Pet Vegan Q&A
Thank you for your thoughtful letter. It does not fall on deaf ears since we are always very interested in the exchange of ideas.
Responses are condensed from a variety of Dr. Wysong's writings and are interspersed below with
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter in response to an information packet I received from Wysong regarding the Wysong Vegan™ pet diet. As a veterinary professional, I understand the necessity of informing the general public of the risks associated with a vegan diet, however, I feel that there are several parts of your letter that need to be addressed. The first is that, while it is important to inform people of the known risks of a vegan diet (in cats) (problems associated with taurine deficiency for instance) it is unnecessary to speculate on ethics or use the packet as a platform to push your company's philosophies (regarding the decision to feed animals a vegetable based diet) onto people who are simply inquiring about a product.
Our effort to inform people of the dangers emerges from our philosophy, true - a philosophy of health. This would not be unlike your imposition of health philosophy on clients. Since a feeding practice that does not match the genetic makeup of pets would be, by definition, unhealthy, we have an ethical responsibility to inform.
Second, dogs are not "by their nature carnivores" as you put it, they are omnivores, and there have been no documented medical risks associated with feeding them a well balanced diet consisting of no animal products.
May we assume that you agree that cats are carnivores? Where is the proof that any canine in the wild eats an omnivorous diet if allowed access to prey. Certainly both cats and dogs may incidentally consume raw vegetation and that contained within the viscera of prey. However, they could not survive well on that alone, nor would they try. Additionally, neither dogs nor cats would choose to consume cooked grains and veggies if given a choice. As for documented medical risks we could certainly cite the thousands of cats cruelly condemned to disease and death from taurine deficiency. We would also argue with scientific support that virtually every chronic degenerative disease plaguing humans and their companion animals is linked to processed grain and vegetable foods. Many scientific references are found throughout our website and in Dr. Wysong's book, "The Truth About Pet Foods."
The onus is on anyone who suggests a processed unnatural vegan diet is healthy to prove it long term. That burden is not properly placed on those who would argue that the proper food is the food the creature has eaten in nature through eons of time. We are placing our bets on nature, not so-called "balanced" processed feeding.
You imply that when people choose an alternative diet for their pets, the companion animal will die, which is blatant misinformation.
We infer and suggest in our publications that they risk disease because they are forcing a pet out of its proper genetic context. That may indeed lead to early and painful death. People can choose "alternatives" but wrong choices do have consequences.
If people wish to pursue these types of diets they can receive information from their veterinarian regarding meal plans rather than from a food company that gets most of their products from animal agribusiness.
We are veterinarians also and know that veterinarians do not receive training in the complexities of food processing or its vitiating impact, nutritional biochemistry, food anthropology and natural history, preventive medicine and holistic care that would qualify them for such counsel. If such competency comes to veterinarians they must get it on their own outside of conventional training.
We are not a "food company" but rather an education organization supporting itself by the development of healthy product alternatives.
We are DVMs, PhDs, and other scientific professionals of principle, not merchants hawking sales. If people were to follow our counsel to a tee they would not need to buy any Wysong products.
No agribusiness animals are raised to be slaughtered specifically for Wysong Diets.
Third, if you cannot differentiate between an animal (who has a central nervous system) and a plant (which does not have a central nervous system), or oxygen for that matter, then perhaps you should stop trying to preach illogical philosophical arguments.
Central nervous system, oxygen, animal, plant, feelings, pain and the like are all just words created by humans to define a reality that is beyond our full comprehension. It is an error to constrict nature to our words. We simply do not know the extent of pain, stress, fear and the like experienced by anything other than ourselves. Why do we get to decide that those creatures most like us - central nervous system, legs, etc. - get to receive special and sensitive attention whereas other life forms do not? How can such anthropomorphic logic stand?
That said, no abuse of anything is ever justified. Unfortunately, for one creature to live, another must die. That is not philosophy either. It is the simple fact of the matter.
While it may be true that plants feel some sort of pain when picked, it is 100% clear that a cow feels its throat being slashed and its trachea being pulled out while fully conscious.
That is indeed horrific. What evidence do you have that that is standard practice? We are curious whether you excuse the way a cat tortures a mouse, or how a pack of dogs savages a deer with no quick coup de grace , or how a snake swallows its prey slowly while the prey is fully conscious?
Are we to permit painful killing by carnivores for food but not killing by humans for food? Should we humans embark on an ethical campaign to remove all carnivores from the wild and force them into enclosures with only vegetation available for food? If we did so we would catastrophically disrupt natural balances, ultimately resulting in environmental collapse and the cruel and painful death of all creatures (including us). If we are to intercede in nature we cannot draw lines at the end of which is far more suffering than we set out to prevent. Honesty in thinking requires that we grapple with all issues (everything is interconnected), not just select what we emotionally object to at the moment. We are not excusing any cruel method of killing by humans, but if death is to occur so that others may live, there is usually suffering to some degree. We must recognize that nature is neither cruel nor benign - it simply is.
It is not, however, necessary to debate the similarities and differences between plants and animals to justify moral decisions,
Yes it is if morality is selectively and arbitrarily applied to creatures labeled with human words, i.e., it is immoral to kill creatures we label animals and moral to kill those we label as plants. It seems wiser to attach morality to decisions people make that impose disease and suffering on creatures...for example feeding them improperly.
it is simply enough to lead a life which minimizes suffering (of the "food" animal as well as that of the "companion" animal and the "human" animal), on which I think we will agree since Wysong does not do food trials and is fairly progressive in their approach to companion animal nutrition.
What further is it you think we should do? We have led in essentially every health and humane category for nearly three decades. How can we be more "progressive?"
If Wysong does not agree with keeping animals in cages then they would certainly not support the slaughter of a food animal after a lifetime of confinement.
We don't directly support that, as noted above. In the meantime, what sources of food that match the genetic expectation of canines and felines would you suggest we use?
Of course I realize that it is never fully possible to be completely vegan - even plastics and rubber are made with animal by-products, but that does not mean that we give up on trying to live conscientiously and revert to being barbarians.
Unfortunately the taking of life for food is a part of the natural order. It is, again, probably neither moral nor immoral; it is just the way things are. Certainly every effort should be made to be ethical, humane, sensitive and compassionate. That is arguably what being human is all about.
Also, a condescending attitude toward people who would potentially be buyers of Vegan™, will not sell your product.
Our primary objective is not to sell products but to give health education. If teaching the truth is condescension, then we are guilty. Vegan™ is by no means a profit center for Wysong; it is a cost. It is expensive to produce and has a very limited audience. We do it because we empathize with the sensitivities of those who insist on feeding this way and want to provide them the best nutritional alternative...and good information.
As far as your view, " The very act of living…means we must compromise an idealistic spare-all-life ethic,"
Please give an example of any animal that survives without killing another creature.
while equating the decision to become vegetarian to choosing to die -
No, we say choosing a less than healthy life style may lead to unnecessary pain, suffering...and death. We can kill other creatures for food so that we may be healthy, or we can spare their lives and eat unnatural foods (not genetically appropriate) and condemn our pets to disease.
if that is truly Wysong's belief, then I feel genuinely sorry that this letter will probably not make any difference whatsoever. Just know that you have lost not only me as a customer but also the many clients at my clinic to whom I used to recommend your products.
If we could create a synthetic diet that would not condemn pets or people to cruel disease we would do it in a heartbeat.
Although we applaud and agree with your intent to reach a higher moral standard, we disagree with a choice that inadvertently causes the pain and suffering of nutritionally related diseases (all the chronic degenerative ones) in pet carnivores.
We respectfully look forward to your further thoughts when you have time.
P.S. One final test that can be done to put to rest the question of what to feed dogs and cats - ask them. This requires a simple thought experiment so nobody gets hurt. Build two pens (in your mind) in your backyard, about an acre each. Put cats in one, dogs in the other. (Two pens are necessary, or the experiment tends to end rather quickly for the cats since if you put the dogs with the cats they will eat them, as we know is the case with all ferral urban dog packs.) Grow a vegetable garden with rice, soy, wheat, alfalfa, squash, cucumbers, etc., in each pen and put a plentiful supply of rabbits, mice, snakes, raccoons, lizards and so on in each also. Turn your pets loose in these pens and don't intercede. In your mind's eye observe. We both know that the vegetable garden will be untouched, but the pets will be the happiest and healthiest they have ever been, dining on the other critters - exclusively.