By Claire Gordon • 21 October 2021 • 10:48
Despite recent warnings that pet owners could be breaking animal welfare laws if they fail to feed their pets a ‘suitable diet’, a veterinary professor has found vegan diets to be just as healthy as meat-based pet food. This will cause further disruption in the debate over plant-based foods for our furry friends and the creation of vegan dogs and cats.
From the University of Winchester, Andrew Knight has completed research into the health outcomes of cats and dogs when fed vegan pet food. His subjects recorded as good, or better, health markers when vegan as they did when not. This was on the terms of the vegan diets being carefully formulated to ensure they covered all the nutrients the animals needed.
The Animal Welfare act 2006 covers pet’s diets in the rules. It states that an animals diet must meet all their nutritional needs or a £20,000 fine or 51-week jail sentence could be meted out. While vegan food isn’t pointed out specifically the president of the British Veterinary Association does not recommend one for our companion animals. Justine Shotton says: “We would not recommend feeding a dog a vegan diet as it is much easier to get the balance of nutrients wrong than to get it right, leading to a risk of dietary deficiencies and associated disease.”
The results from Knight’s research are part of a much bigger study into confirming the validity of vegan dogs and cats. He tells The Guardian: “Dogs, cats and other species have requirements for nutrients, they don’t need meat or any other particular ingredient. They need the set of nutrients and provided those are supplied to them in a diet that’s sufficiently tasty that they’re motivated to eat it, and digestible, we’d expect to see them thrive. And that’s what the evidence seems to indicate,” Knight said. “The claim is animals on vegan diets will necessarily become ill and it’s somehow cruel to maintain them, is contrary to the scientific evidence in this field and is ignorant.”
Mintel, a market research firm, conducted a poll on dog owners and found 34% are interested in regularly feeding their dogs plant-based food. Guy Sandelowsky, the owner of a vegan dog food brand, said this pointed to a few different factors. Worries about the environmental damage of the meat industry, meat and cancer links, and the trend of treating pets as children all had a hand in the poll results, he added.
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