Dog, cat… How to have an animal when you are vegan?

We can consider that the fact of raising animals for recreational reasons, of having possession of their person, of imposing our company on them for our sole pleasure, of locking them in a restricted space […] relates to animal exploitation. » In his book Vegan planet: think, eat and act differently (ed. Marabout, 2017), geography researcher Ophélie Véron is categorical: you cannot call yourself vegan and have a cat or a dog at home. In a French-speaking context, veganism refers to the practice of a person not consuming anything that comes from animal exploitation. », defines Claire Camblain, geographer and specialist in the subject. To put it simply, vegans don’t eat meat of course, nor milk, eggs, honey and don’t wear wool or leather.

Indeed, being the owner or master of your animal seems far from these ethical commitments: how to feed it, if not with meat croquettes ? Is he comfortable in an apartment ? By being attentive to certain rules, vegans still choose to live with animals. This is the case of Larisa Ficulle, an Italian doctoral student in literature, vegan for a year. For me, having pets is not contradictory with veganism. I live with my boyfriend who has several cats and that is not a problem for me. The important thing is to always adopt them, never buy them. » By becoming vegan and antispeciesist, she has changed the way she lives with her cats: I am not their mistress. I try to find a balance between their free will and the fact that we live together. I also realized that I shouldn’t take them in my arms when they don’t want to, for example. »

A third of French households have a dog. © EB/Reporterre

We avoid punishment or humiliation »

The question posed by the adoption of an animal when we are vegan is also that of the deconstruction of our reflexes of domination. This begins with the status of this companion within the household: We want these animals to enter the family code as is now the case in Spain »says Amandine Sanvisens, co-founder of the animal protection association PAZ. Concretely, this implies for example that a judge will have to take into account the said animal, considered as a to be gifted with sensitivity » when a couple separates and propose possible shared custody. This also goes through the vocabulary used: we don’t train, we educate. We avoid punishment or humiliation »said Reporterre Anissa Putois, communications manager for the Peta France association.

These reflections are very recent. For a long time, our relationships with animals were utilitarian, according to science and environmental historian Valérie Chansigaud, author of History of animal domestication (ed. Delachaux and Niestlé, 2020): The first domesticated species was the wolf, which gave rise to the dog. On documents dating from 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, we see hunters surrounded by dogs, sometimes kept on a leash. »

It was not until the Renaissance that our relationships with animals became recreational: We notice on the paintings small dogs with women and children. It was a sign of nobility to have a pet “useless”. ” At XIXe century, dogs were integrated into the bourgeois way of life, soon followed by cats. Since then, our four-legged friends have taken a very important place in our daily lives. In April, a third of French households had a dog, according to the institute THAT’S IT.

The sensitive subject: croquettes

The most sensitive subject remains food: isn’t wanting to model one’s vegan and antispeciesist ethics on a hunting and carnivorous animal contradictory? ? “ “What do you think of vegetable food for dogs and cats ?” Is there a more controversial question than that? ? I get it every time I do a Q&A. And every time I answer it, I get pissed off ! »said La petite okara, a youtuber creator of vegan recipes, in a video two years ago [1]. herself, who has no no definite opinion on the matter », opted for meat kibbles adapted to his dog’s digestion after testing different options.

The question of food gave many knots to the brain of Larisa Ficulle, before she reached this conclusion: Unlike dogs, which are omnivores, cats have no choice but to eat meat. As a result, I feel less guilty giving him his food, without consuming it myself. »

Some believe that it is possible to feed your animals in a vegan way without putting them in danger, like Amandine Sanvisens, especially that the pet food contributes significantly to the slaughterhouse industry ». There is also the question of ecology: according to the American researcher Gregory Okin, in the United States alone, the production of meat for croquettes and pâtés generates the equivalent of the emissions of CO2 of… 13.6 million cars. By protecting the environment, we also protect animals.specifies Anissa Putois. We must therefore push our vegan lifestyle. » And therefore vegetalize the food of pets. If we find that this diet does not suit his cat, we stop of course. The idea is not to impose an ethical vision to the detriment of one’s health. »

For dogs, the vegan diet is possible and even better for their health, according to a study from the University of Lincoln. But according to veterinary nutritionist Charlotte Devaux, this study is flawed because it is funded by the organization ProVeg International and describes more correlation effects than causation. In general, according to Devaux, you have to be very attentive to nutrients: For people who decide to cook for their animals, it is very difficult: it takes about fifteen different ingredients and we have noticed many cases of undernutrition, especially for cats. » The latter indeed absolutely need taurine, an animate acid that it synthesizes very little itself.

Mealworms at different stages of their life cycle on the Ynsect farm near Dole, in the Jura. © Roxane Gauthier / Reporterre

So what to do ? Prioritize your companions, even if it means ignoring the lives of other animals ? For Charlotte Devaux, to limit the damage, we can turn to almost vegetarian veterinary ranges: They offer soy-based foods, but there are still fish oils, for example, or lanolin from sheep to meet vitamin D3 needs in particular. » Other avenues for getting out of the factory farming system: insect-based alternatives.

The urgency of overcrowded shelters

These compromises can be a hindrance for vegans. Purity is never achievable in complex situations », shade Claire Camblain. Ditto for sterilization, some vegans finding it difficult to prevent animals from reproducing. However, the associations are unanimous: in the summer of 2021, Peta published a column, signed by 101 veterinarians, calling for the sterilization of dogs and cats to avoid the birth of hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals which, for lack of sufficient homes, will end up abandoned, neglected or killed ».

Some shelters are so full that they can no longer accommodate animals. » Peta

Because there is an emergency: 100,000 animals are abandoned each year in France, which is the champion country in Europe »regrets Anissa Putois. Some shelters are so full that they can no longer accommodate animals. These are therefore euthanized when they are in perfect health. » This is also why we must fight buying, which condemns a candidate for adoption, since he loses his place in a family ». On November 30, 2021, the French parliament adopted a law prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, weaned too early and victims of impulse purchases ». We must go further, according to the animal protection association PAZwho calls for an end to all commodification of all pets »specifies Amandine Sanvisens.

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