Animal nutrition: the dilemma of vegan cats and dogs

Vegans who exclude meat and fish from their diet do not want to feed their cats and dogs with the meat of other animals, in accordance with their principles. More and more people want vegan food for their pets, so the pet food industry has adapted its offering. But is such food suitable for small four-legged animals?

Valéry Giroux adopts stray cats, which he says are many in his neighborhood, usually on very cold days.

The vegan finds it hard to justify killing farm or farm animals to feed their cats after their deplorable living conditions.

There he sees a contradiction: “It’s like undressing Pierre to dress Paul. »

However, she fears that if she gives them food that does not contain animal protein, she won’t be able to take care of the cats – small carnivores – enough.

“I believe that animals have a right, including not to suffer and not die prematurely,” explains the woman, a doctor of philosophy and animal ethics researcher at the Center for Ethics Research (CRE).

So, how to meet the needs of cats and at the same time respect the rights of other animals? “I ask myself these questions” because there are indeed conflicting obligations, he judges.

As for the argument that only human waste meat is used to make animal feed, it defies the argument: the pet food industry ensures that commercial breeding remains very profitable.

who eats what

A vegan diet is of course possible: as veterinarian Cloé Gervais St-Cyr of the Houssart veterinary hospital in Trois-Rivers explained in an interview, he is omnivorous, adaptable to anything, like dogs.

But not “obligate carnivores” cats, she continues.

Therefore, the vegan food issue for them is more sensitive and controversial.

Among other things, cats need taurine, an essential amino acid found naturally and abundantly in meat and fish. Otherwise, they are at risk of heart disease, heart disease, the vet says. They may also experience vision problems and stomach upsets.r Younès Chorfi is professor of nutrition at the University of Montreal School of Veterinary Medicine.

“You shouldn’t play with him.”

If the idea behind a vegan diet is to respect nature, but then you have to make up for deficiencies in the animal’s food by adding chemical nutrients like synthetic taurine, “it’s not consistent,” he said. He states that some animal foods sold in stores or online that claim to be vegan do not contain the recommended amount of taurine for a balanced diet, which is essential for the cat’s health. He believes creating vegan foods for cats is more difficult given the delicate balance of nutrients required, but it’s still possible.

Vincent Duhamel made the vegetable diet choice for himself years ago. Respect for the environment played a role for the Montrealer, but for him it was above all a matter of animal ethics. He opened the doors of his house to stray cats. For now, seven people are lying there.

The dilemma posed for him, too: Aware of the health problems a purely plant-based diet can cause in cats, he chose to give them “half and half” portions: he mixes 50% traditional croquettes with animals in their bowls. protein and 50% vegetable meal. Cats don’t split kibble, she says.

And at least it “reduces the amount,” he says, and the effect it has on animals.

Other than that, the discomfort doesn’t go away completely: Meat dishes, “I don’t feel very good about it”.

The seven cats do not have any health problems, he says. So are the cats that choose Valéry Giroux’s home: they are followed by a veterinarian to make sure that precisely this diet does not harm them. About 15 cats and 12 years later no disease was diagnosed.

“But if I’m wrong and that reduces their life expectancy, the question remains,” he said.

He calls for more research into the nutritional needs of cats: if science finds a solution to their diet, the “ethical issue will go away.”

As part of its implementation, DD Gervais St-Cyr has never cared for a sick animal because of its vegetable diet. However, like many other veterinarians, he does not recommend it for cats.

But recent research shows that such a diet may be possible if the missing amino acids are added.

As for vegan Sophy Bernier, who is in charge of a foundation that accepts long abandoned animals, she says she looks forward to the commercialization of synthetic animal proteins created in the lab, which, in her view, will solve the challenges posed. to eat. cats. Because Animals, a biotech company, will launch its first cultured meat dish in 2022.

industry response

Nancy Oliveira, product specialist and buyer for the Quebec company, says in an interview that in Mondou, a large chain of animal product stores in Quebec, consumer demand for vegan foods and other foods based on different proteins has been recorded for four or five years. .

“People are more aware of what they eat and what they want for themselves for their animals. »

He points out that this is “silent growth,” as we see demand for these more specialized products increase.

Jonathan Bourget, Executive Director of Bio Biscuit, A pet food manufacturer, Mondou’s business partner, particularly known for its Oven-Baked Tradition brand products, has developed vegan recipes for dogs with food allergies and intolerances, but these foods are definitely bought for other reasons.

“For now, it’s still a niche product,” he says, although it’s “growing.” However, sales of vegan “semi-moist” dog food have seen an 80-100% increase over the past year, says Ms.Me too oliver

He quickly distinguishes between dogs and cats: “It is impossible for us to develop purely vegan food that will work for the cat. »

As for those looking to reduce their environmental footprint, they have more options than ever before. Mr. Bourget points out that sales of fish baits have increased “largely”, particularly over the past year. Bio Biscuit has also developed foods with a reduced carbon footprint, including animal treats made from insects.

“We’re going there,” he said. We should not rush the consumer, but eventually meat supply will become more and more difficult and expensive. »

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