CHICO — It feels safe to say the vegan community is one full of love for our four-legged friends, but our opinions on how far to take our vegan lifestyle when we decide to own an animal or two can vary widely.
Most vegans I know currently have animals, whether canine, feline or otherwise. My animals have always come into my home via rescue, and so my house has opened to my tabby adopted in Oroville in 2010, and my boxer/Staffordshire terrier mix adopted in August 2019.
My journey into vegetarianism and eventually veganism has progressed without much change in my philosophy about animal ownership, and I have discovered it’s a major point of confusion for some people of how being a pet owner might change if you’re a vegan. Many don’t seem to understand how you could be ethically motivated to prioritize harm to animals, yet want to keep and feed domestic pets.
It really comes down to your perspective. My personal belief is on the side of adopting rescue animals, and not breeding them or purchasing animals bred for profit, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s necessary to avoid ownership as if it restricts their freedom. But I do hope to avoid supporting the meat industry as much as I can, and owning animals does present a problem in that regard that I think is worth unpacking.
Cats and dogs are naturally carnivorous, and I have accepted that my cat will be eating animal products and it wouldn’t be advisable to force her to go plant-based — nor would any veterinarian support the decision. But while there is vegan animal food out there, the research around whether it really supplies everything they need is mixed.
Dogs are facultative carnivores — they can technically survive on a plant-based diet, but it must be approached carefully to give the dog everything it needs to stay healthy. However, cats are obligate carnivores and cannot handle living meat-free.
Therefore, it looks like owners of these animals should expect to feed them products with meat of some kind in them. While not all vegans have chosen the lifestyle for ethical reasons, the majority are motivated by a desire to avoid harm and any products that may have caused harm and this can cause a dilemma when having to feed your own animal this kind of product.
The thing is, your responsibility as a pet owner is to feed the animal what is best for its body, a nutritionally complete diet. And if your veterinarian has given you their professional opinion and that diet contains meat, personally I will choose that option unless pet foods grow more advanced and those nutrients can be made complete for an obligate carnivore — because right now, it’s what my cat needs.
But is it ethically wrong to feed an animal food that contains animal products? Does that make you a bad vegan? I’ve been asked this more times than I can start to count.
Psychology Today recommends that while some plant-based feed has been developed, every animal is different and only dogs can, with plenty of supervision eventually function on a vegan diet — but cats can’t.
Therefore, as someone who will likely own both canines and felines in their life, I don’t plan on trying to make my animals go vegan if I know I will always be buying meat-based products for my cat. There are going to be compromises on this journey. For me, this choice is similar to knowing I will pick up meat at the store for my brother if he pays for it, or cook my dad a meal with cheese in it because that’s what he asked for. I know not every vegan feels this way, but it’s how I’m navigating my journey at present.
I’m sure there are pet owners out there who have chosen to keep their dogs plant-based, hopefully with the help of a trained veterinarian who can supervise. After all, Sabrina Weiss said in a Wired article “the success of alternative animal feed will depend on how strongly pet owners feel about the environmental impact, or ethics, of animal meat.” This will vary for everyone in the north state and if you feel differently about this issue from another pet owner, try not to judge and go by the advice of your family vet instead.
If like me you haven’t reached that point of removing all animal products from your house, perhaps due to your animals. yet, have some forgiveness for yourself. It bears repeating that few people can be perfect vegans every day, all year long, and if we do reach that point, it’s out of sheer discipline and willpower.
Have some grace for your fellow vegetarians and vegans even if you disagree, on this and many more issues. More than ever, we’re all just trying to do our best, in an increasingly difficult period in history.
Just please, please don’t feed your animal table scraps. Your vet will thank you.
Recipe of the week
This is one of my favorite comfort dinners — it’s extremely delicious, hearty and even somewhat healthy. It should serve two to three people.
Stir Fry Veggie Noodles
You will need:
- Pack of udon or thick ramen noodles
- Peanut oil
- 1/2 white onion
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- 1/2 head of broccoli, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1/4 head of cabbage, sliced
- 4 ounces of tempeh
- 4 tablespoons liquid aminos
- Sriracha, to taste
- Stir fry sauce (I used General Tsao’s sauce from Trader Joe’s)
- Optional: Chili pepper flakes, chopped green onion
Boil noodles following directions on package, and cool in a colander.
Heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a wok on medium heat. Meanwhile, chop half an onion and mince fresh garlic. Add to pan when oil is hot.
Stir and saute until onion gets soft and fragrant.
Add carrots, broccoli and cabbage slowly, mixing into oil well. Turn up heat to medium high.
As veggies cook, cut tempeh into 1/2 inch strips and place in small frying pan on medium heat. Add liquid aminos and sriracha.
Cook tempeh for two minutes, flip and add more aminos and sriracha. Repeat once or twice until sides start looking golden with crispy edges.
Add cooked noodles, stir fry sauce and chili pepper flakes to the wok. Toss all ingredients well.
Scoop the noodles and veggies into a bowl, and add strips of tempeh. Top with fresh green onion if desired. Enjoy.
New vegan bites
My hat is off to Pizza Riot on West Third Avenue in Chico — the staff have outdone themselves lately in adding beautiful new menu items to their lineup. Ask about these new items on the menu:
- The Herbivorous Butcher’s retail products: Maple Bacon and Garlic Pepper Havarti cheese” and Porterhouse “steak”
- New calzones using the Dill Havarti “cheese,” housemade organic pesto and Hot Italian sausage by Beyond Meat
- Spicy BBQ vegan jerky
- Hawaiian Huli Huli and Korean Ribs, served with a pound of Mac and Cheeze (I recommend the Huli Huli ribs but everyone really needs to try this mac and cheese as soon as possible).
Natalie Hanson was inspired to write this biweekly column after meeting more vegans in Chico and seeing the need for representation in the north valley. Send vegan-friendly restaurant or business recommendations her way to email@example.com or visit @northvalleyvegan on Instagram for more recipes.