the top, middle, and bottom of our table to compare prices. Some of the brands operate mainly online and offer discounts for subscriptions, so we have included this information too. Prices vary depending on where you look, so we have looked at the prices listed on the brand websites if they sell directly from it. All prices are of the largest bag of dry food offered divided into price per kg. Listed A to Z.

Cat food brands Cost (kg) Discount available for subscription?
Ami (vegan) £6.80 none found
Applaws £5.33 none found
Benevo (vegan) £6.95 yes – 10% off
Felix (wet, in jelly) £3.75 none found
Lily’s Kitchen (organic, wet pâté) £17.65 yes – 5% off
Pooch & Mutt £6.66 yes – 10% off
Scrumbles £7.60 yes – 15% off
Sheba (MSC salmon, wet tray) £10.00 none found
Whiskas £3.16 none found
Yarrah (organic, chicken) £9.94 none found

Guilty feelings as a cat guardian

Three Ethical Consumer staff talk about some of the (unethical) options they face and handling the feelings that come with it.

What have you felt most guilty about when it comes to feeding your cat?

We adopted a young cat, and as vegans have tried to make the most ethical choices for us as well as the most appropriate decisions for her. For 10+ years of her life she was very happy and healthy on dried vegan cat food (which is nutritionally complete). However, she recently had health issues and we've had to switch to including some wet food, which unfortunately meant meat/fish. I used the previous guide to assess various brands and tried her with different ones. There are always compromises to make but we do what we can to avoid as much harm as possible.

I feel guilty that my cat only seems to eat Nestlé branded food. I wanted her to feel comfortable more than anything, so I felt it was important for her to have familiar food after being rehomed. I had previously tried Scrumbles cat food with her - at the time it was the most affordable non-Nestlé option for me. But my cat was just not interested! I even asked the vet for advice on how best to change her food, but after a while of following the vet’s advice without change I gave up.

Having a cat is a massive ethical dilemma for me. I investigated feeding Alfie a vegan diet but was not convinced that I might not be doing him any harm. It's difficult for me to justify being against the use, abuse and exploitation of animals and feeding Alfie a diet of meat and fish that I know will have been factory farmed. I've tried organic cat food with him, Yarrah and Lily's Kitchen, because I know there are animal welfare measures within organic standards, but the reality is, he just doesn't like it. The best I can get him to eat is Sheba with MSC-certified fish in it.

Sourcing more ethically is always worth a try, but we realise it isn’t always possible, especially if your cat has special dietary needs. In such cases, you can write to companies and tell them what you’d like to see improved in their products.

Sustainability and environmental claims made by cat food brands

The majority of the companies scored poorly for their discussions and action on the environment, with only Vegeco (Benevo) and Ami scoring a best.

Most sustainability claims on the websites of brands focused on the recyclability of packaging, which is a very minimal part of these products’ environmental impact. For example, Pooch & Mutt’s website said that it was going to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025, “meaning you can feel good knowing you're feeding your pooch a healthy diet that they love, from a brand that looks after the environment too.”

We found discussions of LED lighting, planting trees, renewable energy and recycling, but very little about the animal farming behind companies’ actual products.

Corporate giant, Nestlé, was one of the worst offenders in this category, with a 2023 report highlighting that “Nestlé’s emissions from its dairy and livestock supply chains are, by its own admission, forecast to grow under a business-as-usual scenario by 16.4 million tonnes to 50.6 million tonnes". Skirting around the elephant in the room and discussing renewable energy and packaging doesn’t really cut it in light of this.

Packaging and sustainability

Plastic waste from single-use plastic and non-recyclable materials heavily pollutes communities and the environment. The majority being discarded and incinerated, fuelling inequalities across the globe, with high-consuming countries dumping their waste in low-income countries.

Avoid brands that use plastic single-use pouches or other non-recyclable materials. Also even if the package says it is recyclable, check where you will be able to recycle – some packaging materials are only recycled at places like supermarkets or with your local council.

What did companies say about their packaging?

Not all of the companies mentioned their packaging. We included information we could find below:

As of 2021, Yarrah’s bags are fully recyclable, albeit made from plastic. It still uses individual food pouches which aren’t yet fully recyclable.

Inspired Pet Nutrition (Harringtons, AATU, and Meowing Heads) says that all of its packaging is 98% recyclable and it's working towards 100%.

Pooch & Mutt (who make cat food, despite the name) has pledged that all of its packaging will be recyclable by 2025. Its wet food comes in 100% recyclable TetraPaks.

Scrumbles said it planned to reduce the amount of packaging for its products by 33% in 2022 (it didn’t give an update on whether it met this) and that its treat range packaging is 100% recyclable. In 2023, it aims to have 100% recyclable cat food tins, though current progress with this is unknown.

Mars (James Wellbeloved, Lovebug, Perfect Fit, Royal Canin, Sheba, Whiskas) has the aim of using 100% recyclable packaging by 2025.

In 2022, Purina (of Nestlé) launched its first “designed to be recyclable” pouch ranges in the UK, and it promised to introduce reusable or recyclable packaging by 2025. It wasn’t clear how much would be recyclable, or “reusable”, nor what “reusable” even means.

Make DIY food puzzles

Just like us and many other animals, cats need daily mental stimulation and to have challenges as well as physical exercise. Small bits of food can be used creatively in DIY puzzles with everyday items in your recycling, avoiding the need for buying plastic ones found in pet shops. Some favourites include:

  • Hiding small bits of food in corners and underneath objects around the house and asking them to ‘find’. This one can also be done in a garden.
  • Holding on to the packaging of your next cardboard delivery: Take a cardboard box, wrap small bits of food or treats in bits of old paper, and put it all back in the box along with other paper wrappings/cardboard bits of choice to smell out and find the rewards.
  • Positive reinforcement training and food rewards: although cats don’t have the same reputation as dogs for their trainability, cats are highly trainable. Training is mentally engaging and can also be fun and good for bonding – you can teach an old cat new tricks.

For more ideas, Cats Protection has some great resources on its website.

Are raw meat diets ethical?

There is a desire to feed what is perceived as ‘natural’, and marketing from raw meat companies is strong, with many positive reviews for products. What we’d say to this is not to take advice from a for-profit company whose interest is to sell things to you (which, of course, applies across the board).

In the UK, 1% of cats are fed a raw meat diet.

One study which surveyed guardians feeding raw meat to dogs found that the majority (94%) were unaware of any risks, and had turned to a more unconventional diet due to lack of trust in products.

There is a lack of evidence on nutritional benefits, despite guardians’ self reported observational benefits.

However, studies have found that feeding a raw meat diet can pose a health risk to both animals and guardians, with high levels of zoonotic bacteria and parasites present including E coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Toxoplasma gondii.

As well as the above, there are also hygiene and contamination risks.

It’s worth noting that although the risk is higher in raw meat, there are also contamination and other microbial risks associated with commercial dry pet food, too. For dry food, appropriate storage in a cool, dry, dark place is important to minimise risks, and keep all food sealed in an airtight container.

Black and white cat lying half out of bed
Rosie, a lovely cat companion of one of our readers (Alison)

To buy or not to buy (a cat)

As exciting as the addition of a cat to the family is, there are many considerations, questions, and research needed before thinking about whether adoption from a rescue charity or buying a young animal from a breeder is going to be the right thing, long-term, for both the animal and you. In 2022, the RSPCA reported a 25% increase in the number of pets being abandoned in the UK, with an average of 3,000 every month or four abandoned every hour.

Fostering a cat from a rescue charity in your home can be a great way of not only providing a comfortable place for animals waiting to find their permanent homes, but also to understand whether the responsibility of caring for a cat is right for you.

As everything has moved online, it’s unsettling that living beings can be bought and sold like t-shirts, facilitating poor practices and those only looking to make a profit. Many charities provide a lot of information on their websites about adopting from a reputable charity or how to responsibly buy from a good breeder, including the Blue Cross and Cats Protection.

You can also find certified behaviourists on the Animal Behaviour & Training Council website.

Food banks for pet food

In 2022, the RSPCA found that 19% of people were concerned about the cost of feeding their pet. Due to changing life circumstances and the rising cost of living, some people have reported having to choose between feeding themselves, their cats, or their children.

To either use or donate to a pet food bank, the RSPCA has a useful resource on its website to find your nearest pet food bank, as do the Blue Cross. You can donate items including tins, dried biscuits and treats, toys, beds and blankets. Some supermarkets also have pet food donation points either for local food banks or animal rescue charities.

This guide features in Ethical Consumer magazine 204

An [O], [M] or [V] in the score table after a brand name means the product has been awarded a sustainability point for being organic, MSC certified, and/or vegan.


We are not nutritionists, so if you would like further information about the nutritional aspects of diet you should contact a nutrition specialist with scientific training in animal science and nutrition. 

Company Profile

Colgate-Palmolive is the company behind Hillʼs Science Plan, a brand offering prescription diets for cats and dogs.

It also owns personal care brands including Sanex and Colgate toothpaste.

Although not at the very bottom of our table, it wasn’t too far behind Mars and Nestlé. However, it was doing better in terms of some of its reporting.

In 2021, the company was the second multinational to publish its ‘forest footprint’, and in its 2022 ranking by Forest 500, “the world’s first rainforest rating agency” which ranks the 350 companies that have the greatest influence on forest supply chains based on their publicly available information, ranked Colgate Palmolive 7th out of 350 companies for its reporting, implementation, commitments, and human rights.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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