Is vegan dog food cruel or kind??? This one question can raise a heated debate!
Everyone seems to have an opinion on vegan diets – especially when it comes to feeding a vegan diet to those who haven’t chosen it, such as children or pets. Often these opinions have little knowledge behind them and are based on their own assumptions and cultural norms. So lets take a look at the question.
Questioning traditional dog food
Veganism is one of the fastest growing movements of 2017. As people get used to changing their own diet to plant based foods, they question other areas of life and the assumptions we make.
For dog owners, this involves the question of vegan dog food. To meet the demand, several brands of vegan dog food have surfaced in the market. (We’ve reviewed some on this page.)
Once you’ve eliminated meat from your own diet, the thought and experience of serving up canned dog food becomes quite repulsive.
This can be the trigger to ask:
- Is meat-based dog food really necessary?
- Do dogs have to eat meat to be healthy?
- Why am I condoning cruelty to one animal in order to help another animal?
- Is there a way to treat my pet well without treating other animals badly?
- If there are health benefits to humans from eating a whole food plant based diet, might the same benefits apply to dogs?
Why do we love some animals and eat others?
Have you come across the research of Melanie Joy on the topic of carnism? She explores the question of why people treat different types of animals differently. We have all been raised with invisible belief systems about the value and role of certain animals, and these beliefs differ between one culture and another.
This video on carnism is well worth watching for anyone interested in the topic of veganism.
Vegan food eliminates unnecessary suffering
The majority of dog food contains by-products from the meat and dairy industry, including meat that is considered unmarketable for human consumption. This speaks volumes about the quality of the food that most people feed their dogs, but also of the untold cruelty behind the branding of a happy puppy and fictional grassy farm.
Vegan food takes the initiative to exclude the unnecessary suffering and slaughter and, consequently, the cruelty imparted on other animals.
Additionally, many vegan pet food brands aim to provide higher quality ingredients, meaning that your dogs are getting healthier without having to harm others in the process.
Common arguments against feeding a dog a vegan diet
Vegan food is missing key nutrients
A common misconception regarding vegan food for dogs is that it is nutritionally deficient by default.
That’s not the case – there is healthy and unhealthy vegan dog food. For humans, you may have heard of the term ‘junk food vegans‘ whose diet, while lacking animal products, also lacks nutrition. The same thing CAN happen to a pet fed random low quality food. But if a dog is fed nutritious vegan dog food then it can in fact thrive.
Some people assume that a lack of meat will mean a lack of protein or some other vital nutrient. Despite what the meat and dairy industry may have you believe, there is no vital nutrient that is exclusively found in meat-based dog foods. All the nutrients a dog needs can be met from plant based sources.
To ensure a vegan dog is fed well, you should either plan a vegan diet in consultation with your vet, or use a quality commercial vegan dog food that has been designed with the correct balance of macro and micro-nutrients.
Occasionally (I emphasize, occasionally) dogs can have allergies to foods like soybeans. This poses an issue, as many vegan dog foods use soy in some quantity, meaning that such an allergy may reduce your options in terms of what you can feed your dog. Although, there are dog foods available that exclude these problematic ingredients, which would be worth looking into if your dog is showing signs that are symptomatic of an allergy. In such cases, a trip to the vet is always recommended as the underlying issue could be more serious, especially, if an allergic reaction to fleas has already been discounted.
Dogs need meat because they’re carnivores
In fact, dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. Their digestion can handle both plants and animals.
Dogs love meat so it’s cruel not to give it to them
This is like saying children love ice-cream and lollies so we should give that to them each meal.
Just like it is possible to teach your children to learn to expect, eat and like healthy foods, it is also possible to give your dog meals that are vegan and that your dog will learn to love if you transition them to it gradually.
Overall, the argument for whether vegan food for dogs is cruel or kind comes down to factors – is it cruel to YOUR PET? and is it cruel to OTHER ANIMALS?
The answer to the latter is definitely yes.
Whether or not it’s cruel to your pet depends on how you handle feeding your pet vegan dog food. If you do it correctly, it doesn’t need to be cruel at all. To do this introduce your dog to vegan food gradually, know which foods to avoid, look out for allergies, and choose food that is nutritionally sufficient and good quality. These are all factors that you have control over and with a little research, you can find vegan dog food that is not only kind in terms of promoting vitality and health, but also kind towards other animals and ultimately our environment.
To read more about making the transition to vegan dog food, see our page on vegan dog food, treats and supplements.