Dog, cat… How do you have an animal when you’re vegan?

We may think that breeding animals for recreational reasons, having possession of their person, imposing upon them our company solely for our pleasure, locking them in a confined space […] concerns the exploitation of animals. » In his book Vegan planet: think, eat and act differently (ed. Marabout, 2017), geography researcher Ophélie Véron is categorical: You cannot call yourself a vegan and have a cat or a dog at home. In a French-speaking context, veganism refers to the practice that a person does not consume anything that comes from the exploitation of animals. », defines Claire Camblain, geographer and specialist in the subject. To put it simply, vegans of course do not eat meat, nor milk, eggs, honey and do not wear wool or leather.

Being the owner or master of your animal actually seems far removed from these ethical obligations: how to feed it if not with meat croquettes ? Is he comfortable in an apartment ? By being aware of certain rules, vegans still choose to live with animals. This is the case of Larisa Ficulle, an Italian PhD student in literature, vegan for a year. For me, having pets does not conflict with veganism. I live with my boyfriend who has several cats and it is no problem for me. The important thing is to always adopt them, never buy them. » By becoming vegan and anti-speciesist, 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 hold them when they don’t want to e.g. »

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

We avoid punishment or humiliation »

The question of adopting an animal when we are vegans is also the question of the deconstruction of our reflexes of dominance. This begins with the status of this companion in 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 means, for example, that a judge must take into account the said animal, considered as one to be gifted with sensitivity » when a couple separates and suggests possible shared custody. This also goes through the vocabulary used: we don’t train, we educate. We avoid punishment or humiliation »said Reporters Anissa Putois, communications manager for the Peta France association.

These considerations are very new. For a long time, our relationship with animals was utilitarian, according to science and environmental historian Valérie Chansigaud, author of The history of domestication of livestock (ed. Delachaux and Niestlé, 2020): The first domesticated species was the wolf, which gave rise to the dog. In documents 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 relationship with animals became recreational: We notice in 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 lifestyle, soon followed by cats. Since then, our four-legged friends have occupied a very important place in our daily lives. In April, a third of French households had a dog, according to the institute THAT IS IT.

The touchy subject: croquettes

The most sensitive subject remains food: isn’t it contradictory to want to model one’s vegan and anti-speciesist ethics on a hunting and carnivorous animal? ? “ “What do you think about vegetable food for dogs and cats ?” Is there a more controversial issue than that? ? I get it every time I do a Q&A. And every time I answer it, I get mad ! »La petite okara, a vegan recipe YouTuber, said in a video two years ago [1]. himself, who has no no definite opinion on the matter », chose meat bridges adapted to his dog’s digestion after testing different options.

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

Some believe that it is possible to feed your animals in a vegan way without endangering them, like Amandine Sanvisens, especially that animal food contributes significantly to the butchery industry ». There is also the question of ecology: according to American researcher Gregory Okin, the production of meat for croquettes and pâtés in the United States alone 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 pet food. If we find that this diet does not suit his cat, we will of course stop. 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 was funded by the organization ProVeg International and describes more correlation effects than causation. In general, according to Devaux, you must pay close attention to nutrients: For people who decide to cook for their animals, it is very difficult: it requires about fifteen different ingredients and we have noticed many cases of malnutrition, especially for cats. » The latter actually absolutely needs taurine, an animate acid that it itself synthesizes very little.

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

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 series: They offer soy-based foods, but there are still e.g. fish oils or lanolin from sheep to meet vitamin D3 requirements in particular. » Other ways out of the factory farming system: insect-based alternatives.

Overcrowded shelters are urgent

These compromises can be an obstacle for vegans. Purity is never achievable in complex situations », shade Claire Camblain. Ditto for sterilization, some vegans have a hard time preventing animals from procreating. However, the associations agree: in the summer of 2021, Peta published a column, signed by 101 vets, calling for the sterilization of dogs and cats to avoid the birth of hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals that, in the absence of adequate homes, will end up being 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 every year in France, which is the champion country in Europe »sorry 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 purchases that condemns a candidate for adoption as he loses his place in a family ». On November 30, 2021, the French Parliament passed a law banning the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, prematurely weaned and victims of impulse buy ». We must move on, the animal protection association believes PAZWHO calls for an end to all commodification of all pets »specifies Amandine Sanvisens.

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