Given the recent news regarding the potential criminalization of vegan parenting in Italy, I was hoping to get my father’s take on the whole thing when he called me last night. “By the way Dad”, I said, “Have you heard about this controversy in Italy about veganism?”
“Oh”, he replied, “So you heard about the thing with the dogs in Maccarese?”
Uhm, no. What?
So it turns out, there is another, entirely different vegan controversy going on in my country, and at the small beach town right outside of Rome where I usually spend my holidays at that. Apparently, the owner of a certain dog-friendly beach club is in a battle with the local animal rights group. The reason is he is a devout vegan, and he is so convinced in his veganism that he is also feeding his dogs an entirely vegan diet. The animal rights group says no, you can’t do that, and are trying to either convince him to start feeding his dogs properly, or to take them away from him. If your lifestyle, they say, makes it impossible to properly take care of your pet, whether because you live in a tiny apartment in the city, don’t have the money or time to care for them, or because you can’t bring yourself to purchase any animal products, you lose your right to care for that animal.
So, putting aside the sending vegan parents to jail for a minute, can we all at least agree on no vegan cats or dogs?
It is true that dogs have evolved a lot alongside humans, and thus have picked up a few mutations that have allowed them to shift from a carnivorous diet to a more omnivorous one compared to wolves. This means that dogs will survive longer on a vegan diet than cats will, who have remained obligate carnivores. However, dogs are still carnivores. They still have a very high protein requirement, a very low coefficient of fermentation (i.e. the indicator of how well they can digest plant matter), and they require nutrients which are not found in plant matter like our old favorite vitamin B12. Dogs fed on a vegan diet will be lethargic, develop fur problems, and will not survive long without very careful and artificial tinkering with their food, and even then they will likely not live healthily. A kitten fed on a vegan diet will die before adulthood. Animal abuse is punishable by law in Italy, and people who do not care for their pets appropriately will have them removed from their custody and, if the abuse is severe, they will face criminal charges. Once again, this animal rights group is seeking to demonstrate that malnutrition qualifies as animal neglect and thus are trying to remove this man’s dogs from him.
Personally, I find his position extremely ironic. Killing animals is wrong, for any reason, no matter how humanely. In fact, humans are capable of killing animals in a far more humane way than any predator will, which usually terrifies and disembowels its prey before eating it. But the slow torture of his “beloved” pets? That’s fine. That’s not unethical.
If you can’t bring yourself to contribute to the meat, egg or dairy industry in any way, get a rabbit. Or a guinea pig perhaps. I think that owning a pet is a privilege, not a right, and no one should keep any animal if they are not capable of giving them the comfort they deserve. I adore pigmy marmosets, for example, but I would never keep them as pets, because I cannot provide them with the quality of life that they would have in the wild. I also love dogs, but I do not have the space, time or home life stability necessary to ensure their happiness. I do not contribute to the seahorse pet trade either, despite their beauty. I find it incredibly selfish when humans try to twist their pets into something they are not just to satisfy their own egos, whether it is the creation of severely unhealthy breeds of dogs, ripping the claws and canines out of kittens because you don’t want them to scratch up your precious furniture (also illegal in Italy, by the way), chop off the tail and ears from your pitbull because fashion, keep a boa constrictor in a tiny tank because you’re so macho, or feeding carnivores a freaking vegan diet.
So, shelving the jail time for vegan parents for a moment. Can we all agree on this, for the time being? Stop feeding carnivores a vegan diet?