1.25.2012

Distressing news!

I heard some distressing news yesterday.  It seems that Halo Pet Foods (a line of dog and cat foods, supplements, and treats both celebrity endorsed and co-owned by Ellen DeGeneres) is in the process of developing a vegan dog food.  The truth is, Halo is not the first, and I'm sure will not be the last, company to market a line of vegan pet food.   HOWEVER, Halo is the first I can think of to have such a well-known spokesperson, or one with such a huge fan base, as its mouthpiece.  Add to this the fact that Ms. DeGeneres has been such a vocal and passionate advocate of rescue and animal welfare, and I am even more concerned about the potential for disaster that her endorsement of vegan foods for dogs potentially heralds.

Here's why:  dogs are carnivores!  Scavenging or opportunistic carnivores to be exact, but carnivores nonetheless.  This means that unlike cats, who are OBLIGATE carnivores (meaning they MUST consume animal protein in order to survive), dogs CAN process, to a certain, albeit limited, extent, veggies, fruits, etc. but even at that, those items should, optimally, be processed in a blender, Vitamixer, or, in the case of wild canids, by the prey animal itself, in order to be utilized by the animal's body with any degree of effectiveness.  This is because, as a carnivore,  a dog's digestive tract is short and, as compared to an herbivore's, very simple in design.  Food is meant to move through the GI tract very quickly.  Additionally, their saliva does not contain the necessary enzymes to begin to break down starches or carbs.  

An herbivore's saliva, on the other hand, does contain these, and their GI tract is longer as well.  This is why many raw feeders utilize green tripe in their feeding plans ... because unlike whole, raw, unprocessed/un-broken-down vegetables or other plant matter, in the case of green tripe (which in its simplest definition is the stomach of a ruminant animal and the contents therein), the vegetable matter that has been "processed" (or digested) by the prey animal is bio-available to a carnivore in a way that whole (or even cooked) vegetables/plant matter are not.

As I have mentioned on this blog before, there are all sorts of ways to do a raw diet, some that include vegetables, and/or green tripe, and some that do not.  But this post is not even really about raw diets.  It is about what foodstuffs our dogs, as carnivores, are designed to eat.  Or, to put it another way, which foods are species appropriate for them, and which are not.  Animal proteins, as well as small amounts of vegetable matter that have been processed in some way (such as green tripe, for one example, or pulped vegetables and fruits as are called for in Kymythy Schultze's Ultimate Diet for another) are species appropriate foods for carnivores.  Grains and large quantities of other starches, on the other hand, are NOT species-appropriate.  Dogs, being the scavengers and opportunists that they are, will readily eat foods that are non-species appropriate, and hey, we all know dogs who would happily consume garbage, decomposing road-kill, and even fecal matter, be it their own or that of other dogs.  I will never forget the It's Me or the Dog! episode wherein one of a group of miscreant Pugs would literally stand by while another of its' pack mates was defecating, and slurp down said pack mate's poop before it even fell to the ground! 


BUT ... I think we would all agree that feces are not species-appropriate fare for any animal, and neither are grains or large quantities of vegetable or plant matter species-appropriate for carnivores.  Because they lack the salivary enzymes necessary to break down these types of foodstuffs (carbohydrates and starches, not feces!), this means that the pancreas has to work extra hard to produce those enzymes, and as time goes by, the strain placed on this vital organ can compromise its ability to function as it ought.  Or, in short, just because a dog WILL eat something, does not mean that it necessarily SHOULD eat whatever that something happens to be. 

Still with me?  OK, assuming all I have said above is true, then why are so many dog treats (and dog foods for that matter) so loaded with grains, carbs, and other non-animal proteins?  Well, for one thing they're cheaper.  But also, unless you are talking about a grain-intolerant/allergic dog (of which there are a great many), I personally am of the opinion that a few grain-inclusive treats now and then are not going to do much harm.  They may be empty calories that many dogs, given the number of dogs who weigh more than it is healthy for them to weigh, can ill afford, but they probably are not, again, IN SMALL QUANTITIES all that terrible.  


Unfortunately, this is not what Halo is proposing.  They are in the process of developing, and its spokesperson and co-owner, Ellen DeGeneres, is prepared to endorse, a VEGAN food for dogs.  Or, to put it another way, they are proposing to offer for sale and have a spokesperson with a huge fan base offer her endorsement of an allegedly "complete" diet 100% devoid of meat or any animal proteins for the, again alleged, "nourishment" of a carnivorous species which needs meat and animal protein to thrive. (Please note I said "thrive" as opposed to survive!)  

Am I the only one starting to hyperventilate?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The only bright spot in all of this is that Halo, recognizing that cats are obligate carnivores, does not, at least not currently, have a vegetarian or vegan food for cats in development.  Nonetheless, I shudder to imagine who knows how many dogs eating food that is so diametrically the opposite of what they were designed by their very nature as carnivorous animals to consume.  

I have written to Ms. DeGeneres myself, asking her to reconsider this decision, and I would like to ask all of you to do the same, assuming you are in agreement.  Should you wish to write to her, you can do so HERE.


Tucker, and all carnivores everywhere, thank you!

31 comments:

Kootenai's Summit Post said...

wow. I have never even heard of vegan dog food. I like my turkey food. it looks like you know a lot about it. thanks for the info and heads up

Carolyn said...

I read about this on another blog. It is incomprehensible. I totally agree with you. A very good explanation as well. I'm not sure if a complaint from the UK will work!

Gracie May said...

This is an outrage!! Dogs are carnivores!! You can not give them vegan pet food! It is not healthy!! I will do something about it! I stand for meat!! My pet food has little bits of meat in it.

Noodles said...

I am a vegetarian and have been raising my daughter as a vegetarian as well. Many many people asked me if I was likewise feeding my dog a vegetarian diet. Well, no - I never imagined it a healthy choice for my dog who requires more animal protein than I do. To take that a step further and suggest a vegan diet for a dog? Preposterous.
Noodles' Mommy #2

Tucker The Crestie said...

Noodles' Mommy, I thank you for weighing in on this. I am a failed vegetarian (I keep trying, though) and I have several friends who are vegetarian or vegan. Most have dogs and cats, and a couple even feed a raw diet. They do this because they know that THEIR nutritional needs are NOT the same as their dogs' or cats'. It is wonderful to hear you validating this opinion also.

Mr. Pip said...

My mom is a vegetarian, but she has never considered making this choice for me. Thanks for this important post!

Your pal, Pip

Scrappy said...

I never heard of this either. It is not all that surprising though...sadly.

Katie Isabella said...

This is a terrible thing. It could mean the lack of nutrition that dogs and cats who are carnivores as you ably said, to develope disease and to die They certainly won't thrive. It's an outrage. Why doesn't she educate herself!?

Kolchak Puggle said...

A vegan dog food?! That is the MOST ridiculous thing ever. Sure, there are a very very small number of animals that are actually intolerant of animal protein, but DOGS ARE CARNIVORES. This food scares me. It is one thing to make the choice to eat vegan or vegetarian for yourself, but to force your dog to eat the same as you is irresponsible and dangerous.

Brenda said...

I totally agree with you, and it was interesting to hear the comments from vegetarians and semi-vegetarians. I could not agree more. Perhaps you could also send Ellen the link to your blog post?

tubby3pug said...

I get so upset when I hear about vegetarian dog foods. I am highly suspcious of Ellens animal love stand point after she gave away her dog, and apparently not her first dog. Dogs are carnivores and its so unfair to push our values onto them at the detriment of their health

Katie, Julep and Derby's Mom said...

Hey Tucker - first thanks for stopping by and saying hi to Julep and Derby the westies.

Second - this is an excellent post - repeat - an excellent post explaining why our little doggie friends need their meat.

Julep and Derby have been on a RAW diet since they were pups - and they will always be on a RAW diet - and the key is to a balanced raw diet that does include veggies, fruits, bones, etc as well as probiotics and omega 3 which are supplements I add. Both of these supplements are important. The food that Ms. Ellen is going to endorse is crazy and I'm surprised because she is a smart lady ... what gives!?!

I already feel bad for those folks who have puppies and start feeding this diet because they think it's healthy only to realize [due to later health issues] their pets were not getting a properly balanced meal during their most important growth cycle ... and beyond.

Okay - you got me started this morning and I will step off my soap box ... have you considered starting a facebook page against this? Write the Whole Dog Journal to get on the bandwagon?

Katie
www.westiejulep.blogspot.com
or go to my group page on Facebook
WESTIES HEALTH -- FROM EARS TO TAIL

Tucker The Crestie said...

Hi, Katie. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. It's always great to hear from other raw feeders, and now I know at least one of the reasons why Derby and Julep look so awesome! You see so many Westies with skin conditions - black, flaky, dandruffy skin, itchy hot spots, etc. which are very conspicuously absent in your pups. They look gorgeous, and are clearly in glowing health!

As to the veggies, fruits, etc. when I first started learning about and feeding raw, I was mentored by some people who did the BARF method, which obviously includes those veggies/fruits. Now that I feed prey model raw, I use green tripe to fulfill that requirement. Most of the time the tripe that I use is frozen ground green tripe from Hare Today, a raw feeding supplier in Pennsylvania. Occasionally I will supplement with canned venison tripe (Tripett) if I run out of the frozen stuff. And also, very occasionally, I will pulp leftover raw veggies and fruits (usually things like antioxidant-rich blueberries, for example, or fresh carrots) in my food processor, and add them to the dogs' meal just as a flavorful treat. They also receive omega 3 supplementation in the form of either salmon, anchovy, or sardine oil, probiotics (I usually use Ark Naturals), and a few other things here and there, like organic Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar (a capful or two in a large bowl of fresh water), etc.

Anyway, the difference between PMR and BARF is what I meant by "different ways to do a raw diet" ... you still have to do your research, of course, and pay attention to things like a varied nutrient profile in the foods you're feeding, as well as balance over time, but there are different schools of thought under the raw umbrella.

All of which you know, of course, so this is really more just for the benefit of anyone else who might be reading the comments and wondering more about what a raw diet entails.

Of course, as I said in the post, this is not really about raw diets vs. commercial food. There are all sorts of very valid reasons for people to feed commercial foods. But for heaven's sake, if you want to do that, make sure it's a commercial food free of fillers, by-products, common allergens, and one that is chock-full of the vital animal protein that our little companion carnivores need to thrive.

I didn't think about contacting WDJ - I'm thinking they already are aware - but it's a good idea. We need people to spread the word however possible. I believe that Ellen is a good person who really cares about animals. Hopefully she can be led to understand that this proposed vegan dog food she plans to produce and endorse would be harming animals far more than helping them!

snoopy@snoopysdogblog said...

Hi There,

An interesting post!!

My Mum is a vegetarian, but I get meat in my diet so I don't think she'll be buying me this food or making me vegan - phew, cos I do like meat! :)

Have a fun day,

Your pal Snoopy :)

Remington said...

I think I would like that!

Tucker The Crestie said...

Like what, Rem?

Ellen said...

Wow, I don't believe this! This will surely fail. My dogs wouldn't last long on this at all. I think you need to get this out to many many more people. What you wrote said it all. Great! By the way, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my sweet little Sugar and Meeka.

yuki and rocket said...

I think this is borderline animal cruelty(to be feeding your dog vegan). While I probably never be able to feed my pups raw, due to my severe germaphobia, what they do eat has a high enough percentage of protein in it. Even with that, I will still add more cooked lean protein to the kibble, so I feel they are getting enough protein. I don't think I ever really felt Ellen was all that funny, but I was really turned off by her crying on her show about a dog a few years back, I don't even remember the story but I thought she was being ridiculous. I think the people who will ultimately buy this products though, are vegans. I have encountered a cat blog before that the lady feeds her cat only vegan, and even has a statement on her blog to the people that tell her it's cruelty, that she doesn't want to hear it.

Tucker The Crestie said...

I tend to agree, Yuki. I generally make no judgments on what people choose to feed their pets ... I figure everyone is doing either what they think is best, or the best that they can do given their finances, their schedule, or whatever.

This, though, I can't understand. I understand and respect the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, as I have several friends and relatives who are either vegetarian or vegan. I have tried several times in my adult life to be a vegetarian and I just can't quite do it (yet - I will continue to keep trying). But there is a difference between doing what one feels is the healthiest, most morally responsible thing as it relates to how one chooses to nourish oneself and imposing that same decision on an animal which by its very nature requires meat to survive (cats) or thrive (dogs).

Amber DaWeenie said...

Hmmmm....I could do witout all dos veggies...Just bring on da meat and da tweets.

PeeS.....Visit my bloggy today and see us enjoying our stuffs. We also gives you an award.

Have a nice weekend!

:o)

Sagira said...

Wow, I haven't heard of this before but I am aware now.I really hope that Ellen doesn't go along with this.

Spitty-the-Kitty said...

This sounds....nutty. And harmful. I would have thought Ellen DeGeneres had more sense.

bichonpawz said...

You are correct in being outraged!!! This is an excellent post and one that should be repeated!!! I can't believe Ellen is endorsing something like this!!! Sure do hope that she changes her mind!!! Dogs DO NEED MEAT!!!

Bocci said...

Thanks for speaking out-very well said!

Kim Clune said...

Add another outraged vegetarian to this long list of commenters. My husband, also a vegetarian, can't bring himself to do RAW, so we found a great compromise with The Honest Kitchen. I love that they have humanely raised or wild caught meat sources. I feel my anti-factory farming position is answered via this choice. And I would never, ever consider depriving my dogs of what they realistically need just because I wish the world were different.

The frightening thing is, most people chiming in have given their dog food some thought. There are many pet owners who base their choices solely on what they hear in a marketing campaign. I think that's what scares me as much as it scares you.

Reba Messina said...

Methinks Ms. Ellen most Generous, most of the time, had some other human do her homework for her and not too well at that. Wonder who is going to get her attention and make her look into this?

Let's see . . . . as a group we brought Komen to it's knees this week and McDonalds to it's knees this week..... let's see what we can do about Halo next week! CHARGE AHEAD!!!!

IBDKitties said...

Ellen Degeneres is suffering from "I don't care what my company does, just how much money I make" syndrome. she needs to be re-educated about what exactly makes up a dog's digestive system!

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