Should we feed our pets with meat?

A tricky issue for many vegans

Debate: Should We Feed Our Pets Meat? 1

The way humans treat other animals is bizarre. No other species behaves as if it has the right to forcibly impregnate other animals and then eat their children. No other animal attempts to change the nature of other species by forcing them to live in unnatural environments or eat unnatural diets.

Dogs are natural omnivores – they’ll eat practically anything. It’s what they do. Dogs chase rabbits, and if they catch one, they’ll eat it. Dogs have big sharp teeth for biting things. There’s nothing they like more than bones.

We simply don’t have the right to impose our dietary ethics on other species. Forcing a dog to be a vegan is no different to putting a tiger into a circus ring and forcing it to jump through a flaming hoop. They’re not on earth for our entertainment and we have no right to try to make them like us.

Far too many people equate loving animals with trying to make them into quasi humans, dressing them up, hugging and kissing them, sharing a bed with them. They’re not our children.

Treating animals as if they were more or less human denies their true nature. We might prefer them not to exhibit any of the less pleasant animal traits like fighting, sniffing each other and rutting in the street. But by imposing our own morals and ethics on them, we are sanitizing animals and trying to stop them from being the animals that they are. That makes it easy for other people to say that we are deluded sentimentalists when it comes to animals and that we don’t live in the real world.

Would you give a dog jelly and ice cream? Of course not. So how can you justify giving a dog food made of wheat or carrots or seaweed? You can’t expect a dog to eat a human diet, any more than you can expect it to sit up straight at the table and eat with a knife and fork.

Debate: Should We Feed Our Pets Meat? 2

As a vegan, you make an ethical decision to refuse to support the meat industry. It’s about seeing what is really going on, and wanting no part of it. It’s about putting your money where your mouth is.

Humans don’t need meat and it’s easy for us to just say no. Some animals are ‘obligate carnivores’ – they have to eat meat, they’re not built to survive on a meat–free diet. Cats need taurine in their diets and a deficiency can cause blindness. They’re natural hunters. Dogs, however, are natural scavengers and have been electing to live close to humans for centuries, surviving on what we waste and throw away. They can live very happily on a meat–free diet.

Buying meat–based dog food props up the meat industry because it provides a market for slaughterhouse products that are not considered fit for human consumption, effectively creating an extra income stream for people who make money out of killing animals. There’s a saying, ‘You wouldn’t give it to a dog’ – but that’s exactly what many dog owners do, when they choose to give unidentified, unidentifiable mashed up canned meat to their pets. Some people tackle this issue by going to butchers and buying unwanted offcuts of meat – at least you know what it is and where it came from – but surely a better principle is that if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t expect your pet to eat it either.

Would you feed meat to your children? Just like a child, a pet dog relies entirely on your judgement when it comes to food – you can choose to feed it junk, or you can choose to provide a healthier diet – it’s your call and it’s your responsibility.

Feeding a dog a vegan diet isn’t about forcing your views on an animal, it’s about doing what you think is the responsible thing. And it makes a great talking point when you can say, ‘I’m a vegan, and so is my dog – and we’re both looking pretty fit, don’t you think?’



We have presented you with two sides of the argument, but what do you think?

Have your say below…

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  1. Gigi on August 1, 2017 at 9:38 am

    It’s a very controversial subject. We don’t want to eat meat and we have the choice not to eat it and we choose not to support the industries behind it because we do not support their cruel practices. On the other hand we are responsible for the lives of the pets we own and very much love. It is a very difficult choice as you won’t to give your pet the food you know is not good for us. The reality is that their wellbeing means the death of other animals. So who are we to judge which animal needs to die for other animal to survive? Bearing that in mind, and knowing how advanced science and technology are, it should be our priority as vegan pet owners to research and find alternative ways of giving our pets what they need without condoning to the killing of other innocent species. It’s not our responsibility to play gods and choose which life matters the most.

  2. Michelle on September 6, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    While I understand the arguments from both sides, the argument for feeding pets a vegan diet only applies to dogs then since cats are obligate carnivores? If the case is based on their natural diet then the title shouldn’t be ‘should we feed pets…’ but ‘should we feed dogs…’

    I understand both sides of the argument but being able to feed both cats and dogs a balanced and nutritious diet can be a tricky thing and not all pets are receptive to the idea. It can be even more tricky when the pet has health issues to begin with. I think to each their own, we all have varying degrees of what we find acceptable and unacceptable (such as ordering vegan options from non-vegan restaurants, we can’t guarantee the vegan food is cooked in a separate vat/pan etc), and this is no exception

  3. E Chapman on September 6, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    There is lots of literature out there now on how to feed your dog vegan. It made absolutely no sense to me to be vegan because of the animal cruelty issue and then buy dog food (non vegan) VDog has good vegan options with taurine etc in and my dog also gets other veg, pulses etc from well researched articles by people who have taken the time and energy to find the way to feed a dog vegan. My dog is super healthy and after his food changed to vegan his coat was fluffier (noticeably) and his energy levels are great. He is 9 years old. He is very food focused so it was an easy transition. For others it may be a slower process but I can honestly report he is a healthy dog. Part of our problem re feeding our dogs (and ourselves) vegan is that we are just ‘too busy’ to do anything except open a tin, or a bag and dump it in a bowl. My commitment to stopping the horrors of animal cruelty is deep and my dog has suffered no cruelty in this change. I believe it was actually more cruel to feed him food filled with who knows what just because I was too lazy to find another way. He is my trusted companion and deserves my complete care and concern so I have taken time to see he is not being fed on the cruelty of others……….. If one thing doesn’t work….try something else…. You will eventually find a recipe that works And… even a small change is better than none

  4. Olivia Vogelenzang on September 6, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    You talk about pets, but only mention dogs, what about cats…can they live without meat??

  5. Ellen W on September 7, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    This argument presupposes that there is some detriment to our pets if we feed them a vegan diet. I can only fully address dogs, because I don’t have companion animals other than dogs. I have been feeding my own dogs and approximately 100 foster dogs vegan for 16 years. I have NEVER had one suffer any ill effects, and many have done spectacularly well.

    When I switched vets about 7 years ago, I brought my three elderly large dogs in for a checkup. On examining them, the vet said, “Do you have a fountain of youth under your house???” My malamute mix lived to 17, my golden/sheltie to 16, and my shepherd mix to 14. I currently have a pit mix who is going strong at 15 and a purebred Dutch Shepherd who is about 9 and would sell her best friend for a handful of vegetables.

    As a result, I don’t even need to get into the ethical considerations. Because my dogs are HEALTHIER and LONGER-LIVED than omnivore dogs, and enjoy their lives very much, I don’t even need to discuss the horrors that animals killed for meat suffer.

    • Barry Sawbridge on September 7, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Please share your food recipes

  6. Susanna on December 10, 2020 at 7:15 pm

    The answer is simple. If you are vegam, as I am, then don’t “keep” a dog or a cat. Diet aside, maybe they do not want to be “kept” by humans anyway!

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