The Cruelty Of The “Vegan” Dog


Professor Andrew Knight and vet Arielle Griffiths have ben on Radio 4 plugging their “vegan” dog food.

Griffiths claimed that “9% of land animals are killed” to provide dog food. This refers to a study led by Knight. Whether or not that is an accurate figure, it ignores the fact that most animal derivatives in dog food are by-products. That is to say, they are the bits that humans don’t eat. The animals would have been slaughtered anyway. If none of those by-products were used for animal feed, they would then have to be incinerated or go into landfill.

A peer-reviewed systematic review of the effects of feeding a “vegan” diet to dogs and cats is promoted on Knight and Griffith’s web site; perhaps in the hope or knowledge that most people won’t click on it or read it in full. The summary is worth quoting in some detail:

“Concerns arise due to dog and cat gut physiology which has adapted to a complete meat-based diet (cats) or largely meat-based diet (dogs). Particular concerns have been raised around deficiencies in certain amino acids such as taurine, and vitamins such as B12 (cobalamin) and B9 (folate). To date, there has been no formal assimilation of the scientific evidence on this topic, with a focus on actual health impacts of diets, as opposed to nutritional composition…We found that there has been limited scientific study on the impact of vegan diets on cat and dog health. In addition, the studies that have been conducted tended to employ small sample sizes, with study designs which are considered less reliable in evidence-based practice. Whilst there have been several survey studies with larger sample sizes, these types of studies can be subject to selection bias based on the disposition of the respondents towards alternative diets, or since answers may relate to subjective concepts such as body condition…Given the lack of large population-based studies, a cautious approach is recommended…”.
The summary does note that some studies have recorded “benefits” of such a diet but, as with raw diets, they are self-reported and, as the old saw says, the plural of anecdote is not data.
It is difficult to believe that this needs stating, but dogs are not humans and cats are not dogs. Griffiths muddied the waters, perhaps disingenuously, by babbling on about the taxonomic order Carnivora which does indeed include the Giant Panda – an obligate herbivore as well as the cat – an obligate carnivore. Dogs and humans are omnivores. Taxonomy is a notorious minefield of confusion, but this is irrelevant to the discussion. Dentition is sufficient to prove what diets dogs, humans and cats evolved to eat.
But there is more to food than basic nutrition. Cats, humans and dogs gain a great deal of pleasure from eating – for some animals, not provided by their owners with sufficient exercise and stimulation, dinnertime may be the only highlight of their day. Equally, food is used as an emotional tool by humans who are killing their cats and dogs by overfeeding.
Some humans can survive on a vegan diet, others become very ill. Plants may contain as much or more protein than red meat, but that does not mean that it is bio-available to the animal eating it. At the end of the day, only the relatively rich and the poor deliberately restrict their diets. I would argue that, as with feeding raw, foisting a faddish diet onto a companion animal is in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 in not providing a suitable diet – for physical or mental health.
To quote Dickens:
“Everybody knows the story of another experimental philosopher who had a great theory about a horse being able to live without eating, and who demonstrated it so well, that he had got his own horse down to a straw a day, and would unquestionably have rendered him a very spirited and rampacious animal on nothing at all, if he had not died, four-and-twenty hours before he was to have had his first comfortable bait of air”. 

Another Knee-jerk Reaction

Anther knee-jerk reaction The stupidity of the decision to ban the XL Bully knows no bounds. Yet again, the government ignore the weight of peer-reviewed science just as they did with Covid-19, and prioritise a populist response. Nothing to do with pending by-elections and a general election of course.

Once German Shepherds were demonised and the Staffie was the Nanny Dog and then they were demonised and became the media’s”devil dogs”. Now it is another bull breed derivative.

It seems the government is not prepared to learn the lessons from listing the so-called pit bull and we will have yet more perfectly fine dogs confined to leads and muzzles for no good reason and worse – owners will be obliged to neuter so that we will effectively be reducing the pool of dogs with good temperaments. More so-called expert witnesses will be polishing their callipers ready to measure those massive heads – how many millimetres over their limit does a bully have to be to be condemned even if it has done nothing?

There is a serious problem and that has led to so many injuries and fatalities this year but it is far more complex than sticking a type of dog on a list. Whether it’s a large dog confined to a council flat or a dog walker unable to cope with too many dogs, the problem lies with breeding, purchase and ownership.

This was a missed opportunity to improve the legislation regarding breeding and responsible ownership, a missed opportunity to support behaviourists and trainers who are trying to deal with the consequences and a missed opportunity to save lives.

XL bullies are already being dumped and now will probably be culled as, once the legislation is enacted, it will be illegal to exchange or sell them. Responsible owners will be demonised and, right now, I am thinking of the delightful XL Bully bitch that my puppy was romping with last week. She was well-trained and well cared for and, despite being three times the size and weight of my puppy had perfect play manners.

Rishi Sunak might like to consider that his own chosen breed, the Labrador is a restricted breed in Ukraine and they feature high on the list of dogs causing injury in the UK. Of course, the Labrador has excellent PR – puppies rolling around with lavatory paper, Guide Dogs; but anyone that has been on the receiving end of an aroused Labrador may have a different view, as might the person who like me, had a whale of a time playing with an XL Bully.

You’ve Got Mail

You've Got MailThe Royal Mail is running its annual Dog Awareness Week as it announces a horrific increase in injuries to postal workers.

There were 1,916 incidents involving dogs and postal workers last year – an average of 37 a week or 5 per day.

902 incidents (47%), took place at the front door, 515 (27%) in a garden, drive or yard and 118 (6%) of attacks in the street. 381 (20%) injuries occurred via a letterbox and such incidents prompted a High Court ruling in 2020 enabling prosecution of anyone in charge of an animal that causes injury to any person making a delivery, regardless of whether the owner is at home.

Royal Mail workers lost 3,014 days to injuries in 2022/23 with one severely injured worker being absent from work for 139 days.

Territorial guarding is common in dogs – and indeed something for which we have selected for in breeds. Many owners like the idea that their property is being “looked after” by a dog when they are absent. However, one of the reasons that injuries are increasing, apart from an increase in dog ownership, is that owners are no longer taking responsibility for their dogs, either when they are present or when dogs are left on their own.

Simple and inexpensive measures could prevent all postal workers from being injured.

  • Keep your dog away from the front door – it’s safer for your dog and safer for visitors. Use a child gate or close inner doors
  • Supervise your dog when in a garden, especially near the front door. This will also prevent theft
  • Fit a letter basket to the front door – it will also stop your post from being damaged by your dog
  • Obtain professional help if your dog has serious aggression problems.

Remember, it is not the dog’s fault – YOU are responsible.

Bully Off

Bully Off It has been an appalling year already for serious injuries and fatalities involving dogs.

The Met alone seized 479 out-of-control dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act in 2022 146 more than in 2021. 154 dogs had already been seized by May this year.

44 of the seizures were XL bullies, compared to 16 Staffie crosses. No American bulldogs were seized in 2018 or 2019 by the force. In the UK overall in 2022, there were nearly 22,000 cases of out-of-control dogs causing injury. In 2018, there were just over 16,000, the UK’s dog population having been estimated to have risen by only 15% in the same period of time.

The reasons for the rise in incidents are complex, but include poor breeding and rearing, poor handling and ignorance of owners plus the minority who deliberately want their dogs to be perceived as intimidating.

There is a push for XL bullies to be added to the list of banned breeds but this would not solve the problem. In fact, yet more legislation will do little but to enable the police and other agencies to deal with the “low hanging fruit” unless considerable resources are committed to back up the legislation that we already have and which is rarely enforced. This would go a long way to preventing back street breeding, illegal boarding and out of control dogs.

Dogs have always been used to exemplify the perceived status of their owners – and that applies as much to the Labrador and spaniel (“my other house is an estate”) as to the XL Bully (be scared of my dog, be scared of me). Demonising whatever the latest fad is in dog breeding ignores the elephant in the room that all dogs have the potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands and under the wrong circumstances.

Research proves that BSL has failed everywhere it has been tried: research and statistics prove that the Dangerous Dogs Act has been an abject failure. Let’s not allow MPs to tick a box, add a breed and then think that their job is done. It won’t save lives.

How To Get Free Dog

How to get a free dog…and a free go to jail card.

It behoves owners to take suitable precautions to keep their dogs safe when they are out, not least because of the number of dog thefts across the UK.

However, there is a new twist on this perennially increasing crime thanks to Tik Tok. So-called prank videos are used to goad children into behaviour that is often anti-social and, in this case illegal.

An eighteen year old filmed himself snatching an elderly women’s dog and running off with it, posting the video with the caption How to get a free dog.

Although he gave the dog back, it can only be imagined how distressing this must have been for owner and dog. Fortunately, he was arrested for causing a public nuisance.

Far too many owners fail to train good recall and fail to pay attention to their dogs when out, even, as I discovered to my cost, when their dog lays into another dog. In that case, the owner was far too interested in her telephone call than in getting her dog away after it had bitten my puppy. When combined with the shocking number of dogs off lead on roads, it’s hardly surprising that dogs are vulnerable to such stupidity and downright criminality.

Sad Farewell To Paul O’Grady

Sad farewell to Paul O'GradyIt was a great shock to hear of the sudden and early death of performer Paul O’Grady.

Although he came to prominence as a drag artist in the 1980s with his alter ego Lily Savage, latterly it was as a dog lover that he was principally known.

He hosted two animal-themed television shows Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs from 2012–2022 and Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans from 2014–2016. For the Love of Dogs was a documentary that promoted Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and O’Grady not only filmed there but volunteered for six months. There is a bronze statue of his dog Buster, a bichon-frisé/shih tzu cross (pictured left) in the centre and he adopted another dog, a JRT/Chihuahua form there. His Animal Orphans  programmes took him to Africa and India.

Although the programmes that he made about dogs were a fraction of his wide output, it is probably safe to say that they were close to his heart. he will be sorely missed.

Horse And Hound – A Nightmare?

Horse and hound - a nightmare? Horses and dogs may seem to be a natural match but not always.

There are now far too many irresponsible dog owners who do not bother to undertake any training and make no effort to control their dog. That is of course, assuming that they are in the same place as their dog in the first place.

The incident shown in this image fortunately didn’t result in any injuries but it was obviously very frightening and was described as being “nine minutes of absolute hell”. The rider concerned was nervous and trying out the horse for the first time. What a dreadful start to their partnership.

A further incident that took place in Victoria Park today did not have such a happy outcome. The police horse did remarkably well not to injure the dog or unseat his rider but did not come off so lightly himself. The horse will be off duty at tax payers’ expense and may require re-training and the police officer no doubt will have his confidence dented too.

Owners are happy to pay a fortune for their dog, stock up on expensive accoutrements, pay other people to walk and groom them but are often far less willing to stump up for a qualified, professional trainer or even invest a few pounds in a long line.

Whilst it’s understandable that the police officer shouted, yelling at the dog and poking it with a tree branch were not calculated to save the day. It was lucky that the man who grabbed the dog had the presence of mind to finally intervene before anything even worse could happen.

Fighting On The Beaches

Fighting on the beaches There are many hazards for which dog walkers need to be vigilant. As a puppy owner, I often feel that I wading knee deep in litter, every bit of which has the potential to end up in my puppy’s mouth and some of which could be fatal.

Getting out of town no longer provides respite as litter is far from an urban problem. Fly-tipping in the countryside has been an increasing problem since Covid-19 lockdowns and the sparsity or rural police. However, it is not the only difficulty that may be encountered.

There has been increasing concern about direct discharges of sewage onto UK beaches resulting in dog walkers being warned about 83 beaches. Problems have been exacerbated by recent heavy rainfall. The Thames has long suffered from this problem, although it seems not to deter owners from allowing their dogs to swim: if the tides don’t get you the sewage will, to misquote Tom Lehrer. Hopefully, the Thames Tideway Tunnel will alleviate the problems along the Thames and its tributaries, although that isn’t due to open until 2025.

In addition, the horrendous outbreak of avian influenza (H5N1) that had ravaged domestic and wild birds has spread to some mammals. So far, it has been detected in foxes, otters and seals in the UK. Whilst the number remain small and H5N1 may not have been the cause of death, it does pose a risk. Training your dog not to harry wildlife or scavenge carcasses is vital, not only to keep your dog safe, but to limit the potential of overspill form birds into dogs.

As the easter holidays approach, many people will no doubt be heading to beaches. Training and vigilance should ensure that it shouldn’t turn into a vet emergency.

Barking at the moon(pig)

Barking at the moon(pig) Congratulations to online card retailer Moonpig after their announcement that they will no longer sell images of brachycephalic dogs such as pugs and French bulldogs.

Many brands have exploited such dogs for advertising purposes, often with a sick irony. BullDog Skin Care using a severely compromised dog with probable skin problems, Vitality Life Insurance using an image of an extremely achondroplastic Dachshund with an obscenely long back are just two examples.

Hopefully where Moonpig lead, others will follow. We live in a culture that is so quick to take offence over trivialities that may not even possess the perceived connection, so how can we, in all conscience, still find deformed phenotypes in dogs attractive? Not displaying them in advertising may help to dispel the normalisation of illness and pain that these dogs suffer and reduce their popularity.

Dog Walker Fatality

Update: the coroner’s report has revealed that dog walker Natasha Johnson died from neck wounds that punctured her jugular. In the same week, yet another fatality was recorded in Milton Keynes and the poor “family” dog has been euthanised as a result. The fate of the dogs in the Caterham incident has yet to be decided even though the police have stated that no prosecutions will be brought. How many more dogs must die before something is done to educate the public, train are dogs using positive reinforcement and compel dog walkers and boarders to be sufficiently qualified and experienced backed up by the resources to reinforce it.

2022 was the worst year on record for fatal incidents involving dogs and now, barely half way through the first month of 2023, we have another.

A dog walker was killed in what seems to be a case of re-directed aggression. The fate of the eight dogs has yet to be established. If, as has so far been surmised, the dogs were in a ruck and the walker became entangled in their leads, it only goes to show how poor the skills of so-called professionals are. Whilst anyone can be involved in an accident, dog walkers need to know that it takes more than just holding the lead, liking dogs and taking clients’ money to be a professional.

Dog walkers need to be fully trained and licensed as well as regulated and we desperately need the resources to police it. Moreover, as this item emphasises, people should not get a dog unless they are prepared to mostly look after it themselves. We all need help from time to time, but if it’s on a daily basis, what’s the point in having a dog?