Veganism and Dogs

This post stirred up some shit over at FlyingOskar.com.  Enjoy.

Chris recently posted on his Facebook wall criticizing vegans forcing their dogs to have a vegan diet.  This was followed by all sorts of comments from general agreement, to contempt and outrage at the very thought, and some defense of vegans who might do this.  I’m a vegan but I didn’t respond because the topic seems to me to be more complicated than “Yay or nay.”

(I’m not criticizing Chris here for his views or any vegans/non-vegans for theirs.  In fact, my ultimate conclusion will be undecided at best.  However, if there isn’t a wealth of outraged comments below with at least one or two insulting my way of life I will be sorely dissapointed).

To be totally clear on what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll just copy/paste Chris’s Facebook post along with the link he included:

“As a person, you can choose whatever diet you like. If you have a moral objection to eating meat, more power too you. Your dog, however, does not share your morals, and you are wrong to force them upon him/her. Don’t like the fact that owning a dog contributes to to the deaths of other animals? Don’t own a dog!” Vegan Diet for Dogs: A question of thriving vs. surviving

Again, just quoting Chris here because he summed up that side of the argument pretty well.  And the link provided goes into many sides of the argument.

A vegan diet means entirely plant-based.  No meat or dairy or eggs.  Many people consider this way of life ridiculous (and some, oddly enough, are ENRAGED by it) for humans, so I could see many people scoffing at the idea of dogs eating this way.  What I want to do here is focus on the moral debate and leave the actual ‘health’ side of the argument for another day.  This sounds ridiculous, as many people will argue that it’s unhealthy for dogs to not eat meat.  All I will say to this is that there are in fact experts on both sides of the camp that say a dog eating vegan is very healthy and that it is not healthy.  Just like with humans, this debate is ongoing and a bit confusing.  I suggest reading up on it from a variety of sources.  But please try and focus on the moral side of the debate in the comments, since the health side would require an entirely different article.

Anyway, the main thing I’ve noticed that people have against feeding a dog vegan is that it’s against the dog’s nature and therefore wrong to ‘force’ it on him/her.  In fact I’ll quote Chris again here (you make it easy to pick on you, Chris, since you’re so damn vocal about your opinions):

“We do control their diets […] but isn’t that part of the problem when it comes to animal rights? How is it that a vegan can believe in an animal’s right to be secure in its existence (one of the main tenants of veganism if I’m not mistak…en), but still not see that animal’s right to eat the diet it biologically is supposed to eat? Yes. A dog can eat basically anything you feed it and survive, but is it right to force your human morals on an animal that does not share them? A dog would not choose a pile of beans over a pile of meat, so what right do vegans have to force that choice on them? Doing that seems to violate the entire spirit of veganism to me. From an animal rights point of view forcing a vegan diet on a dog hardly seems any less controlling than raising chickens for their eggs.”

This really gets into the heart of the moral matter and my eventual point.  A vegan would claim that it is wrong to use an animal against its will since animals, as living beings, have basic rights.  So how can a vegan claim such, yet force a pet to eat a certain way that it wouldn’t necessarily choose?  In fact, how can a vegan ‘own’ a pet at all?  Doesn’t that go against the basic tenets of veganism?  Jesus I’m getting deep here.  Or ‘in deep,’ depending on how you look at it.

Tenets or beliefs are great, but unfortunately they are often stated in a black and white way, and the shade of our world tends to be a tad grayer.  Chris stated in that first quote that if a vegan doesn’t want to contribute to another animal’s death, they shouldn’t own a dog.  To me there’s one glaring thing wrong with this statement.  Dogs live in the world we humans have, for better or worse, created around them.  I bolded that because it’s sort of my thesis statement for this article.  Dogs were domesticated by humans and have evolved with us for thousands of years and spread over the globe living alongside humans.  In essence, we helped make them what they are.  Domesticated dogs now depend on us, and not owning one based on principal is, to me, to turn your back on them.

Non-vegans probably have no problem agreeing with all that.  I was just making a point about vegans owning dogs.  Onto the much more controversial part.  VEGAN DOG DIETS.

!!!


The main argument against giving a dog only plant-based food (besides health concerns, just focusing on morals) is that it is against their nature and therefore wrong to force it on them.  This, like the vegan ideals, seems a bit too black and white in this gray world.  Why?  Well a few reasons.  Firstly, when saying that dogs “in nature” would choose meat over beans and vegetables every time, what are we talking about?  Their ancestor the gray wolf?  Because like I said before, dogs have evolved right along-side us and have generally eaten what was available (as stated in the article, dogs living in the alleyways in China have learned to live on scraps they find). I’d imagine that alleyways and human encampments are not what people picture when they say “dogs in nature.”  Maybe they’re imagining some giant forest area somewhere where dogs roam free and wild?  My point is that most domesticated dogs’ “natural environment” is in human towns and cities.  Not the Congo.

Secondly, still talking about this “nature” thing, I have a huge problem with people citing the food chain and the natural order when talking about our meat consumption in industrialized nations.  When I think of nature, I think of scenes on the Discover Channel of a cheetah taking down a zebra and eating its guts.  That is certainly nature.  Or, to bring it closer to home, your cat hunting down and killing a rabbit in your back yard.  That is certainly nature.  A species of beings (humans) breeding and gathering mass amounts of another species of beings and ritualistically slaughtering them in the most profitable way possible in order to feed their own species’ growing gluttony is not nature.  Taking the leftover remains from these slaughterhouses unfit for human consumption and grinding them down, mixing them with corn meal and giving them to pets similarly has nothing to do with “nature.”

If that seemed melodramatic, my bad.  You get my point though, right?  The argument that feeding a dog plant-based food is less natural than feeding them this smorgasbord of by-products leftover from the meat industry just seems silly.  And what is the difference between “forcing” a plant-based vegan-diet and “forcing” a ground up leftover animal part diet?  Either way the dog is forced to eat what we decide is best.  And of course there are alternatives to these two choices.  A much higher-quality meat-based diet is entirely possible.  It’s just either too expensive or too time-consuming for most people to bother.  Once again, I’m not really saying the vegan diet is better for a dog than a high-quality meat-based diet.  I’m just taking a cue from punk bands and stating the problems as loudly as possible without actually offering solutions.

So even if you think a vegan diet isn’t necessarily cruel, you may ask why should it be considered in the first place?  Well that’s the last part of the debate here.  Are vegans simply pushing their point of view on their pets?  Or are they really thinking about what’s best for their pets?  The part about what’s best for the pets would really require getting into the whole health aspect and this article’s too long already.  So let’s put a pin in that.  As for forcing viewpoints on animals who can’t choose, I can’t say I disagree that that’s what’s happening.  But taking into account that dogs’ and our lives are now hopelessly intertwined, there’s really no easy solution.

What I really think is this: It comes down to whether or not you consider a cow or chicken or pig or turkey’s life less valuable than a dog’s.  I’ll admit it’s much easier to feel empathy for dogs because they’re right there with us and they’re so cute. But cows and pigs are very intelligent animals with just as much emotions and insights into the world around them as dogs.  If we traditionally owned pigs then would we be having this argument about whether or not it’s right to breed and round up dogs and have them slaughtered to fill our pigs’ bowls?  Sound ridiculous?  Why?  What’s the difference?

 

Like I said, I have no solution to speak of.  I guess my point was that there are other things to take into account before deciding that one diet is wrong for a dog and the other is right.  Let the comments fly!

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