Vegan Action #72

Can Dogs and Cats be Vegetarians?
    One major dilemma for vegetarians and vegans is whether or not we should feed meat to our companion  animals.  Once we’ve decided not to support factory farming, can we justify continuing to buy and feed farm animals to our companions?  We’ve often made a moral exception for the dogs and cats in our lives based on the idea that there are no other options.  Naturally another major point is this - dogs and cats are not vegetarians.  Dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores.  So where does this leave us in the ethical world of striving to support non-violence?
    Before you get the idea to consider this a ridicules issue, consider it's relevance for several reasons.  Like  the fact that it takes many farm animals to feed just one dog in his or her lifetime.   Is it fair to support the suffering and death of multiple chickens, lambs, cows, or whomever else to feed the one dog living in my house?  Sure I never see all of those farm animals and they aren't giving me any affection but it isn't sitting right with me just the same.  Secondly, pet foods really are the worst of the worst, full of cancerous tissue and animal parts ‘not fit for human consumption’.  The animal meal and byproducts listed on that bag of dog food are scooped up slaughterhouse wastes, downed animals, and who knows what else.  There aren't any regulations to keep this out of pet food.  (Please see ‘What’s Really in Pet Food’ www.api4animals.org).  Most states allow dog and cat food companies to purchase the euthanized sick and unwanted animals from animal shelters to boil and grind up to feed right back to other dogs and cats.  Do we really want to be feeding this to our animals?  After all, we are their guardians and want to make sure they are healthy.  
    Fortunately, there are options to balance our responsibilities to make ethical choices in all aspects of our lives without compromising the lives of the ones around us.  We have some viable options for our animals that we can be comfortable with in our kitchen.  I first tried feeding my three dogs a vegan diet by cooking the food at home based on recipes from a book.  While I did not mind the extra time it took, the dogs did not really like it and they started to lose weight.  I talked to some other folks with veggie dogs and decided to give the pre-made kibble a try.  I did my research and decided to go with a food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.  A basic goal of AAFCO is to "provide regulations, standards and enforcement policies to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and sale of animal feeds; resulting in safe, effective, and useful food".  While I do not wholeheartedly agree with their practices nor am I completely convinced it is essential for a food to be complete, it gave me a sense of ease.  Ultimately what it means is that the food is supplemented with vitamins and is nutritionally complete by their definition.  Again, this is all pretty new so you have to work with what's available. 
    I tried a few brands and settled on one that the dogs really like and have been very healthy on for the last three years (Natures Recipe).  In fact, I am sure this is the best they have ever looked.  I haven’t completely given up the idea of making food for them again.  There is a supplement called VegDog that is listed as complete and needs to be added to homemade food every day.  As far as my cat goes, this is not as easy a situation.  I'm still researching the options and have currently settled on offering her a mix of vegan dry food and fish based dry food.  My compromise being that fish are lower on the food chain and not from factory farms and my cat is still eating well (I hope).  Granted, it is still difficult to keep buying the fish food but I recognize I adopted this cat with the responsibility of providing her with the best care.
    While, I realize this is still a controversial issue with many folks, veggie or not,  I find reassurance in the fact that if dogs can be just as healthy (or even healthier in many cases) not consuming other animals then there really is no reason to not at least give it a try.  Based on a combination of my and other’s experiences with dogs doing well on a veg diet and the AAFCO approved foods on the market, this leaves us no ethical option but to try our dogs as vegetarians.  I am confident I am not risking my dogs’ health and feel a lot better to not have to go buy that bag of lamb and rice dog food every month. *See also www.vegetariandogs.com and read James Peden's book Dogs and Cats Go Vegetarian

The following companies sell vegan pet food:
* Evolution dog and cat food      www.vegancats.com (AAFCO)
* Nature's Recipe dog food   www.naturesrecipe.com  (AAFCO approved and at PetSmart)
* Natural Life   www.nlpp.com  (AAFCO approved)
* Pet Guard  www.petguard.com
* Wow-Bow Distributors    www.wow-bow.com
* Harbingers of a New Age   www.vegepet.com  (supplements and recipes)

RECIPE FOR ANIMALS
Vegan Dog and Cat Biscuits - 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup bran flakes, 1/4 cup soy flour, 2 tbsp wheat germ, 2 tbsp tvp chunks, 1 tbsp molasses, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp kelp powder (if you have it), 2 tbsp garlic powder, 1/3 cup water, and add some fresh chopped parsley or powdered spirulina for fresh breath if you want.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and mix all this stuff together.  It should be sticky (like cookie mix) but not slimy.  Make shapes with your hands or with cookie cutters and make them a lot smaller for the kitties. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20-30 minutes.  After they look well cooked I turn off the oven and leave them in there to harden for dog biscuits or take them out to cool for cat biscuits. Cool and toss them around to the critters.  

Consider a safe and effective Flea Spray - buy some eucalyptus essential oil from the health food store (pretty cheap) and put in a spray bottle with water.  It naturally repels insects and makes your dogs and cats smell good.

RECIPE FOR HUMANS
Recipes inspired by the punk rawk raw food potluck I went to last month.  Eat some living food now and then, fool. 

Sassy Spinach Salad - some fresh spinach,  1 cup shredded carrots,  1/2 cup tahini,  dash of shoyu or soy sauce, teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and a handful of blueberries.  Fold it all together and eat it up.

Banana Date-Nut Oatmeal Cookies - 3 bananas (mashed), 1 cup dates (chopped), 1 cup raisins, 1 cup coconut (unsweetened), 1/2 cup pecans (coarsely chopped), 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 cups rolled oats.  Mash bananas, add all other ingredients, adding oats last. Just roll into small balls and refrigerate.  word. thanks for reading and please get in touch

-krissi@vegan.org or krissi at vegan action  p.o. box 4288 richmond, va 23220  x0x0