Vegan cats and dogs

This morning I received an email from a friend asking “I have a question for you that I was thinking about yesterday. What do vegans feed their cats and dogs?”

This subject keeps on coming up and I’ve addressed it so many times I thought I’d write a blog post on it.

Here is the reply I sent:

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Vegan cat and dog food! There are no nutrients that any any human, cat or dog needs that cannot be sourced from plants. None. Dogs are true biological omnivores (humans are cultural not biological omnivores) and cats are obligate carnivores.

What do these terms mean? Well an omnivore isn’t an just animal that can eat a mix of meat and plants, it’s an animal that can thrive on meat only or plants only. You can feed a dog nothing but meat and it’ll be fine (actually not optimally healthy but it’ll survive) or just plant based nutrients and it’ll do just fine. The same thing with a bear – another true omnivore. Humans however will quickly die if fed only meat (especially uncooked) but thrive on plant-only diets. This is because we are not biological omnivores like dogs and bears.

Cats are interesting because they are are obligate carnivores but that word obligate applies to their ability to procure food – not digest it. Most cats and dogs in the western world are already vegans (almost) – they eat dried pellet food made mostly from oats and soy – the cheaper brands have very little to no meat in them at all despite being labelled as “rabbit” or “chicken” or whatever. Usually bone meal (from the named animal) plus “rendered animal by-product” is added to the mix to give a meaty smell and flavour but no real meat is in there – it’s all bones and gristle and the parts that a cat probably wouldn’t eat anyway. These millions of cats and dogs never taste a piece of meat – they are eating hard, dry, crunchy pellets.

My dog Perris gets fed a mix of two dried vegan dog foods that are nutritionally complete plus vegan sausages which I cut up as treats for him. He also gets left-overs from my cooking which is always healthy.

I don’t have a cat but I know plenty of vegans with very healthy cats who are fed a nutritionally complete plant-based diet.

Hope this answers your question. If you’re interested in what defines a herbivore/omnivore/carnivore consider the disease atherosclerosis. This is the clogging of the arteries due to the intake of dietary cholesterol (only found in meat, eggs, fish and dairy and never in plants). Only herbivorous animals can ever contract this disease – goats, cows, horses, sheep, humans. You can feed a dog, a bear, a lion, a cat meat all day, everyday and it will never get atherosclerosis.

Coronary heart and artery disease caused by atherosclerosis is the number one killer of humans in the USA. Every American alive today has a one-in-two chance of premature death from this disease. We are clearly not omnivores!
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In my opinion, and according to the definition of veganism as given by the Vegan Society (https://www.vegansociety.com/try-vegan/definition-veganism) vegans should not support the killing of any animal for pleasure or any-other non-essential purpose. If vegans believe that cats must be fed meat and cat ownership constitutes a pleasure then vegans should stop owning cats and keep rabbits or other animals that don’t require the suffering of other animals for their survival.

Musings on Christmas and my greetings of love and friendship and best wishes to you all.

Allow me first to speak a few words of my main passion and purpose: veganism and vegan advocacy. For me, the transition to veganism was a cognitive transformation: an awakening which triggered whole new pathways of understanding; a realization from which there can be no retreat, for that which is realized can never be unrealized. This realization was like slotting into place the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle; it extended, for me as it does for so many others, far beyond veganism. I think it taught me compassion.

Those of us who study the human condition and the plight of those less fortunate than ourselves, both our contemporaries and those throughout history, find the compartmentalisation of the psyche needed for escapism too hard to maintain. For those who eschew the hedonistic pursuit of escapist pleasures, those whose realities are grounded in the beauty and suffering of the real world, there can never be true sorrow untinged with joy just as there cannot ever be true joy untinged with sorrow. For that is the plight of the romantic; to deny that reality is to choose ignorance, to accept it is to invite madness. Many people have noted that along with genius comes madness but we are all, in our own way geniuses and we are all by extension flirting with anomie and despair, fighting our inner demons in order to continue our struggle to survive and function. To look is to see and to see is to know. If knowing alone can cause such feelings of anguish and heartache I often ask myself: how can shelter workers who have to wretchedly euthanize healthy, happy animals day in and day out survive that ordeal with their sanity intact? How can those doctors who care for terminally ill children and watch them die maintain their facade of professionalism with dry eyes? How in fact do we all cope with the inevitable tragedy of the unnecessary suffering and death of our loved ones? It is almost unbearable even when we deliberately restrict their number to a manageable few family and friends. No wonder we strive to restrict that number – it’s self-preservation. For those others of us, on the other hand, who endeavour to extend our circle of compassion to include and embrace every living being on earth and to witness their suffering, the pain can become insurmountable and ultimately sometimes too much to bear.

Well now the Christmas celebrations are upon us; a time of year that is to me a fundamentally meaningless holiday other than the merit stemming from the ancient pagan traditional worship of the winter solstice from which it was plagiarized. That day (actually it’s the 23rd) marks the turn of winter and heralds the welcoming of the shorter nights and longer days that bring warmth and rejuvenation and life. For the second year in a row spending Christmas without my son and daughters I can clearly see, first hand and empathize with, the mean-spiritedness and exclusivity of this grubby little holiday. All the rampant, out-of-control consumerism and pernicious emphasis on the in-group-ism of “family” and friends is sure torment for those who have no one with whom to share it, widows and widowers, those who have never had a family or children, orphans and those who are forgotten and left behind on society’s scrapheap. The disabled, the elderly, the animals, those who are tormented by memories past and those others who by cruel fate and circumstance were denied even those memories. I am privileged to have so many friends who will be spending their holiday season selflessly helping those less fortunate, human and non-human, and I am in the deepest awe of these people and take comfort in their genuine, non-proselytizing altruism. You are the best of humanity; I love you.

Surely if this supposed Christmas tradition of love is to have real meaning it should not be constrained by such consumerist and in-group precepts of mass-culture but should mandate an open-door policy in every Christian (and non-Christian) home. Take a walk down your street on Christmas day; how many homes have a “Knock and enter” sign on their gate? Not too many I would guess: and those homes in the more politically conservative locations, those homes with the most expansive lawns and longest driveways, those homes exhibiting the most egregious displays of piety are more likely to be displaying a “Keep out, trespassers will be shot” sign. Perhaps we should all volunteer at a soup kitchen at Christmas.

If this time of year is to have any meaning at all it should be all about the renewal and extension of love and compassion, not a celebration behind firmly closed doors of greed-fuelled death and exclusivity with grotesque table centre-pieces of animal carcasses. I am myself, by a very large measure (as you know or will learn) far from perfect, but to me perfection is in itself an interesting concept. We should never stop improving ourselves: our understanding, our freedom from entrenched views, our empathy for others. Ironically, perfection is unobtainable for as long as we can strive for it for the moment it is achieved and the moment we stop striving are one and the same. After all, that which is perfect cannot be improved upon. Personally, I lay aside any ambition of achieving perfection and simply embrace the striving, life is like a road-trip, the goal being the journey rather than the destination – a lesson that my vegan advocacy has firmly hammered home. Many people demand every perfection in every little detail for Christmas but this life isn’t about perfection, it’s about the perpetual struggle to improve ourselves and with that I bid you all happy holidays and thanks for your understanding, warmth and friendship. Until next time, love, peace and good health to you all.

My journey to veganism

Welcome to my brand-new blog. I hope that you’ll enjoy reading my posts and I look forward to your comments.

I study and write about social justice issues and the human condition, psychology in so far as it relates to culturally-shaped attitudes and beliefs. Favourite topics include: bigotry, animal cruelty, human self-harm, religious atrocities, cognitive dissonance, environmental vandalism, violence in society, corporate lies and greed, hegemony, governmental corruption and totalitarianism all the time. I hold a degree in physics, and am working on a masters in integrated studies (psychology, philosophy and sociology). I had a successful career in investment banking in the 1990s and was an aerobatic contest pilot.

Veganism is, for me, the inevitable result of the journey towards cultural emancipation and free-thought. My vegan story began long before I was even aware of the concept of veganism, let alone the word itself.

I was raised in the UK by a meat-eating father who understood that fruit and vegetables were good for you – but was unaware of the health risks associated with the food we take from animals. He bought very little red meat, we never had beef as far as I can remember, I was always enjoined to “eat your vegetables.”

I was raised in a home without cats and dogs. My mother, who ran off leaving my father and I when I was eight years-old, acquired a dog with her new boyfriend. I met the dog a few times during brief encounters with her and remember it as being a lovely animal. Her boyfriend was very devoted to it. She impassionately had it euthanised when dog ownership became inconvenient to her. I don’t think he ever forgave her and it did nothing to elevate my opinion of her. That was my first encounter with disdain for life.
My father, with whom I lived, kept, and was fanatical about, Japanese Koi goldfish but happily served fish for dinner. He built a huge concrete pond in the back garden with a massive underground filtration system. I could see that the Koi were sensitive, friendly and inquisitive. They could learn and obviously were quite intelligent. They knew when they were about to be fed and displayed the ability to have expectations about the future. They played and frolicked and plainly had individual personalities. My father, however, kept serving up fish for dinner – presumably fish that were born, by pure bad luck into a species that didn’t merit our respect and love and care. By the size of the piece of flesh on my plate I could tell that the fish I was eating was at least as large and old as those Koi. Even to a young boy the disconnect between my father’s caring for his pet Koi and his disregard for the poor “other” speciesm of fish was perplexing.

Upon relocating westwards to Canada back in 2011 a month after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I was hit with a large dose of culture shock. Upon arrival I immediately became aware of the ubiquity of religious belief. In the UK and the more industrial and societally progressive parts of Europe people tend not to be religious. In that part of the world religiosity is almost treated with mild condescension and scorn. I guess that even as a thirty-something I just hadn’t understood that people really do believe in it. Clergy, I assumed, went through the motions for the usual remuneration, the flock for social status, tradition and fellowship. I viewed the preservation of religious artifacts (such as old-English churches) and rituals (such as weddings, christenings and funerals) as the conservation of history and tradition. I saw church vicars more as one views a museum curator.

So the realization that religious belief in the first world goes beyond that was quite a shock. I was keen to understand how two people who spoke the same language and who had similar educational backgrounds, similar access to information and similar intelligence could have such opposing approaches to matters of faith and reason. The answer, I was to discover was the influence of cultural immersion from earliest childhood through to adulthood. The word ‘indoctrination’ implies a more pernicious and deliberate effort to distort education and is embodied by the alleged Jesuit gasconade: ‘Give me the child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man.’ This statement, I was to ruefully discover in the years to follow, proved to be no idle boast. The discovery of Facebook and the resulting endless, unedifying on-line (and in-person) debates with religious North Americans both shocked and deflated me. Over time I noticed a familiar pattern of repeated pre-scripted responses concerning thorny matters such as evolution and cosmology. For someone with a science background this was simultaneously frustrating and depressing; reason I was to learn, along with science and evidence, are to be mistrusted in favour of those culturally accepted ‘truths.’ I considered myself a ‘freethinker’ and travelled N.America attending free-thought conferences.

And then something happened that would change my life irreversibly…
Like everyone else I knew, I was aware of the origin of the animal flesh I was consuming. I understood that animals had to be bred and killed in order for us to have meat. I knew also, just the vast majority “knows” that we needed meat to thrive and be healthy and strong and that, thus, the killing of animals was a necessary evil.

Then one day a little over three years ago I read ‘The China Study’ by T. Colin Campbell and was vigourously divested of that falsehood. We didn’t need any meat at all. Nor did we need milk, cheese, eggs or fish; in fact those things made us sick and led to all of the main killer diseases.

My rationalisation for eating those products of cruelty evaporated right before my eyes. As I continued reading investigating this subject I felt a weight lift from my conscience.

I’d always assumed that the largest industries in terms of profitability in the U.S. (and elsewhere) were the euphemistically named ‘defence’ industries along with petroleum and pharmaceuticals. I knew how political lobbying worked, about how so-called government ‘regulators’ were corrupt, how the masses were oppressed (and oppressed themselves) from the pressing issues in their lives with trivial and cultural distractions but I’d never realised that the food production industry was orders of magnitude larger than the others. How could I have overlooked this glaring fact? After all the one commodity that everyone consumes every day is food. We were, as with everything else we’ve been told about animal “agriculture”, deceived. Milk wasn’t the ‘perfect food,’ (unless you’re a calf), meat causes cancer, heart disease and diabetes are caused by (and reversed by the removal of) animal products in the diet. Eggs are cancer-causing cholesterol bombs.

With slight embarrassment I realised that my previous self-adorned “free-thinker” was optimistic to say the least. I’d fallen for and slavishly adhered to all the marketing lies and culturally promulgated norms regarding animals and our need to eat them.

Now I advocate for a vegan understanding, diet and lifestyle. Removing violence from our daily lives, feeling empathy for others from whom there can never be reciprocation, and living a modest footprint life benefits our health, both physical and just as importantly mental as well as the plight of the hapless animals and environment.

Perhaps the impact of the vegan lifestyle on our personal and collective psyche is vastly underestimated. Peaceful individuals result in a peaceful society. Yes it’s fair to say I’m passionate about this subject.

I occasionally receive messages from well-meaning (non-vegan) friends asking me why I “obsess” about such things, why don’t I “chill and have a beer” or “go outside and enjoy a walk or a bike ride and forget it all”.

Well I do do those things but I can never be truly happy in my life unless I am actively fighting against injustice and raising consciousness about it. The unhappiest moments of my life are when I know I’m ignoring it, when I’m doing nothing constructive. As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss,” well for those who’ve had their eyes opened it seems such bliss is no longer an option, our happiness and fulfilment must be provided by the from the satisfaction which comes from helping to improve the lot of others.

Thanks for reading friends, more posts to follow, and please don’t hesitate to comment – your feedback is appreciated.