Recently I've received a couple of messages asking to give my opinion on companion animals..
1. From Elisa (you can read her full message here).. But, just for the record, here's the main part of her question:
.. So comes about a problem with my cats... surely, unlike myself, they are carnivorous, so I don't want to hurt them by restricting their diet to vegetables... but i also don't want to buy dead and tortured animals to feed them... I don't want to hurt poor animals to make their meal, but I also don't want to hurt them [the cats]... I love my cats... I don't know what to do... I feel forced to buy them meat or meat croquettes to give them food...
2. I also received an email from Muriel asking a similar question, her message is here: [she was actually responding after reading the Companion Animals article, on my main website]
..whilst I totally agree that in an ideal world (on its way :-)) people would not keep animals at all, I particularly would like to see a total ban on keeping so called exotic pets, and I believe much stricter laws on who is allowed to share their space with a furry friend, but as this is the way we have sadly over thousands of years of domestication made certain animals rely on us mainly dogs and cats, I cant see how we can undo this??? already in lots of countries wild dogs and ferral cats are rounded up and put to death in horrendous ways, surely a loving home with a companion human is better than this, at least until we do change the dream? I live with 3 cats they are free to come and go as they please, and I love them with all my heart and I know they love me, it is a very satisfactory living arrangement, I would love nothing better than to see humans, animals and all the natural world living in perfect harmony but until that day I believe some of our brothers and sisters are better off in kind loving homes..
Well, for those of you who don't know already, much of my view of keeping animals as pets can be found in an article on my main website entitled Companion Animals. OK, I never wrote that article, and there's no doubt the wording would be different if I had done, but in general it pretty much sums up and reflects my own opinion toward so called "pets", so I suggest you read that first to get a better idea of where I'm at.
OK.. The first issue I want to underline is, (and these are rough figures from the top of my head, so please don't quote them as complete fact), in an average lifespan, an average domestic cat living indoors with a loving family, will eat through flesh of 1 whole cow, 4 sheep, 3 pigs, 60 chickens and 500 fish.. (not to mention any small wildlife the cat itself takes the life of).
This cow, and 600 more lives, for your cat?
A dog, on the other hand, being slightly bigger on average, and with a more robust appetite, might quite easily be able to plow its way through several cows, a couple more sheep and pigs and a few dozen more chickens and fish..
Please correct me if you believe those figures are way off.. And by all means quote a more realistic scenario.. But whatever the true figures are, I think you might already understand the direction I'm headed in..
So.. Personally, and I ask myself this rhetorically, would I rather nurture and theoretically save the life of a cat, or should I chose instead to have mercy upon the lives of all those other animals??
Hmm.. Being also a firm believer in Karma, would I also choose willingly to take on an additional karmic debt of the slaughter of those animals? A death whose tortured raising and untimely and violent demise I would ultimately be responsible for as the so called owner of the supposed pet?
I already know where I personally stand on these issues, but these are perhaps questions that animal owners need to ask themselves..
Well.. that said, I am not void of sympathy for people that already have a companion animal before they started to question the ethics of keeping animals. I understand the love that can grow between the human and the animal, and how we would not want for them to be harmed.. And I fully believe that if we search hard enough, there is a satisfactory answer to every question..
I remember once some 20 years ago, that I got an unexpected visitor, from a kitten, on my doorstep... Already being vegan and having the mindset back then that I did not want to take on ownership of an animal, I knew the kitten was hungry and would probably die if I did nothing, so I went in to my tiny kitchen and cooked up some rice and lentils, mixedin some olive oil.. and after it'd cooled some, I took the bowl outside for the kitten, who hungrily ate everything.
For the following year, that cat visited me, called for me when she knew I was inside, and I always gave it something vegan to eat, which it never turned down.
I have no idea if someone else had taken it in, or if it was getting food elsewhere, but it certainly always seemed hungry..
After a year or so, I never saw it again.
Now I know that it's highly likely that the cats in question from Elisa and Muriel will already be hooked on certain foods, and I know that once hooked, old habits can be difficult to change, but where there is a will, there's a way..
I know also that for dogs, being more omniviorous in nature than cats, they can quite easily live long and healthy lives without ever eating meat at all, I've known one dog that thrived on raw vegan foods, and would even go in the garden and pull up carrots! (see also the story of brambles, a well aged vegan dog).
But cats, I'm told are trickier and supposedly need some kind of essential amino acid that can only be found in the flesh other animals..
Now personally, I'm as skeptical toward animal nutritional science as I am toward human nutritional science, but everyone has to make up their own minds on what's right or wrong, true or not, and if you believe in that science, and think your cat needs the tarine, or whatever the stuff's called, then you should know that it is also available as a supplement..
I'm not sure where it can be ordered from, but I can suggest you get in touch with fruitbat Anne who has a cat that was eating flesh less than 2 years ago, but I've heard is now on a vegan diet.. Perhaps you could ask her how that transition went for her cat.. You can find her on the iheartfruit.com forum too, which by the way, is also a great place to meet up with other fruitarians!
I wish to make clear that I am not in to forcing anybody to do anything, so I must say I am in disagreement with Muriel who states her belief that she would particularly like to see a total ban on keeping so called exotic pets. Personally, it makes no sense to me that it should be permitted for some people to keep some forms of animals, and for others to be prohibited from keeping other forms.. So although I don't agree with animals being kept and exchanged, bought etc, I disagree in a total ban. Prohibition never really helped anything..
Now, I've waffled on for long enough already, so I'll call it a day.. I hope that we will all find the answers we seek..
regards and love to all,