How Far Does Veganism Go?
I have pets. I have a large dog; my daughter has a tiny dog, and we also have a cat. I constantly see the argument online debating whether or not it's ok to feed pets a meat based diet when one is vegan. This discussion almost always ends in heated arguments that go on for days. There are the vegans who make damned sure that their pets are vegan too and there are those who are more relaxed about the whole thing and recognize that making a cat vegan is most definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum.
I have a vegan dog; this is entirely for health reasons and the dog has been vegan longer than I have. He suffers from itchy skin and constantly has ear infections. A vegan diet was suggested to me to help alleviate allergies. I tried it and he has shown significant improvement. A ton of research has taught me that a dog can be vegan and live a healthy, nutritionally balanced life. My cat, however, is most definitely not a vegan. This cat was deathly ill a year or so ago with a bladder blockage and his life hung in the balance for a day or so. He now eats exclusively canned food, and while I have read every argument that a cat can be vegan (and I'm really not convinced) I am not messing with the diet of this cat in any way, shape or form. I go to the pet store every week or so and pick up six cans of chicken stew cat food. His illness was very scary and very expensive, and since his diet change he's been healthy (knock on wood).
I frequently see arguments against horseback riding, service animals, backyard chickens etc. I'm always amazed at the degree of anger in these arguments. I've learned that anger really won't convince anybody of anything. It is the best way to completely lose your audience and make yourself look foolish in the process. If a person has a horse, or has two or three pet chickens, and lives a vegan lifestyle in other respects, is kind and compassionate to animals then why berate that person? Why not applaud them and encourage them to do as much as they can? Every lit bit helps and is a step in the right direction.
I prefer the vegan philosophy that says something about doing the least amount of harm. I think, that in this day and age, it's near impossible to live a completely vegan lifestyle – although I suppose if you never take any pharmaceuticals and only have herbivore pets it's possible. Kudos to those people, but as long as I have this cat he will eat chicken in his food. If for any reason, my dog appeared to be failing in his health then I would switch him back to his old food in a heartbeat. Does it bother me? Yes it does – quite a lot. I don't like buying the cat food, but he is a cat. That is what cats do. And if I choose to have a cat then I need to treat him as best as I can and respect what he is, and if that includes a dish of “chicken stew” to maintain his health, then chicken stew it is. Yes, it is a conflict, and I struggle with it, but I had him before I went vegan and if I choose to “own” a pet then I also choose to do my best for him.