Tag Archives: vegan

Kibbles and Kale? Many Pet Owners Keen to Have Vegan Pets

A surprising number of pet owners, particularly those who are vegan, are interested in feeding their pets a plant-based diet, according to new University of Guelph research.

Researchers with U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College along with colleagues in New Zealand conducted an online survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners from around the world to learn about what kinds of foods they fed their pets and themselves.

Vegan diet photo

Photo by: Rarnie McCudden from Pexels

Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the survey found that 35 per cent of owners whose pets ate conventional diets were interested in switching their animals to a vegan diet.

More than half of them (55 per cent) added, though, that certain stipulations needed to be met before they would make the switch. Those stipulations included needing further evidence that a plant-based diet would meet their pets’ nutritional needs, wanting approval from their veterinarians and wanting plant-based pet foods to be easily available.

Just under six per cent of the survey respondents were vegan — meaning they ate no meat, dairy or fish – and more than a quarter (27 per cent) of them reported they already fed their pets plant-based diets.

Among the rest of the vegans, a full 78 per cent were interested in helping their pets to switch to a plant-based diet if one were available that met their needs.

Lead author Sarah Dodd, currently a PhD candidate at the OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, said even she was surprised by how many vegans had already chosen to eliminate meat from their pets’ diets.

“That percentage, 27 per cent, might sound like a small number, but when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that’s huge, and much higher than we expected.”

In total, 1.6 per cent of the 2,940 dogs in the survey and 0.7 per cent of the 1,545 cats were being fed a strictly plant-based diet; only vegans and one vegetarian chose to exclusively feed plant-based diets.

Another 10.4 per cent of the dogs and 3.3 per cent of cats were intermittently fed vegetarian diets or plant-based foods.

Of the 3,673 pet owners surveyed, 6 per cent were vegetarian (meaning they ate no meat but did eat dairy, eggs or honey), 4 per cent were pescatarian (meaning they ate no meat but fish, and may eat dairy, eggs or honey), and nearly 6 per cent were vegan (meaning they ate no animal products).

Dodd performed this study for her M.Sc. degree with Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies

Dodd said while her team’s research was not designed to assess whether vegan pet diets are a growing trend, she expects interest in the diets to increase.

“People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

Previous studies have also shown that pet owners tend to offer the same kind of diets to their dogs and cats that they adopt for themselves.

“So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow.”

However, there has not been much research on the nutritional suitability of vegan diets for dogs and cats, nor on the health benefits and risks of plant-based diets in these animals, said Dodd.

“This study shows there is a clear need for further research in this area.”

Source:  University of Guelph media statement

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Is There A Link Between Your Pets and Your Food Choices?

People who grow up with a greater variety of pets are significantly more likely to follow a vegetarian diet as adults, according to research by a professor-student team in the University at Albany psychology department.

Sydney Heiss, graduate student in the department of psychology, worked with assistant professor Julia Hormes to gain a better understanding of the factors that play a role in a person’s decision to refrain from animal products as adults.

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Assistant Professor of Psychology Julia Hormes, left, and graduate student Sydney Heiss, both with their dogs, conducted research on the influence that childhood pets have on a person’s diet choices in adulthood. Photo by State University of New York, Albany

The two recruited study participants from social media webpages focused on food in general, including those focused on vegetarianism and veganism, resulting in a pool of 325 participants with a mean age of 30 years.

Participants provided their demographic information and whether they followed any vegetarian diet, including “flexitarian” (mostly vegetarian, but sometimes eats meat), “semi-vegetarian” (eats some types of meat but refrains from others), “pescetarian” (eats fish, eggs and dairy but refrains from other meat products), “lacto-ovo-vegetarian” (eats eggs and dairy, but refrains from all animal flesh), “vegan” (no animal products whatsoever), and “raw vegan” (consumes exclusively uncooked non-animal products).

Heiss and Hormes then assessed the individual’s beliefs and attitudes regarding the use of animals in food, clothing and research and surveyed them on their ownership and relationship with any childhood pets. Participants were asked about the number and types of their childhood pets, how often they were responsible for their animal(s) care, how close they felt to the animal(s), etc.

After a statistical analyses of all responses, the duo found:

  • Those who owned pets in childhood were significantly more likely than those without pets to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet as an adult.
  • Those who owned a variety of pets (i.e. hamsters, dogs and cats, as opposed to just dogs) were more likely to avoid a wider range of animal products (e.g., refrain from all animal products as opposed to only meat) than those who owned fewer pets.
  • A wider variety of pets led to a stronger opposition towards animal exploitation, which in turn led to less animal product consumption.
  • Closeness to ones’ pet was a significant predictor of a person’s likelihood to refrain from animal products as an adult.

“It seems as though individuals who had different types of pets more easily empathize with farmed animals or those used in research,” said Heiss. “For example, someone who had only a dog may have difficulty feeling empathy for a cow, whereas someone who grew up with farm animals may be more attuned to characteristics that are shared across all species and therefore, better able to empathize with all animals.”

Though research previously existed suggesting a potential link between pet ownership and animal product restriction, Hormes notes there’s a key difference about this most recent study.

“Past research has suggested that closeness to a childhood pet is the key factor that predicts increased empathy and vegetarianism in adulthood,” said Hormes. “Our findings suggest that there may be more than one pathway to vegetarianism in adulthood – the number of pets in childhood, ethical concerns towards animal use, and level of vegetarianism is significant.”

The full study can be read here.

Source:  State University of New York press release