Is Your Dog Beggin’ to be Vegan?

About a year ago, the Humane Society of the United States put its logo on a new brand of dry dog food called “Humane Choice.” What separates Humane Choice from top brands? It’s vegetarian. There’s no meat (or eggs or other animal protein) in it at all.

Along with a few other writers, we expressed serious skepticism. After all, dogs aren’t natural vegetarians. Isn’t that why the term “canine teeth” refers to chompers that are designed for chewing meat? Is the Humane Society of the United States taking its preferred no-meat diet for people and pushing its animal rights ideology on pets that have no say in the matter?

Regardless, HSUS’s kibble made its way from a manufacturing plant in Uruguay to Whole Foods stores. While many of the animal rights group’s own Facebook fans balked at the idea of meatless dog food, authoritative opinions were generally lacking.

Veterinarians, however, are now questioning whether Humane Choice is indeed the right choice for dogs. Yesterday, CNN took a look at whether meat-free dog food is a nutritionally appropriate way to feed dogs, in a segment aptly titled “A question of thriving vs. surviving.”

Humane Choice didn’t fare well.

Pet expert and author Tracie Hotchner told CNN she can understand why owners who are vegan may want their pets to follow suit, but questions whether that's "what's best" for the dogs:

I say respect each species for what it was meant to be, and if you feel that strongly about being vegan, get a vegetarian animal. Bunnies make wonderful pets.

Even a former vice president of HSUS, veterinarian Michael W. Fox, told CNN dogs do best with a diet that includes animal protein.

And today the New York Daily News has a piece about making dog “go veg.” A veterinarian with New York University’s Veterinary Specialists told the paper, “People feel it’s good for their pet because it’s good for them. Dogs and cats, they’re carnivores and they do eat meat as part of their natural diet.”

The clinic director at the Humane Society of New York (not associated with HSUS), also a veterinarian, added: “Dogs need meat in their diet. In an ideal world we try to mimic what animals eat in the wild.”

And a pet store owner indicated that some owners put their dogs on vegetarian diets because of allergies. But even this, he told the Daily News, carries a risk that the animals will miss out on essential nutrients that don’t exist in plants.

HSUS claims its veggie dog food is “nutritious, delicious, and cruelty-free.” Is letting a dog eat its natural diet, one that includes meat, cruel? (Can we even judge an animal’s diet by human values?)

Quite the opposite: It’s HSUS’s attempt to stick its human diet preferences into the dog food bowl that strikes us as cruel.

Here’s a thought: Put a dish of Humane Choice next to a dish of bacon. Let Lassie choose.