It’s a question many vegans and vegetarians ask themselves. Is it cruel to make my pets vegan? It can raise many questions when considering this kind of decision. Isn’t my cat a natural carnivore? But my dog needs his protein! But for many of us, the idea of there being meat in our houses, even when in the form of pet food, is still a little hard for us to digest.
But isn’t supermarket pet food just a by-product of the meat industry anyway? Yes, most of the time. But this also raises several other questions about whether or not it’s cruel to feed our pets this type of food. For many people, not excluding vegans and vegetarians, feeding our pets conventional and convenient supermarket pet food, is something that will forever be. If the meat industry produces meat for humans, then there will certainly be by-products left over for the pet food industry, right? Again, yes, most of the time, but let’s explore exactly what these by-products are.
An article at Pet MD does a great job at recognising exactly what goes into conventional pet food, and the findings are not for the squeamish. Whilst this food still delivers adequate protein, the amount of quality is heavily inadequate. A by-product can include generally the offal, or in laymen’s terms, whatever is left over that humans won’t touch, including but not limited to: lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue and stomachs. And that’s not to mention the Meat-Meal as it’s so politely named, of which is comprised of the rendered and dried, leftover of leftovers, such as hoofs, horns, hair and even manure, all of which can be served with added, and sometimes unnatural flavourings and sugars, which can even be unhealthily addictive.
Returning to my first point, these by-products and meat-meals will always be available whilst the meat industry continues, and with this in mind, it confuses us to think nothing of it when we purchase for our own pets. But the problem lies in the quality. Just because its there, shouldn’t mean we should be giving it to our pets. Do we really want our pets to eat this kind of stuff? Why should they eat it when we ourselves wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole?
So why don’t we just feed them raw, healthy butcher meat? Well, studies have shown that raw meat diets are very beneficial, for dogs in particular. With clean, unprocessed and fresh meats, dogs can look forward to an array of health benefits, such as cleaner teeth, weight management, improved energy levels throughout life, an overall glow, strengthened immunity and even less stinky stools.
But as vegans and vegetarians, we do not deal with meat; it is both off the table and sometimes out of the pet bowls. But why would we deny these benefits for our pets? The issue lies in the paradox of hypocrisy. We do not believe an animal (the meat) should be slaughtered for the consumption of another animal (the pet). Vegans and vegetarians are animal lovers, and we reject the notion that one animal must die for another. For many of us, feeding our pets meat is seen as selfish and illogical. We therefore resort to the measure of changing, or in some cases, raising our pets on a vegan diet. If a vegan pet diet is seen as an evil, then for those who practice compassion, it is certainly a lesser evil.
So, What Can be Done?
It’s important to do one’s research when making the change. Owning a pet – or as it’s more ethically put these days – being the honorary parent of a pet, comes with its responsibilities.
On some levels, pets are like having children; they’re hard work and they need love and attention, and all these things must be transferred to how we feed them. There are many recipes that can be followed to ensure pets are fed appropriately, baring in mind the supplementation that’s also needed to ensure your pet get’s everything they need to remain as healthy as they’d be on a meat based diet.
If you research your breed, home-prepare fresh and healthy vegan meals, and supplement correctly, your pet will be just as healthy, or if not even healthier, than if you were to give them processed, cheap, supermarket ready meals. But if time and know-how are against you, never forget that the vegan community is a compassionate and ever growing place of ethical evolution. Many compassionate vegan pet food companies are investing their time and expertise to make things easier for you, by offering you pre-prepared meals like with any supermarket brand.
However, having said all this, the majority of these facts are aimed predominantly towards owners of dogs. Dogs are known as “opportunist omnivores”, meaning they will eat a vegan diet if that is what they are presented with. Unlike dogs however, cats are a little tough. Since cats are equally as popular as dogs when it comes to pet parenting, there will always be an uncertainty when it comes to a cat’s diet, especially when there is conflicting research. The Urban Vegan makes a very valid point when discussing the dietary requirements for cats, where the cold hard truth reveals cats are and will forever be true carnivores with the need for the amino acid taurine.
I Just Can’t Feed my Pet Meat, What do I do?
Being a vegan is not about being perfect. It’s a fact you will hear often, and it can and will be the cannon fodder of those who challenge your lifestyle choices. Being Vegan is about limiting as much unnecessary suffering as possible, and when it comes to the health and wellbeing of pets, things can start to get tricky.
If you truly have to feed your beloved animal a meat diet, then you must do so. You took on the responsibility when you took the pet into your life, and you must do all you can to ensure the rascal is healthy and happy. But if you are without a pet, and are looking to become an honorary pet parent, consider a few things:
Is the specie I’m adopting a natural carnivore?
Can the specie sustain a vegan/ vegetarian diet?
Can I obtain pre-prepared vegan pet food easily?
Can I obtain supplementation easily?
Do I really want to take on the huge and sometimes difficult responsibility of pet parenthood?
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, and the idea of pet food scares you, the best thing you can do is to either, not have a pet at all, relieving you of the responsibility of fine-tuning your moral compass, or, much more excitingly, you could opt to adopt a fully-fledged herbivore. Rabbits are always super fun!