As a vegan, you may have come across many arguments that you shouldn’t keep animals in your home, as they should be wild and free. There are lots of different opinions on the subject of companion animals, so let’s take a look…
Should vegans have pets?
This is where I have to say, no! But, also yes! Confused? Let me explain…
My husband and I share our home with two cats and two guinea pigs. But we don’t see them as pets, they are family. We don’t ‘own’ them, they belong with us, not to us.
Many vegans choose the lifestyle due to their love of animals, myself included. So it’s stands to reason that many of us have companion animals. I cannot imagine my life without animals in it.
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But I don’t believe that we ‘own’ animals. They are living, thinking creatures that rely on us like children do. You wouldn’t say that you own your child, would you? In this way, I suppose I think of the animals in my home as my children (and even often refer to myself as ‘mummy’!)
I also don’t believe in buying animals as presents, especially for young children; or adults that you haven’t discussed it with. When choosing an animal for yourself, you take into consideration whether you can accommodate that animals needs, from food to veterinary care and everything in between. But a child will often lose interest in the novelty of an animal, and unless you are willing to shoulder that responsibility, he or she will have to be re-homed, or worse, they will stay with you and possibly be neglected.
Likewise, purchasing or even rescuing an animal for a friend or family member as a surprise may seem like a great idea, but you have no guarantee that that animal is going to have its needs catered to. Does the recipient of your gift know how to look after the animal? Do they have time to dedicate to it?
We domesticated animals, so it is our responsibility to look after them
As humans, as ever, we take what we want without asking questions. This doesn’t stop at animals. For centuries we have tried to domesticate different wild animals. Usually with dire consequences. How many times have you read in the news that somebody has been mauled or eaten by his pet crocodile or big cat? We seem to have a fascination with being able to touch the exotic. But wild animals were not put on this Earth for our pleasure, we were meant to share it with them.
However, because we have domesticated many species; cats, dogs, rodents etc. we now have to make sure they are looked after. Many animals are unable to fend for themselves after so long in our shadow. And to ‘set them free’ would be cruel. They no longer have the resources to find food or shelter, or know how to avoid predators.
So how do you make sure you are able to adequately look after your new family member?
- First of all, you must do your research. I really love snakes and lizards, but I have no idea of their needs, so I wouldn’t dream of bringing one into our home unless I had properly researched exactly what they need to thrive.
- Secondly, you need to know you can afford to look after their needs. The smaller the animal, the less they will cost you, obviously, but you still need to consider things like vets fees, because animals can get ill too and vets can be extremely expensive.
- Make sure you have the time to dedicate to your furbabies. Can you give them your undivided attention every day? Are you able to give them routine? Are you able to walk the dog regularly and exercise the cat?
- Do you know how long your new companion animals may live? Are you prepared to integrate them into your life for that long? Even if it means you can’t have a holiday for the next 13 years!
Feeding – some companion animals can be vegan with you – others cannot!
It’s also important to note that while you’re vegan, your new furry friend may not be able to join you in your lifestyle choices. You will need to decide if this acceptable for you. For example, provided you can adequately supplement their protein levels, dogs can be vegan as they are omnivores.
Cats, however, are obligate carnivores. This means they have to have meat in their diet. If they don’t get enough taurine they end up with devastating illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and blindness. So while some vegans suggest that it is inappropriate for us to keep cats in our home and continue to feed them meat when we are vegan; while I won’t say their opinion is wrong, I don’t agree with it. If we humans had left cats alone to their own devices, we wouldn’t need to feed them, they would hunt and feed themselves. But we did domesticate them, and so we are responsible for meeting those needs.
Another obligate carnivore is the rat. I have also had ratty friends before, and again, I made sure I met the requirements of their dietary needs as a good mummy should!
So, in my opinion, it is A-OK to have companion animals. But if you feel that it goes against your beliefs as a vegan, then you absolutely should not. I think it really comes down to the individual and what we feel comfortable with. And also, what we are able to provide.
Do you think vegans should have companion animals? Or do you believe our homes should be animal free? Let me know in the comments!