The other day I started thinking about dog food. I like dogs. I used to have one and when I did a lot of my money and time was spent paying for, collecting and administering dog food. I no longer have a dog however I do on occasion look after other peoples dogs and am looking into doggy related day jobs as a new sober alternative to running bars and restaurants.
This got me thinking. As a #badvegan where do I stand on dog food? I mean if I’m against killing animals and farming them for their flesh and secretions then does that mean I am against killing animals in order to feed other animals?
Killing’s killing right?
Often in the ‘vegan debate’ the argument over how we treat our companion animals like dogs and cats comes up as an obvious sign of societies hypocrisy in comparison to how we treat farmyard animals like pigs, cows and chickens. All of these animals are sentient beings capable of feeling pain, forming bonds and building relationships with other animals and humans. Yet dogs and cats, in the West anyway, are not farmed and eaten like their livestock relations despite pigs, cows and some sea creatures being just as intelligent as dogs. In Jonathan Safran Foers’ book Eating Animals he puts forward a very convincing argument for eating dogs. If we are genuinely looking for a food source that is protein rich, breeds freely, quickly and is historically tasty then why overlook the dog?
So where does the vegan moral compass rest when it comes to feeding these companion animals? Is it OK to kill for our pets when we do not kill for ourselves? If I was to get another cat or dog how would I choose to feed it?
Humans do not need to eat animal products to survive. There are millions of healthy vegans munching away on mushrooms, broccoli and Vitamin B12 to prove this. Most humans are born lactose intolerant anyway and it is only through exposure to dairy thanks to a historically huge amount of dairy promotion from the good old dairy industry that we develop sufficient gut bacteria to break it down and survive its’ unpleasant after effects. But what about dogs and cats? Do they need animal protein to survive? Does the vegan argument of ‘all protein comes from plants anyway therefore let’s just get it straight from the plant’ work in this scenario?
Dogs are omnivores like people. Their bodies have the ability to derive necessary nutrients from most foods and can therefore be fed either a vegetarian, vegan or meat based diet and live healthy happy lives. One of the worlds oldest dogs, Bramble, reached an astronomical age of 27 in human years (that’s a whopping 189 in dog years) and was never fed meat by his Vegan owner. If it’s good enough for Bramble it’s good enough for me! The main problem here would be that there really isn’t a huge supply of vegetarian dog food. So if you want your pup to be a vegan you’ll probably have to cook for them yourself.
Cats on the other hand are obligate carnivores. They need meat to live. As a result of their ancestral diet cats do not possess the ability to obtain certain amino acids or vitamins from their food as omnivores do, requiring instead to get such things straight from the source, if you will, which in this case would be meat. ‘But wait’ I hear you cry ‘my cat eats grass all the time, it’s good for them!’ Now you may have seen your cat eating grass or chewing on your plants leading you to believe that Fluffy wants to be a vegan just like Mummy. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you but cats cannot actually digest vegetable matter. They eat grass for the folic acid in the juice, an essential vitamin to a cats bodily functions, but also to help them throw up. Seriously. When cats eat grass it causes them to throw up which then clears out the other indigestible contents of their stomachs like fur, bones, glitter you get the picture.
Presently most pet food is made from a combination of things. The ‘meat’ content, which in most wet food only has to be 4% to warrant a flavour-giving name like ‘chicken’, can be either waste meat like offal or unpopular cuts like neck, feet, head, need I say more. Even more pleasant often the carcasses of other dead animals, potentially other dogs, horses or cats, can make their way onto our pampered pets plates. The key word here is ‘waste’ which kind of relinquishes guilt to the #badvegan like myself as the animals are not being killed specifically to feed said pets.
But what if we stop eating meat? What happens then? Is it all over for Fluffy?
Let us imagine that the world has decided to stop eating animals. It’s over. The factory farms are closed, the last pigs are re-homed, chickens wander freely across Stoke Newington common and the environment is saved. What about the cats? I mean it does sound like the ones in Stokey will be alright what with all this free roaming poultry but seriously what happens to our feline friends? If we no longer kill animals for our own food how can we then justify killing them to make Fluffys’ food?
If a new form of natural selection was to be reinstated, a natural selection that we as humans have all but destroyed by hunting and eradicating nearly all other major predators that historically kept numbers of wild cows, sheep and deer under control; do our cats become the new shepherds of the era? Would the only way for cats to survive in a Vegan world be to return to hunting? If so, how long before they start hunting us?
I was once told by a pest control man that the only way to guarantee a pest free house through cat-control is to not feed the cat. Farm cats are usually part-feral hunters that live predominantly on the vermin they kill. 12,000 years ago when cats chose to domesticate themselves it was as a result of farmers crops attracting mice and rats drawing forth attention from wild forest cats. The cats hung around for the easy meals and the farmers liked a little cuddle. Is this a hypothetical way for cats to remain in our future domesticated vegan friendly lives by essentially returning to nature and feeding themselves? And what about all the spare livestock what happens to them? Do we all adopt? Will cows take over as the deer have in Scotland requiring regular culls forcing our vegan selves to take up shotguns and shoot them anyway? Then is it a case of waste not want not? I mean if the animals have to be killed then surely we should really eat them?
Either that or it’s quids in for Fluffy.
We are so far away from having to realistically deal with these problems that they do seem somewhat surreal. I suspect that when these changes really do happen it will not be overnight leaving us with several options with regard to livestock, the reintroduction of natural predators and the conversion of animal to arable farming. But the world is changing now, humanity is evolving as it rightly should. We are waking up after generations of industry-booming, corporation-controlled, ego-led money making and starting to realise that there are other ways to live. Our collective consciousness is developing and as a result we are moving away from the automatic machine-like mentality and towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly, ethical ways of being.
There is potential for a future with no factory farming, vegetarian dogs and less domestic cats.
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com