Hold That Bone: More Owners Are Making Their Dogs Go Vegan

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Gina Martin / National Geographic

This post is in partnership with Worldcrunch, a new global-news site that translates stories of note in foreign languages into English. The article below was originally published in Le Temps.

GENEVA — Add together 3,160 g of cooked chickpeas, 83 g of tofu, 27 g of textured vegetable proteins, 30 g of baking soda, 21 g of oil and a dash of salt. Is this the latest recipe for a miracle detox diet or a way to avoid this winter's flu bug? Try again! But first add just 25 g more of the secret ingredient, Vegedog 1 (a mix of vitamins, trace elements and amino acids), and you'll get a three-day vegan meal for man's best friend: his dog.

Though still far from common, more and more vegetarians (people who don't eat meat) and vegans (those who don't eat any animal product) are deciding to impose their eating habits on their animals. On specialized forums, many of them say they are disgusted by the idea of buying meat-based food for their cats or dogs. They share recipes for homemade pet food or names of websites selling veggie biscuits and give one another advice for a smooth transition.

At the head of the movement is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the U.S.-based animal-rights organization known for its "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign and its public stunts against celebrities. But behind the usual claims, the association also wants to blow the whistle on the other ingredients contained in these products, from antibiotics and pesticides to meat coming from sick animals. Giving only vegetarian food to your pet would make it healthier and live longer. This way of life would be particularly suitable for dogs, which are technically omnivorous. Cats, however, are carnivorous.

So, is a veggie dog a happy dog? Blondine Monnard, president of the Dog Friends Society in Geneva, is skeptical. "When you adopt an animal, you also adopt its nature," she says. "In that case, dogs are meat eaters. Putting them on a vegetarian diet is as absurd as feeding cows with bonemeal."

According to Julika Fitzi, a vet for the Swiss SPCA specializing in dogs, the most important point is to be careful about giving your pet balanced food: "Even though it doesn't need it daily, meat contains essential nutriments for your dog's body, especially if it is growing or if it is being trained for sporting events. At its natural state, a dog could feed on vegetables for a while if there is nothing else available. But if it has the choice, it will always go for the meat."

For sociologist Emmanuel Gouabaut, an expert on the human-animal relationship, this kind of action reveals a change in the relations humans have with their pets. "We went from a domestication relation to friendship. This is especially true for dogs, which are less independent than cats."

More and more dog owners see their pets as a member of the family, letting them take part in daily life and hobbies, even having birthday parties for them. "Teaching them our values, like veganism, is just the next step," says Gouabaut. "In this case, it's interesting to know that the word companion comes from the Latin cum panis: with whom you share the bread."

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