How do you feed your dogs when you are morally against buying animal products?
That paraphrased question was put on the metaphorical table for me by our food editor, Kristen.
And it's a good one.
It's a delicate subject. People are very protective when it comes to their dogs.
Have you ever had someone who owns a dog talk to you about what you're feeding your dog in that condescending manner? "Oh... so you're feeding them (fill in the blank basic store brand)? I feed MY dog only the best- fresh chicken, organic vegetables, and the biblical golden calf."
And yet, when you're vegan it's hard not think about what's in your dog's food.
I own three dogs. Well, technically, 2.5 -- my wife and I just got a new cockapoo puppy. OK, more like 1 and 3/4 -- one of the three is a Chihuahua. So that's one two-month-old cockapoo, one one-year-old cockapoo, and one Chihuahua.
A few years ago, in what in hindsight was foreshadowing of my decision to become vegan, I started investigating what goes into dog food.
You know how they say it's best not to know how the sausage is made?
The same is doubly true for dog food.
And not even the sensationalized stuff you read about, like ground up horse meat or shelter animals. But the standard stuff, like corn. Corn, you'd think, is great. Except dogs don't process it like humans. It's in there because corn is an incredibly bountiful and cheap commodity, and it looks good on the
Still, corn is a vegetable. No huge harm there for a vegan like myself.
Also, I worried about all the chemicals in there. Take a look at the back of your dog food bag. If you can't pronounce half the ingredients, that's not good. Still, buying a higher grade dog food can solve that problem for not much more money.
The problem comes down to the meat in most dog foods.
Mechanically-separated chicken is a popular ingredient. Whatever image comes to mind when you read "mechanically-separated chicken," you're probably close.
Meat and bone meal is also common. You know, just like mom used to make. If your mother hated you and had access to leftover animal parts and an industrial-grade blender.
How can someone who doesn't eat meat and is ethically against current slaughterhouse and factory farm conditions feed his pets that stuff?
In other words, can I feed meat to my dog when I don't eat meat myself?
It's not an easy thing to digest, in all senses.
And that's why I often say being vegetarian or vegan isn't a set of absolute codes, but a way of living. Dogs are predatory animals designed to eat meat and, unlike humans, can't raise food on their own or control how it's produced.
I'm not going to force a human way of living on my dogs, just as my Chihuahua doesn't force me to mark every tree in the neighborhood (I only mark some trees).
There are few widely available vegan-based dog foods, so that's one option, but it doesn't give dogs access to meat, and it's not like they can supplement with tofu.
So to answer Kristen's question: You do what best serves your dog while adhering to your own standards as much as possible.
For me, that means buying from companies with great reputations that don't experiment on animals and use quality ingredients. The meat comes from animals raised as humanely as possible, and it's not full of fillers. Solid Gold is a favorite.
It's not a perfect solution. But it's better than bone meal.
-- Andrew Shaw can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org