charlie + claudia

Just Because You're a Vegan Doesn't Mean Your Dog Should Be.

Are you a dog-owning vegan or vegetarian? Do you know someone who is? Deciding to feed a raw diet can be a moral dilemma for people living a meat-free, plant-based lifestyle. While sharing our fruits and veggies with our dogs is great, it's important to remember that dogs need a meat-based diet to thrive. As Lew Olson, PhD writes in Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, "While some people have ethical or moral reasons for not consuming meat, it is not fair to feed dogs a vegetarian or vegan diet. Dogs can only thrive from nutrients found in animal-based proteins and fats. It is their physiology and biological makeup that determines this requirement."

And yet, despite these facts, we still acknowledge it's a tough decision for vegans to make. We get many queries from vegans interested in feeding their dogs raw who are hesitant to make the leap because they haven't had meat in their kitchens for years or, in some cases, ever. So we thought it might help to interview a vegan who has made the leap. Claudia Morris is a We Feed Raw client, vegan chef, and first-time dog mom to Golden Retriever Charlie. She started feeding raw when she first brought Charlie home and hasn't looked back since.

Q. Tell us why you decided to become a vegan and then why you've chosen a raw, meat-based diet for your dog.

A. "I decided to go vegan for health reasons. Both my husband and I made the switch cold turkey after watching Fork Over Knives in February of 2018. For the first two years we were strictly plant based. Since then my symptoms from both Endometriosis and Grave's Disease have drastically improved. I'm a strong believer in natural medicine and I truly believe that food with the proper ingredients can be medicine. As the father of medicine said, 'Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.' I chose a raw, meat-based diet for Charlie for the same reasons I chose a vegan diet for myself: it's natural and healthier."

Q. What kind of tips can you offer fellow vegans on how to most easily feed raw? 

A. "Other than forgetting to take patties out of the freezer the night before due to my ADHD, I have absolutely zero issues serving Charlie raw meals. In fact, taking on this raw journey with Charlie has encouraged me to brush up on old culinary skills such as food safety/raw meat handling and the breaking down of whole birds (when I feed raw meaty bones for enrichment). I wasn't always vegan so handling raw meat isn't difficult for me personally, but I can understand that it can be hard for some of my fellow vegans. A useful tip to make it easier would be to invest in some cute silicone molds and fill them up with a defrosted patty, freeze it, and then serve the meat frozen."

Q. Did you ever consider going the vegan route with your dog?

A. "I would be lying if I said I never considered it. I am a first-time dog mom and I did consider it; however, after doing a lot of research I quickly realized it would not be the appropriate route for Charlie because dogs cannot easily break down starchy foods/veggies since they produce only small amounts of amylase, the enzyme needed to properly break down carbohydrates. On a vegan diet Charlie would need to consume a large quantity of plant-based proteins from starchy veggies to meet his daily requirements and that could possibly have led to malnutrition or digestive issues."

Q. What do you think about the growing population of vegans and vegetarians choosing to feed their dogs raw?

A. "I think that's awesome! After all, dogs eating other animals in the food chain is very natural!"

Q. What advice do you have for fellow vegans and vegetarians who are interested in feeding their dogs raw but grapple with it morally? 

A. "As a vegan, I do not believe animals are meant for humans to consume. However, they all serve their part in the ecosystem/food chain and I think it's completely natural for animals to eat other animals. I am happy to not play a part in the disruption of the food chain and at the same time, encouraging my domesticated pet to continue his part in it since he cannot go hunt for his own food as his ancestors once did."

Follow Charlie the dog on Instagram @charliethecutestgolden or his mom Claudia (+ her vegan recipes) @lettuceturnipthebeats

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