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as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy,
practical applications, and living compassionately.
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for Carnivorous Cats
I read that you have cats. I also heard
that cats require a carnivorous diet. Do feeding your
cats and your vegan lifestyle conflict? Have you found
cruelty-free food for your cats?
vegan ethic provides broad guidelines for how to live
a compassionate life. Many everyday decisions -- such
as what to eat, wear, or wash with -- are relatively
easy to make because they are clearly delineated by
vegan parameters. Other choices are not so simple.
Vegans are regularly confronted by the
gray areas of life, so we are perpetually challenged
to determine the most benevolent solution to numerous
philosophically ambiguous and complex problems. Often
there are no conclusive answers. Therefore, certain
issues become more a matter of the heart than the mind.
Companion animals -- what to feed them,
how to best care for them, and even whether or not they
should be in our homes -- is one of those murky areas
under continual discussion among vegans. Food is a particularly
contentious subject because the commercial pet food
industry thrives on the by-products and dregs of the
combined animal slaughter industries.
Dogs and cats are, by nature, carnivorous.
Nevertheless, canines, in general, can fairly readily
adjust to a vegetarian or vegan diet, with careful planning
and nutritional supplementation. Felines, on the other
hand, have much more difficulty adapting to a meatless
diet, and, without meticulous supplementation of very
specific nutrients, they could go blind, fail to thrive,
or even die.
Some veterinarians vehemently caution
against vegetarian and vegan diets for all carnivorous
companion animals. Others concede that dogs can be healthy
on vegetarian fare. But whether or not cats should be
given solely vegetarian food, under any circumstances,
continues to be a topic of much controversy.
Some vegans provide their cats with
vegan options at home, and then allow them to hunt freely
outdoors to retrieve their necessary ration of meat.
This approach, however, is rife with problems. Cats
are extremely territorial. When left to wander on their
own, they customarily get into brutal fights with other
cats, which can be crippling, disfiguring, or deadly.
Their safety is further compromised by exposure to lethal
viruses and other transmittable diseases. Outdoor cats
also become easy marks for abuse, seizure, poisoning,
highway death, impoundment, and sale to research laboratories.
Uncontrolled breeding of free-roaming cats is another
concern that further exacerbates our already exploding
problem of companion animal overpopulation. Furthermore,
the predation of unsuspecting birds, small urban mammals,
and other native species is cruel and dangerous. Frequently
the small animals are maimed and debilitated or left
to endure a slow, agonizing death. Also, the consumption
of wildlife can spread disease, illness, and rabies.
Vegans do not have a clear-cut solution
to this dilemma. Cats, as well as the animals that go
into their food, are sentient beings. We must ask ourselves
if our attempt to transform carnivorous beings into
vegetarians is motivated by our concern for our feline
companions, the other animals that go into their food,
or our own self-serving interests.
Millions of healthy domestic animals
are euthanized each year because there simply are not
enough homes for them. Billions of farm animals are
slaughtered each year to appease the seemingly insatiable
human appetite for flesh and the meat industry's lust
for greater profits. Vegans make a difference by not
eating animals or using animal products and by encouraging
others to do the same. Regardless of what we do and
what we wish for, however, we cannot transform the world
overnight. Animals will, for the time being, continue
to be killed for human consumption. They are not exterminated
outright to become dinner for our companion animals.
Pet products are merely the remnants of animal parts
deemed unsuitable for ingestion by humans.
Unquestionably, the purchase of commercial
cat food supports, at least in some small measure, the
food animal slaughter industries. However, it is not
the cow-for-a-cat equation that may initially come to
mind. Food animals are first and foremost slaughtered
for human consumption, and therefore our first line
of action should be transforming human eating habits.
That alone will save significantly more animals than
those consumed by our feline companions. Our second
focus should be working for the elimination of breeding
mills, combined with active campaigning for the widespread
implementation of low-cost, readily available spay and
Should we euthanize all cats, or let
them die in shelters, laboratories, and rural and urban
areas simply because they had the misfortune to be born
carnivores? As vegans, we must evaluate the most humane
options available, and make realistic decisions based
not on the world we are trying create but on the world
we have before us right now.
Yes, I have feline companions. At first,
we tried feeding them a vegan diet, against our veterinarian's
advice. Unfortunately, they did not do well. After extensive
soul searching, we made the tough decision to feed them
commercial pet products. It is a moral quandary we grapple
with each day. Our choice may not be the right one for
every vegan. All vegans must weigh what is acceptable
to them within the realm of their conscience and beliefs.
If we listen to the truth in our hearts, we will know
what approach we should take.
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