ONTD Political

Vegan pet food triggers meaty debate

9:42 am - 05/02/2012
Vets have advised against non-meat and non-dairy diets for domestic pets despite the increasing popularity of a vegan product designed to cover cats' and dogs' dietary needs.

Vegan Pet was developed by a Victorian health food maker to include the essential nutrients cats and dogs would miss out on in a vegan diet.

Derived from entirely non-dairy and non-meat sources and designed with the help of a Murdoch University professor, studies have shown it can provide the short-term dietary needs of domestic pets.

It is sold in Queensland at the ethical alternative pet food store Complete Pet Company in Keperra. Owner and operator Jenny Golsby says vegan and vegetarian pet foods are becoming more popular as pet owners search out ethical alternatives to mainstream pet food.

Despite the product's growing popularity and dietary provisions, veterinarians still hold concerns a non-meat diet could harm domestic animals, especially cats.

Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association president David Neck said he would immediately advise owners against feeding their animals an exclusively non-meat and non-dairy diet.

Dr Neck was particularly concerned with how a non-meat diet could provide carnivores, such as cats, "a complete and satisfying" meal.

"Millions of years of evolution have dictated what is best to go into these animals, and [some pet owners] trying to change that in the course of one generation does not make sense to me," he said.

"It really is a concept I struggle to come to terms with, that you would take what is the natural diet of such an animal and alter it in such a radical way.

"I can tell you from my experience with cats and dogs they don't have any ethics about where their food source is derived from.

"If a vegan pet owner is making that decision on behalf of a pet that they own, they should perhaps consider the reasons they have that pet."

Vegan Pet creator Sandy Anderson said she understood the concern veterinarians had with animals being fed vegan food.

Her decision to develop dry food and tinned food products was motivated by the concerns she had seeing her friends feed their animals vegan food not designed for pets.

"I realised the animals weren't getting everything they needed having studied a basic nutrition course," Ms Anderson said.

"So what I did then, for their good, was try and find out whether you can have vegan cat food [with the proper nutrients]."

Ms Anderson developed the products with the help of Nick Costa, head of biochemistry and nutrition at Murdoch University's School of Veterinary and Biomedical Science, ensuring the food met the needs for complete and balanced diet, according to the dietary requirements tabled by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

The food passed tests for short-term effects, palpability and digestibility.

Concerned with the quality of pet food sold by mainstream distributors, Ms Anderson said the proof of the food's suitability for animals was in their reaction to it.

"Some animals have been on it for eight or nine years and they are still thriving on it," she said.

"People say that cats are carnivore and they should be fed meat, which they should.

"But my theory is if you can feed an equivalent that the cat enjoys equally and it supplies everyone of those nutrients in the meat source, what harm is being done?"

Professor Costa said long-term studies needed to be conducted on the product and he personally believed a meat diet was preferable for cats.

But he said the product was a viable alternative for people wanting to feed their animal a vegan diet.

"What it does do, through Sandy's efforts, is for those people who are vegans, and who eschew red meat completely, and meat products generally, then this gives them an alternative that has complete and balanced nutrient profile that has been partially tested in terms of digestibility and palatability," Professor Costa said.

"What it hasn't been tested for is long-term trials, where you can see if it is affecting reproduction long term, heart function long term, through taurine, or whether it is affecting visual processes long term.

"But in support of the food it has been going a decade and if those systems were problematic Sandy would have heard from people who had been suing it by now."

Dr Neck believes there is another solution for animal lovers keen to feed their animals a vegan diet.

"If you're a vegan, and you have ethical concerns about feeding animal-derived protein to your pet, well I could probably recommend a rabbit or a guinea pig as a pet, that you can source their nutrients from," he said.

"Rather than make ethical choices for an animal."

Hmmm, well I know one thing about my cat, there is nothing that gets him more excited than fresh chicken or tuna he gets once a week. He'll eat the dry processed food happily - but he'll only go into kittty paroxyms of joy over meat. But I do wonder if the vegan option has a less offensive kitty litter odour, I might try it for a while to see (but he'll still get his chicken)

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bex 1st-May-2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
I agree with the vet. If you can't deal with feeding your pet an appropriate diet, you shouldn't have that pet. There are so many different animals you can keep as a companion; choose one that suits your lifestyle. It's not fair to the animal, otherwise.

Now I have to go check on my cockroach farm because geckos don't care how much 'roaches make me squirm, they want their dinners crunchy and wriggly.
mastadge 2nd-May-2012 12:16 am (UTC)
Agreed. I may choose to be vegetarian or vegan or some variant thereof for any of various reasons, and I may have ethical and environmental and other misgivings about the treatment of livestock and factory farming and so forth, but my pets get (what is to my understanding of their needs) the best diet I know how (and can afford) to give them.
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mschaos 2nd-May-2012 12:10 am (UTC)
considering the rate of diabetes in cats has increased dramatically over the years do to more grain based diets, it IS harmful to them.

cats ARE carnivores - they eat other animals in the wild. for them to thrive they need animal protein
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muggy_wump 2nd-May-2012 12:31 am (UTC)
Dogs are omnivores.
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layweed 2nd-May-2012 12:24 am (UTC)

At any rate, I will never EVER EVER consider giving my cat any sort of vegan or vegetarian diet. I don't care how/what you feel about eating animals YOURSELF, but please, do not apply the same standards to your pets. Pets who really don't have a choice when it comes to dietary needs.
mlledesade 2nd-May-2012 01:12 am (UTC)
crysania4 2nd-May-2012 12:25 am (UTC)
I'm in total agreement with the vet and it makes me really peeved when people force their carnivores to eat vegan or vegetarian food. It's not healthy for them. There are plenty of herbivores that are great pets (like rabbits) so sorry vegans, if you can't feed your pet properly, then get a pet that fits with your lifestyle.
mirhanda 2nd-May-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)

Also, that baby in your icon is adorable. I always look forward to seeing him or her. Such a cutie pie!
muggy_wump 2nd-May-2012 12:25 am (UTC)
From the article, it seems like some cats have been fed this substitute exclusively for their entire lives and seem to be doing fine. I think a lot of vets would have a knee-jerk response to vegan cat-food, but it might not be entirely justified (since the studies cited in the article have shown no short term effects).

Really, this is great that they've been able to develop a cruelty free food for otherwise carnivorous animals. It seems strange to me that you would kill other (possibly more intelligent) animals to feed your own animal. Hopefully this vegan option will become more popular!
bex 2nd-May-2012 12:30 am (UTC)
Because there's nothing, in my opinion, morally wrong with a carnivorous animal eating meat. Consider pet snakes, for example. I wouldn't feel guilty or ashamed of feeding my snake a (pre-killed) mouse because that's what snakes eat. It's not a moral issue or a cruelty issue, it's just... biology. Similarly, I have no ethical concern about humans eating meat - the part that raises ethical concerns with me is how the animal is treated while it's alive. I don't see the eating of meat itself as a moral or ethical wrong. When we die, our bodies return to the soil and we become food for any number of tiny organisms - that's cool, too!
sankaku_atama 2nd-May-2012 12:27 am (UTC)
"If you're a vegan, and you have ethical concerns about feeding animal-derived protein to your pet, well I could probably recommend a rabbit or a guinea pig as a pet, that you can source their nutrients from," he said.

It's that simple, folks. Don't want to feed your pet the meat protein they need to survive? DON'T GET THAT SPECIES OF ANIMAL.
skellington1 2nd-May-2012 01:51 am (UTC)
I liked that sentence because "Source their nutrients from" originally made me think he thought you should get a guinea pig and feed it to the cat.
gretchystretchy 2nd-May-2012 12:28 am (UTC)
Yeah, no. The nature of my job means that I've seen pretty much every kind of dog food under the sun, but this is ridiculous.
layweed 2nd-May-2012 12:39 am (UTC)
What is your job? Can't help but wonder.
angelofdeath275 2nd-May-2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Vegan pet food is the most fucking dumbest thing ever to pop into the minds of vegans. If you can't accept cats are meat-eaters, that dogs eat meat, you don't fucking deserve them. A pet is a god damn privilege. You're not entitled to one.
homasse 2nd-May-2012 12:47 am (UTC)
Everything you just said.
eyetosky 2nd-May-2012 12:46 am (UTC)
layweed 2nd-May-2012 12:49 am (UTC)
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caseyfierce 2nd-May-2012 02:28 am (UTC)
Good for you - as a vegetarian myself I don't know if I could do that. But you have to be willing to do what's best for your pets!
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star_glitter7 2nd-May-2012 01:00 am (UTC)
They are animals. Enough said.
sparkindarkness 2nd-May-2012 01:08 am (UTC)
Ugh I had a neighbour who tried to keep her cat on vegetarian diet and she wouldn't hear anything about them being obligate carnivores. At least her cat didn't suffer - her owner may put down vegetables, but she also fed the birds (and the mice) faithfully every day - and those birds and mice fed her cat quite well
homasse 2nd-May-2012 01:12 am (UTC)
Hahaha - good on kitty.

Seriously, if you can't bring yourself to feed your cat meat, then either a) don't have a cat or b) give the cat access to getting its OWN meat (aka, let it hunt).
eversofar 2nd-May-2012 01:09 am (UTC)
no. it's abusive to feed obligate carnivores vegan food because they're not able to get adequate nutrients. if you have such a problem with meat that you can't feed your pet a proper diet, then you shouldn't own it.
augustcoyote 2nd-May-2012 01:11 am (UTC)
Little ticks me off more than veg*ns feeding inappropriate diets. I'm vegan, and my dogs and cat get fed a quality meat-based kibble with no grains (they'd be on raw if I had the ability to do so).

If you want a healthier cat, try upgrading your cat's food (Taste Of The Wild is best for how cheap it is, but there are plenty of higher foods like the grain-free versions of Blue Buffalo, Wellness, Orijen, etc.) Cats and dogs are so much healthier when fed meat-based, grain-free diets.
augustcoyote 2nd-May-2012 01:42 am (UTC)
And FFS, can we just not with people thinking that a carnivorous animal eating meat is the same as a human eating meat? Because it's not. You going to the store to pick up a steak =/= a coyote hunting rabbit. Cats and dogs need meat because that is how they thrive; humans do better on plant based diets.
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