Vegetarian dog food and ideological nutrition

Dog parents who choose a plant-based diet for their dogs often face ridicule or criticism. One of the most common attacks launched across the trail is that individuals who choose to feed their dogs a vegan diet are imposing human political obligations and moral beliefs on their dogs, and this imposition is unfair and inappropriate. I’d like to dump this criticism because it seems far from reality. It obscures the fact that all food choices we make for our companion dogs are ethically charged, and all food choices involve imposing our political obligations on our dogs. There is nothing special about vegetarian diets.

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Dogs as victims of human lifestyle choices

In an article published in Time Last week’s magazine Katrina Gulliver said that pet dogs are victims of human whims and weaknesses. We use dogs to infuse our status and style and make them clear symbols of the beliefs we want to communicate to other humans. Although Gulliver’s overall point is interesting, and the article is well worth reading, she makes a strange logical error when she talks about dog food:

The story we tell ourselves that dogs choose our lifestyle or prefer the things we want (how lucky, to have a pet that shares our preferences!) is even reflected in how the dogs are fed. In recent years, there has been a trend towards raw food for pets. Some feed their dogs organically, or even try to get their pets to eat human meals, such as a vegetarian. These owners show an anthropomorphic desire and ambition for social status, as well as a certain degree of delusion. Those who feed their pets staple food are ashamed of not caring for their pets.

Contrary to what Gulliver suggests, people who feed their dogs meat-based meat-eating engage in just as much ideological imposition as those who choose to feed their dogs broccoli. It just so happens that the carnivore, or meat-based diet, is so rooted and normalized that it is not recognized as an ethical choice. Mrs. Gulliver commits the same crime of accusing those who “try” to feed their dogs organic, vegan, raw, or anything else outside the etiquette lane: she shames us. It tells us that we put our ideological aspirations above the needs of our dogs. By the way, calling vegetarian diets “delusional” and “ambitious for social status” is just plain weird. Most people I know who avoid animal-based foods and other products do so for ethical reasons, certainly not for a “social situation” where vegans are likely to be belittled, harassed, ostracized as disrespectful and arrogant, accused of being privileged, just to opt out of Systematic oppression and torture of animals.

The truth is that most people who choose a plant-based diet for their dogs have done so after long and hard thinking about whether such a diet would be fun and healthy for their companion, and after doing a lot of research and talking to their vet.

Do vegan dogs always belong to vegan dog guardians? Although I haven’t seen any research on this topic, this is likely to be the case.

Of course, not all vegetarians feed their dogs a vegan diet. I’ve talked to some vegans who don’t believe that a vegan diet will provide their dogs (or dogs in general) with proper nutrition, so they make a choice they find personally uncomfortable and buy meat-based foods and treats. Others have dogs with specific nutritional needs related to chronic illnesses, allergies, or age, and follow your vet’s recommendation of a prescription feed (none of them, at this point, are vegan).

In contrast, I have never met a dog groomer who also did not impose this diet on his dog, often without much serious deliberation or research. If you eat a carnivorous diet and feed your dog meat, you “match” dog food choices to your own ideology, pushing your beliefs down your dog’s throat, much like a vegan dog guardian feeding his dog a vegan diet. The decision about what to feed is morally and ideologically loaded whether you like it or not.

All dog food choices are ethically charged

I am not arguing here for or against a vegan diet for dogs, but simply suggest that everyone who keeps and feeds a companion dog makes ethically loaded and morally meaningful choices. We all impose lifestyle choices and ideological commitments on our dogs – no matter what we eat ourselves and what we feed our dogs. If no one has ever thought about what goes in their dog’s food bowl (or mouth), it’s a much bigger problem, in my opinion, than making deliberate and deliberately thoughtful choices.

The fact that eating meat is the “standard” American diet for dogs is the result of historical emergencies. It is not a reflection of some innate truth about what dogs should eat or how humans should feed the dogs they keep as pets.

What is a “natural” dog diet? This is a meaningless question in the context of keeping pets because there is no natural diet; No diet is chosen by dogs for themselves, either based on what they can get, what they need or what they want. Those who specialize in dog nutrition can certainly provide a great deal of information about the nutritional characteristics of a canine body, and the individual needs of each dog, and we can use this information to make choices that will support our dog’s well-being.

We need to pull our heads out of the dog bowl and look critically at the ramifications of any combination of choices we make. There is no ethically neutral way to feed pet dogs – and that is simply not an option. There is no such thing as no choice; Floating on Carnian ideological currents is still an option. You just choose to float, rather than swim upstream.

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