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”. 

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