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)

ms_maree 2nd-May-2012 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm not missing the point. I know cats are obligate carnivours. My point is that if they can come up with non-meat substitute which has all the necessary ingredients that cats need then it should be considered. I'm not saying this is the case here, obviously everyone should take accept these things cautiously, I'm just wondering why everyone is having a knee jerk reaction to someone coming up with this, it's not like it's saying 'go feed your cats carrots and celery'

Farming practices are bad for the environment, if a substitute can be found I'm the first one on board. And no, I'm not going to put my cat on a vegan diet.
perthro 2nd-May-2012 01:16 am (UTC)
Bad for the environment? So is wearing synthetic clothing, driving an SUV, and let's not forget all of our fancy electronics- they got here through slave labour and dangerous, chemical-spewing factories. I'd worry about all of those things before I worry about a 10lb animal eating 4-6oz of food a day. Like I said, if the problem here is factory farming, let's focus on the real issue: cruel practices towards farm animals and an improperly regulated farm industry where humane farmers are being shut down or shut out of local commerce, while Monsanto-style giants force cruelty and garbage onto us.
ms_maree 2nd-May-2012 01:24 am (UTC)
And you're assuming that I wear synthetic clothes, drive an SUV (or drive at all) and have any fancy electronics other than my laptops (no television, no ipod, no iphone, I don't even have a radio).

If you're tryng to say that people are hypocritical and inconsistent in their concerns, yes, yes they are. And some people, like me, have to daily weight up the advantages and disadvantages - my life versus my responsibility as a citizen on this planet, my happiness versus the responsibility I have to others as well as what I can actually afford.

I try to be consistent, I often fail but not because I don't think about these things, or not because I don't care.

let's focus on the real issue

Yes, and I support eating humane food, I'm not vegetarian, but I'm trying to eat less meat and what I do eat I try to make sure is approved by the RSPCA, is organic, is free-range. But...having said all that, farming practices are still bad for the environment and we can't support a full meat eating population on the planet - so that's something I'm aware off. The reason I don't go entirely vegetarian, or vegan is for health reason. If I could, I would try my best to do so.

Edited at 2012-05-02 01:25 am (UTC)
perthro 2nd-May-2012 01:58 am (UTC)
Which comes back to the idea that HUMANS can make this kind of decision for themselves... but cats cannot. We as humans, who sometimes eat pounds of meat every day, are the large contributors to the problem. There are 7 billion of us creating pollution and demand for the vast majority of these farming practices. We have people all over the country who are dropping dead from diets way too high in meat products. It's OUR problem, not our animals. Our animals neither consume enough, nor live long enough, to be a significant turning point in production. WE can choose to reduce meat in our diets for a significant change. They cannot. We should not force them to pay the price of our modern indiscretions.
chicklet22 2nd-May-2012 09:23 pm (UTC)
I worked at a vets and there was a cat whose owner tried to feed him a vegan diet. The owner complained that he decimated the bird life (probably in a desperate attempt to get the nutrition he needed).
So she decided to keep him inside. Long story short, he got liver failure and had to be put down. She had fed him "nutritionally complete" vegan food. He still died.
thecityofdis 2nd-May-2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
I want to make out with this comment a little bit.
sixdemonhag 2nd-May-2012 05:49 am (UTC)
I'd just like to correct you and say that big agribusiness is bad for the environment. Farming done properly is a benefit to it.
bex 2nd-May-2012 01:34 pm (UTC)
Ingredients of a vegan cat food I found:

Whole grain oatmeal, corn gluten meal, soybean oil, potato protein, molasses, dicalcium phosphate, DL Methionine, tomato pomace, calcium carbonate, dried potato, carrots, phosphoric acid, Taurine, L-Lysine, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, yeast extract, garlic, yeast culture, saccharomyces cerevisiae, enterococcus faecium, lactobacillus acidophilus, aspergillus niger, bacillus subtillis, L-Tryptophan, minerals (iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, magnesium proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, sodium selenite, mineral oil, calcium cobalt carbonate), L-Carnitine, vitamins (Vitamin A acetate, vitamin D2, Vitamin E, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxin Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin K, Biotin, Vitamin B12), kelp meal, inositol, Vitamin C, rosemary extract, yucca schidigera extract

If that was a DOG food I would think it was crap, with that amount of grain right up front in the ingredients list - and dogs aren't obligate carnivores!
hinoema 2nd-May-2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
What a great way to kill your cat. Firstly, cats can't digest grains- their systems aren't made for it. Plus, all those great vitamins? A double name vitamin usually means it's synthetic, and not very effective.

So yeah, grain meal, synthetic vitamins and traces of vegetables. What crap.

moonshaz 3rd-May-2012 12:34 am (UTC)
No kidding. I would not feed my cat that crap if I was paid to do so.
paulnolan 2nd-May-2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
If that was a DOG food I would think it was crap

Going by Enterococcus faecium you may be closer than you think... D:
aiffe 2nd-May-2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
You can source the meat from pastured animals, not factory farms. Pastures are actually a lot better for the environment than grain farms.
mirhanda 2nd-May-2012 05:15 pm (UTC)
I think the point is that if you will not feed an appropriate diet, don't have that type of animal. There are lots of vegetarian pets you can have, rabbits are a nice choice. If you want to own an obligate carnivore, you are then obligated to feed it correctly. There's no law that says you must have a cat or a dog, or any animal at all.
moonshaz 3rd-May-2012 12:34 am (UTC)
angelofdeath275 2nd-May-2012 07:47 pm (UTC)
I'm not missing the point. I know cats are obligate carnivours. My point is that if they can come up with non-meat substitute which has all the necessary ingredients that cats need then it should be considered.

Are you fucking listening?
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