Being Vegan and Caring For Carnivorous Companion Animals

An enquiring reader raised a very important ethical dilemma:  what about the rights of animals raised and killed for meat that we feed to our carnivorous pets?

We wouldn’t harm another animal for our own sake, but what about on behalf of our our beloved pets? We certainly don’t approve when they catch prey such as sweet birds or gentle mice, however it is their nature. The cat is doing no moral wrong by killing the bird- it must consume flesh to survive. We do not need to consume flesh, but the furry members of our family do – and due to the strange situation of domestication, we are responsible for them. 

This responsibility puts us in a moral quandary. Sadly, the ultimate solution is one that is a long way off from being widely available or remotely affordable: artificial meat. We are actually well under way with research into quality artificial, yet real flesh, minus all suffering and agony. Grown synthetically in laboratories, without the need for any animal suffering, aside from gently taking cell samples from living animals.

Humans who absolutely must eat meat and will never be persuaded by the absoluteness of the ethical argument against eating meat and killing other beings – they can indulge in a harmless manner – that of eating synthetic meat. Feeding both our pets and the most ardent meat eaters real, genuine animal flesh that has been grown rather than born, raised and killed, would be the optimal scenario.

This may seem a flimsy solution to the issue of carnivorous or omnivorous  pets, however it is simply an admission that currently there is no real alternative to feeding our pets with chicken, fish, cow, duck lamb “meat”.

The responsibility for rescuing and caring for the overpopulation of domestic animals – a situation we created as part of the process of domestication. This resultant dilemma makes us unable to not cause harm. 

Killing farm animals for our companions is a really strange situation we find ourselves in. Of course, we’d really rather our friends did not need flesh to survive, however naturally a cat requires meat to live as an obligate carnivore, whilst we do not.

However the strange nature of the domestication of cats and dogs has put us in an ethical dilemma that naturally we would not find ourselves in. Nonetheless, the situation presented to us is as follows:

One abhors inflicting any kind of harm to any animal being, yet as guardians of our domestic companions we do have the responsibility of locating food for them. One doesn’t really like the idea of letting the cats find their own prey since obviously, one cares about the birds and the mice. The bizarre solution to this weird situation would ideally be synthetic meat, which is making great progress.

Unfortunately, it is a long way away from commercial availability, however, the prototypes are going fantastically. For those people who absolutely must have meat who will not listen to reason or care enough to stop, they can absolutely enjoy the synthetic meat. Also, for our furry friends who require meat, we can feed them guilt-free.

7 thoughts on “Being Vegan and Caring For Carnivorous Companion Animals

  1. You know what is also commercially available? Plant-based dog and cat food! Yes, pets can eat plant-based/vegan and be entirely healthy. And before you say “never!” just think. We already feed our pets a very domesticated diet. Switching them to plant-based is very similar to the dry kibble they already consume, and still gives them all the nutrients that “carnivores” require; all these necessary amino acids usually have to be added back into commercial meat-based foods after cooking anyway (so it’s already been done for years and years). More and more vegans are learning it’s possible to extend their compassion this way. Putting your pet on a plant-based diet will not only save so many animals, but it will ensure that you are not allowing your pet to consume dead, diseased, murdered animals. I myself have recently switched my cat over to Evolution, and there is also Benevo or Ami available pretty widely (and several others) or you can make your own food and add supplements such as VegePet. If you want to know more info or hear anecdotal stories, I can give you the link to a great Facebook group for vegan pets where many vegans have happy and healthy (if not healthier for it) vegan pets! 🙂 Too many vegans think that they can’t make another animal be vegan–but you aren’t. You are your pet’s guardian, and you can choose a better plant-based food source for your pet– for his health, for the other lives that matter just as much, and for the environment. Your pet should and can eat plant-based (with added supplements) for all the reasons that you yourself are vegan. Moral dilemma no more! 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Ashley, thanks for the comment.

      As far as I can tell, food such as Evolution does seems – through customer feedback – to provide an adequate diet. Plus you are totally right that they have to add the taurine and other minerals to standard cat food as it is destroyed during the rendering process.
      I simply haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. I’m still slightly sceptical that cats can be as healthy on a vegan diet than a meat-based one, however you may well be completely right. I will certainly try it one day.

      Thanks!

      Like

  2. There are nearly 200 million owned felines and canines in this country. I don’t agree with the continued domestication of any animal. Humans act as if domestication must always exist. I think it very speciesist for humans to impose a particular diet on owned animals because of their (humans) perceived moral superiority. Even if all felines and canines were fed a vegan-style diet, it would still mean biased humans are raising crops to feed primarily two preferred pet species to the detriment of wildlife. Yes, there are ecological consequences to our growth of food crops. We have gone pet crazy in this country and this psychopathology harms the planet. We act as if zero natural capital is expended in the manufacturing of food and a cornucopia of products for our preferred and privileged pets. Now, why would we choose to feed a couple of species but not all species? Well, not all species fit the preferred pet profile. My interpretation of the human-animal bond is different from most, but I won’t talk about this right now.

    Like

    • I think it very speciesist for humans to impose a particular diet on owned animals because of their (humans) perceived moral superiority. Even if all felines and canines were fed a vegan-style diet, it would still mean biased humans are raising crops to feed primarily two preferred pet species to the detriment of wildlife. Yes, there are ecological consequences to our growth of food crops. We have gone pet crazy in this country and this psychopathology harms the planet. We act as if zero natural capital is expended in the manufacturing of food and a cornucopia of products for our preferred and privileged pets. Now, why would we choose to feed a couple of species but not all species? Well, not all species fit the preferred pet profile. My interpretation of the human-animal bond is different from most, but I won’t talk about this right now.

      I very much agree Jerry, thanks for contributing. To be honest, I am unsure of my ultimate view of domestication. Let me be careful to define my terms here. Domestication of farm animals for our own uses, which automatically involves deep suffering and great moral harm towards other animal beings, including torture, imprisonment, murder, breeding etc is obviously grossly unethical. The domestication of cats and dogs and other pet animals involving breeding and the reducing of animal beings to property is also, obviously, totally wrong.

      However, if by domestication we mean having very close relations with certain species, I am not necessarily totally opposed, obviously so long as it is mutually beneficial and no harm whatsoever is involved. Truly caring for and living with other animals, I believe is a good thing. If, for example, one cared for cows or hens, with absolute love and care, letting them live out their natural lives unimpeded, I, at my current level of thinking, see no wrong in that – rather quite the opposite. Mutually coexisting with fellow animals for mutually beneficial gain – love, security, food etc, I see as a good thing.

      It may well be that any kind of domestication, even whereby their basic rights and respected, (such as the communal living with animals that I suggest) inherently involves too great a degree of manipulation and suffering – it is an issue I need to explore more deeply.

      By the way, please do share your interpretation of the human-animal bond – I’d love to hear it.

      Like

  3. I can’t believe the ultimate solution is to feed pets artificial meat! Here is a clear solution — abolish the human-manipulated breeding and domestication of animals and end our possession of them. Done. The final generation of intentionally bred pets in this country will live out a comfortable life in a loving home and that will be the end of it. If vegans, animal rights activist, abolitionists, etc. would spend as much effort fighting for the end of pet domestication and ownership as they do rescuing “fluffy” kittens this is an attainable goal. However, it seems to me that people, no matter how much they believe in animal rights, can’t get over the being an owner/guardian/parent/friend to the canine and feline. “But they need to be rescued! It’s our fault that they were domesticated!” Sure, yes. You take one or two out of the cycle, and dozens more file in. You haven’t fixed anything. If all these “rescues” were being effective, why do we have so many more and larger shelters being built? Why are there so many designer dogs being genetically manipulated to suit the buyer’s whims? Why are pet boutiques and doggy day-cares popping up on every corner? We are expanding the institution of sentient being ownership, not ending it.

    Throughout our childhood, through books, school, parents and TV, we are taught these two specific myths. It is good to EAT animals and it is good to OWN pets. From my experience, most vegans have overcome myth number one but can’t move past myth number two.

    Like

    • Dawn, the solution of feeding pets artificial meat is based on the assumption that the human species will continue to have companion animals, cared for by compassionate guardians who would rather not feed their companions murdered animals.

      “But they need to be rescued! It’s our fault that they were domesticated!”

      Sure, yes. You take one or two out of the cycle, and dozens more file in. You haven’t fixed anything. If all these “rescues” were being effective, why do we have so many more and larger shelters being built?”

      You are correct in that with pet overpopulation, rescuing cats/dogs doesn’t alleviate the root problem. Whilst attempts are made to neuter cats/dogs, shelters mainly address the symptoms of pet overpopulation, whilst the root issue of overbreeding itself remains large unaddressed. The lack of education and widespread effective neutering campaign of feral and domestic cats/dogs means that the problems remains unsolved and continues to grows worse. However, given the minimal funding animal welfare charities have, they are faced with the difficult decision of whether to focus on treating the symptoms – the millions of abandoned cats/dogs in immediate need, vs widespread, mass co-ordinated neutering/education. The problem here is with our society’s values and general reluctance to solve root causes of problems instead of addressing the symptoms. Again, with limited resources it is difficult indeed. It is hardly wrong to try to help those animals currently suffering and in need of homes.

      Again, you are correct that the issue of pet overpopulation continues, however, you may be underestimating the difference that rescuing a cat/dog makes – don’t forget that the entire world of an individual cat/dog is made whole, looked after, cared for and loved. I hardly think that is a trivial matter. So what would you suggest we do? All shelters close and we focus on massive spey/neutering programs – what about the millions of cats/dogs in immediate need who would simply be left to starve, suffer and die without our help? That hardly seems very compassionate to me.

      “Why are there so many designer dogs being genetically manipulated to suit the buyer’s whims?”
      This is obviously a disgusting, horrifying practice.

      I agree, that in an ideal world we would not have domesticated cats and dogs, however, the fact is that we have. And attempting to help out those who have, through our breeding and manipulation, become to a certain extent dependent on us for survival, is arguably our responsibility.

      In a vacuum, feeding our companions synthetic meat reduces suffering greatly over the current chicken/rabbit/beef/lamb/fish cat/dog food situation. That was the general point of the post.

      You have however, raised the important issue of the bigger picture – should we even have pets at all?

      Perhaps we could un-domesticate cats and dogs, however, given that we are responsible for the out-of-control pet overpopulation, we obviously cannot just free all the cats and dogs, as they will wreak havoc on the population of small mammals, etc. Not to mention many will simply starve and not manage on their own at all.

      Also, I think it is important to differentiate between pet “ownership” and genuinely caring for animals as members of the family. Buying pedigree animals and the entire breeding industry is completely wrong, yes, however giving love and attention to our companion animals is not ownership it is simply love – just like a parent cares for a child, rather than owning the child. Ownership implies property status – which is obviously totally immoral. Buying and selling, getting rid of when inconvenient and being totally shallow about looks is abhorrent – however compassion and care for fellow beings who cannot, due to our manipulation look after themselves, is a good thing.

      I’m glad for your thoughts, thank you for taking part in the discussion.

      Like

  4. Ashley,

    As long as humans preferentially produce food and provide food for a few preferred species to the exclusion of all other species, there will always remain a moral hypocrisy with our species. I find it fascinating so many vegans dismiss or refuse to acknowledge the moral hypocrisy inherent in pet ownership. As I noted on another post, we continue to abominate the canine species through hybridization so a happy human consumer might delight in toting around a “boutique” dog in a purse for her psychological well-being. I find this behavior as contempt toward the canine species and unbecoming of our species.

    Like

Agree? Disagree? Got something to add? Please share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s