22 Feb 2015

Opinion: Should Vegans Feed Their Cats Meat?


One of the largest ongoing debates within the vegan community regards the question of whether or not vegans should feed meat to their feline companions. There are a plethora of arguments originating from both sides of the field, so it can be extremely difficult to know what (or who) to believe. Opponents of a plant-based diet for cats argue that cats are obligate carnivores, meaning meat consumption is essential for their health. Proponents of the idea argue that cats can live healthily on a plant-based diet, and that synthetic taurine (an essential dietary requirement for cat health - found naturally in animal products) can be used in place of standard taurine.

I am by no means an expert in the field of feline health, nor have I conducted any extensive research on the subject. Several followers of my blog, however, have suggested that I tackle the issue of vegan cats; so I will do my best to provide an informed opinion.

It's a matter of necessity

To determine whether or not it's morally acceptable for vegans to feed meat to cats, we must take the matter of necessity into account. At the very least, we can be one-hundred percent certain that meat consumption is not necessary for human health. Necessity forms the very basis of veganism - that is, unnecessary killing goes against our moral code. If, however, it is necessary for cats to eat meat, this wouldn't break the vegan moral code, as necessary killing (such as when lions hunt their prey) is acceptable.

Of course, whether or not it's necessary for cats to eat meat is a much debated topic. Since I'm not formally educated on the subject, I choose to sit on the fence - although I tend to lean towards the belief that meat is essential for cat health, as all other members of the feline family (tigers, lions, leopards) are famously carnivorous.

To sum up:
  • If meat-eating is essential for feline health, it does not break vegan code
  • The general consensus seems to be that cats are obligate carnivores, therefore they must eat meat
Cats are typically seen as carnivorous animals
Cat food comes from factory farms

This is an understandable concern to have. The majority of store-bought cat food is produced through incredibly inhumane, unethical and horrific practices. As vegans, we are overwhelmingly opposed to this kind of behaviour, which is a significant part of the reason why we don't purchase meat, dairy or eggs. However, can we except ourselves from this rule if we are buying meat for a cat rather than for ourselves?

At least to some degree, I don't think so. If we choose to feed animal products to our cats, we should try our very best to source the animal products from more "reputable" businesses. It can be difficult to think of any meat-producing business as reputable or ethical, but it's at least true that some are much better than others. I think the best choice is to source cat food from local fisherman rather than from large-scale factory farms or corporations.

To sum up:
  • Mainstream, store-bought cat food is sourced from inhumane and unethical factory farms
  • Cat food should be sourced from more reputable businesses if possible
  • Try buying from local fisherman or butchers
Should we only adopt herbivorous animals?

In order to avoid this problem all together, vegans could simply choose not to adopt cats, and to only adopt herbivorous or omnivorous animals that can healthily subsist on a plant-based diet. Unfortunately, this option has its downfalls. Thousands of cats are dropped in shelters each and every day; and many of which will be immediately killed. Through adopting these helpless animals, we save lives. In order to save the lives of these animals, however, we (if cats need meat to survive) must support the killing of other animals (mainly fish, to feed the cats). It's a difficult and confusing choice to make.

If we adopt cats and feed them meat, animals will die. If we don't adopt cats at all, animals will die. If we adopt cats and feed them plant-based food fortified with taurine, are we really doing what's best for them? Or will it harm - and eventually kill - them in the long run?

To sum up:
  • Vegans could choose to only adopt herbivorous animals
  • If we choose not to adopt cats at all, thousands will die in shelters
  • If we feed cats plant-based diets, their health may suffer
  • It's difficult and confusing to know the right thing to do
In conclusion...

Since there are so many conflicting opinions and arguments regarding the issue of cats eating meat, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what's right. In this case, I think it all comes down to a matter of personal choice. Do what feels right to you. If you have cats and believe meat is necessary for their health, that's fine - it doesn't make you any less vegan. Just try your best to avoid purchasing cat food sourced from factory farms. If you have cats and choose not to feed them meat - that's your choice as well, and it doesn't make you any less vegan - but please make sure your decision is based on a lot of research, and that you're certain you're doing what's right for your feline friend. If you choose only to adopt herbivorous animals - such as rabbits, mice and rats - that's fine too.