So vegans and pets or companion animals, should we have them, should they also be vegan? Are we exploiting them by ‘owning’ them and caring for them?
Should vegans have pets? As I explore this topic I am actually coming up with more questions! Its a tough one for vegans and there is no short answer! It is something that will be up to individuals to decide. We need to think about how we are feeding them, how are we housing them, could they survive if left to fend for themselves in the wild. It is definitely a topic worth thinking about.
Companion animal or pet?
There seems to be some debate amongst vegans do we call them companion animals or pets. Some feel ‘pet’ shows ownership whereas companion animal shows a mutual relationship. If it is important to you to describe your relationship with the animals in your life in a particular way then you should.
I can see that some great discussions would arise from the terminology used and as long as its a respectful and compassionate conversation then it will be useful in raising more awareness. For the purposes of this article, I will be calling them ‘pets’.
Where do we get our animals from?
This is important if you buy pets from a pet shop or a breeder you are encouraging the breeding of animals for our pleasure! So animals are being used for our purposes and surely vegans are uncomfortable with that?
Think about the mother animal who is churning out baby after baby having endured pregnancy after pregnancy and not all animals are properly taken care of they are literally breeding machines for the benefit of humans. What happens when they are spent and no longer useful?
How about rescue animals?
Our dog was from a rescue centre, dumped there as a puppy! We paid for him a nominal fee and that helps the centre to keep going. I think if we weren’t breeding pets for profit there would be fewer of these centres needed.
I do think there is a place to rescue animals and provide them with shelter, warmth, food, and companionship. What will happen to them otherwise?
Here’s another dilemma… the center required us to let them neuter him, we weren’t ever going to breed with him so we agreed. Also, we couldn’t have him if we didn’t agree, after all, they don’t want more puppies on their doorstep! But we have neutered him without consent! I still think it was the best and responsible thing to do but it does make me a little uncomfortable as its another way we control him! Just another thing I ponder on!
What about service pets?
What about guide dogs, hearing dogs, therapy pets? This is a hard one! Service pets are bred into the job, so to speak, hopefully, those breeders are compassionate and responsible! But is the mama just giving birth relentlessly or is she also allowed a life? Dogs are often used as service dogs be it guide dogs, hearing dogs, therapy dogs or seizure dogs and dogs were domesticated thousands of years ago and are now fully integrated, they would struggle to survive alone and they love human relationships and interaction! I do feel that some animals get serious enjoyment from their ‘work’ and they often don’t see it as such, its a game or just normality which they thrive on.
I think that service animals are respected by their owners for the job that they do and they are also loved as pets! I believe that animals enjoy the work, they enjoy it for the rewards and attention they receive. They are amazing in the way that they detect seizures before they happen, alert their owner of danger if they can’t see it, I feel they couldn’t do this if they were unhappy with the situation. Perhaps having that purpose is good for them in the same way as we look for purpose, who knows?
Ah but what about ‘working’ animals?
So what about horses who race or show jump? What about drug dogs? What about police dogs? This is a sticky one for me! I am completely against horse racing and show jumping. Some of those races are so hard and horses actually die! Also terrifying a horse so it goes faster or jumps higher is just a no! But I don’t think I am against people riding horses they have as pets… I think rescuing rather than buying from a breeder is the way forward. We have bred these animals and now we need to take care of them in the same way as we need to with dogs and cats.
So drug dogs and police dogs? I don’t know! They seem to love their work and are well cared for and very good at their tasks. Do they thrive on the challenge? I think they do however then I think about the fact that they are often put in harm’s way and I am not so happy about that!
Rescue goats and grazing!
Mmmm so imagine this … you rescue five beautiful goats and a local farmer who has fields dedicated to solar panels asks if you want to graze your goats in his fields as its hard to keep the grass down with all the solar panels so close together. He will pay you a fee which will help you with all the costs of keeping these goats.
If you say ‘yes’ are you exploiting the goats? Or are you letting them roam and chew, which is natural behaviour and the money is just a bonus?
Should my pets be vegan?
So we have rescued some animals and now we wonder what to feed them! Should we make them be vegan? We can’t really ask them so we will have to choose for ourselves!
As I mentioned we have a dog, he is 10 years old and we became vegan a couple of years ago. Our dog is not vegan and here’s why! He is getting old and has been fed meat for so long I literally think it would be cruel to make that dietary change, however, he doesn’t get meat scraps now, obviously, but there is meat in his food. It makes me sad that I feed him meat but I really don’t think it is in his best interests to change him over, he has lots of food sensitivities as well so we don’t want to mess him around! However, if I were to rescue another puppy or young dog they would be vegan, there are so many different vegan brands around I do feel with careful planning we could feed a dog fully vegan.
Cats, on the other hand, are obligate carnivores this means they need to eat meat. So there seems to be no movement there and since I am not an expert I would feed my cats what they need!
Obviously, there are other pets like snakes who would probably not thrive on a vegan diet!
I think we have created a pet trade and only by not supporting it will it calm down. I support rescuing animals but not buying from a pet shop or a breeder. I believe we need to feed our pets what they need, they didn’t ask to be born and if they need meat to survive and we have chosen to care for them then we will need to provide! I think a vegan future would mean there weren’t so many pets and this wouldn’t be a dilemma. I am aware that we might not share the same views and I am also aware that as I develop as a person my opinion might change but for now this is where I am!