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)

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!
angelofdeath275 2nd-May-2012 12:42 am (UTC)
it's just... biology.

Seriously, this all it boils down to. And with their moral beliefs, considering that some of the vegans act all high and mighty, is a huge WHAT
muggy_wump 2nd-May-2012 03:03 am (UTC)
Well, obviously vegans feel differently about it. Vegans (who are vegan for purely ethical reasons, e.g.: not because they just don't like meat/milk) would see the following two scenarios

1) Feed my cat a vegan substitute which provides 100% of its nutrients and has shown no negative effects in studies (0 other animals suffer).
2) Feed my cat a meat diet, which also provides 100% of its nutrients. (Some or many animals will suffer horribly in captivity)

I think it's important to note that domesticated animals, like cats and dogs, are very different to their wild counterparts. In my opinion, there's nothing 'natural' about feeding a dog or cat processed meat in a can. Why not switch it out with a more ethical, non-meat processed product? It's still unnatural, but fewer animals have to suffer.
curseangel 2nd-May-2012 06:34 am (UTC)
Why not switch it out with a more ethical, non-meat processed product?

Because it will make your cat suffer and die a painful, slow death.

I thought vegans didn't like making animals suffer! But apparently they do, when it's cats. Bonus if you can't tell they're suffering until they go blind or drop, right?
muggy_wump 2nd-May-2012 08:40 am (UTC)
But it says in the article that in short term scientific trials the cats eating this brand of cat-food did just fine (absorbing the necessary nutrients from the processed proteins and fats, and that there had been no reported issues with cats who had been on the diet long term? So it seems that the diet is nutritional sufficient.

I would consider it wrong to feed a cat foods that it can't digest and make it sick... but this catfood doesn't do that.
curseangel 2nd-May-2012 08:54 am (UTC)
Key words: Short-term. This cat food lacks the integral parts of a cat's normal diet that allow them to process necessary proteins, fats and vitamins. It is essentially starving cats. The professor who helped develop it admits both that a meat-based diet is preferable and far more beneficial and that the vegan food has not undergone long-term trials.

The article further only states that "some animals" had been on it for years. It does not specifically mention cats; as stated by other people, dogs are omnivores and capable of surviving on a vegan diet, if not anywhere near thriving, and I would bet that the vast majority of those animals on the vegan diet are dogs. Cats cannot survive on that kind of a diet -- especially not in the long-term.

It is also highly likely that owners whose animals were on this diet and became sick or died either, if only ill, switched back to a meat-based diet, and/or weren't reported. Veganism is a belief system in a lot of ways, and "true believers" in the idea that veganism is the only way to go would likely be loathe to admit that their pets could not survive the vegan diet they (cruelly, heartlessly) want for them.

This catfood will make cats sick. It will make them die. But apparently, to you and the other vegans who espouse this disturbing idea, a cat suffering and dying is no problem as long as they suffer and die as vegans, with your belief system forced upon a non-human animal, completely opposite to how they've evolved to live, unhappy, unhealthy and terribly taken care of.
muggy_wump 3rd-May-2012 01:44 am (UTC)
I'm... not a vegan?
sephirajo 2nd-May-2012 06:56 am (UTC)
Why not switch it out with a more ethical, non-meat processed product?

Beacuse. It. Can. Kill. Your. Cat. Those cats were bred to be mousers and to get rid of rats. Their "original" function as far as human society was concerned was mouse traps. They're also not as different from their wild counterparts as you might think. Look up lynxes and ocelots. In some cases these wild cats can interbreed with city cats.

The need to eat meat simply doesn't vanish. That vegan substitute? Isn't even good in theory because your cat is incapable of getting any nutrition from it. And if you add in supplements, your cat isn't going to be processing those either. Doing this to any animal not only shows a woeful lack of understanding of said animal, but is abuse. Whether you mean to or not, this does cause suffering in a great many cats every year. If by some miracle you are doing this and your cat is Just Fine, it's either a matter of time until they aren't or they've been "supplementing" their diet with mice, birds and squirrels.

You at least can still get nutrition from food if you're eating vegan. Your cat can not. Ever. Nature does not work that way. I'm sorry, but if living a fully vegan lifestyle is that important for you, you really need to consider a pet that isn't a cat, dog or other carnivore. (Yes, I know dogs are omnivores, but they still need small amounts of meat at least and like cats will go out of their way to get it given half the chance.)

Edited at 2012-05-02 06:57 am (UTC)
homasse 2nd-May-2012 07:55 am (UTC)

I don't get why this is so difficult to understand.
fynoda 2nd-May-2012 10:04 am (UTC)
I do believe the idea of "cat food" is something that came along in the last 100 years or so. The idea of feeding your pets something that came in a can at the grocery store is a new thing. Cats somehow magically got along before vegan cat food without a problem.
tabaqui 2nd-May-2012 12:54 pm (UTC)
This this this this.
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