Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I was strolling down the pet food aisle at the grocery store yesterday morning, marveling as I always do at the array of doggie junk food ("Yeah, I'm really trying to eat healthy these days. Here, Sparky, want a Pupperoni?"), and I was surprised to see that a chunk of prime shelf space had been given over to a brand of vegan dog food. Ack. I know the whole veggie dog movement has been around a long time, but it's mostly been confined to the fringes of the pet marketplace. I've only seen it in upscale health food stores where much of the customer base has more money than sense. Now here it is staking a claim in a chain supermarket--in Tennessee, of all places, where barbecue is the foundation of the food pyramid. Things are clearly getting out of hand.

The whole idea of trying to turn a dog into a vegetarian would be funny if it weren't so cruel. It's true that, in theory, you can keep your dog healthy feeding him soy protein and salad. You can also keep him healthy confined for life to a cage in your basement. As long as you keep it clean and Fido gets a regular run on the treadmill, he'll be fine. But will he be happy? Of course not. Dogs are social, active creatures by nature, and only a stupid or heartless person would ignore that fact.

Likewise, a reasonable owner has to understand that dogs are born predators. They are wired physically and mentally to kill. A little of that has been bred out of domestic dogs, but only a little. I know all my coddled, kibble-fed beasts are more than happy to dispatch any bird, bunny or supersized cockroach that comes within striking range. Given that I do my best to deny them that moment of joy, it seems just plain mean to deprive them of the secondary pleasure of sinking their teeth into something somebody else got to kill.

I'm no BARF purist, mind you. My dogs do plenty of carb-loading. There's a package of cinnamon bagels in their treat bin at this moment. But there's no denying that, given the option, they would always choose goat kidneys or green tripe (don't ask) over the most elegant vegetarian fare available. Why shouldn't they have what they prefer? We rob our pets of so much of their natural lives for our pleasure and convenience, do we have to draft them into our ethical and aesthetic causes as well?

If this website is anything to judge by, the "convert a carnivore" movement has been canny enough to abandon its emphasis on saving your dog's murderous soul in favor of rhetoric about the environmental impact of meat production and supposed dangers of a meat-based diet. I love the fear mongering about pet food recalls, which conveniently ignores the fact that none of those recalls were triggered by the meat in the foods.

As for the environmental problem, it's easy enough to get grass-fed meat for your dog, and the whole argument begs the question of whether it's environmentally responsible to keep "companion animals" in the first place. What's so responsible about maintaining an excess population of animals purely for our pleasure? No matter what you feed them, the fact is that they use up vast quantities of food and other resources. The most sustainable approach would probably be to kill your dog and eat him.

Photo of African Painted Dogs from Wikipedia


Anonymous said...

Totally with you on this. Poor meat starved doggies. I don't eat meat, but my doggies will...

BitterGrace said...

Leo, when I die I want to come back as your dog--any pet of yours is going to have a wonderful life. I don't understand why people have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that what's best for them may not be best for another species. Even during my most hardcore vegan phase, I never considered trying to turn my animals into vegetarians.

chayaruchama said...


I love you two.