Alright, there’s a lot to unpack here. But first, disclaimer time: these are my thoughts on these issues — what I would personally say if you asked me this question. I don’t speak for every single vegan, and some of them would probably strongly disagree with me on some of this.
I get asked about this a lot, because whenever something bad happens (as opposed to the countless times when nothing bad happens), it’s splashed across international news. There was recently a baby who passed away because his parents underfed him and gave him an unhealthy, nutritionally deficient vegan diet. This is obviously terribly sad, criminally negligent, unacceptable child abuse. Period.
However, this doesn’t mean that informed parents under a doctor’s care can’t raise a healthy vegan baby. First of all, breast milk is vegan. There’s also soy formula, which is often used for babies who get sick from the cow-based kind (like I did, back in the day). Even the American Academy of Pediatrics — not exactly some “woo” hippie backwater — agrees that raising a healthy vegan baby is totally doable.
Of course, if I were going to have a baby, I would do an extensive deep-dive with my doctor to make sure that I felt confident in the safety of a vegan diet for my kiddo. If I didn’t feel confident that I could ensure my child’s safety, then I wouldn’t feed them a vegan diet. If I did feel confident, then I would. But I do know plenty of parents of healthy vegan and vegetarian kids, who never had any issues. So I’m pretty sure that I would be comfortable choosing to feed my baby plant-based (or boob-based!) food.
Of course, as kids grow up, they are able to make their own choices, and kids who are raised vegan may someday decide not to be vegan any longer. That’s certainly up to them. However, many children feel a natural affinity toward animals and don’t want to hurt them (like this little guy, or this little girl, or these cuties). If they aren’t raised to believe that they should ignore those feelings, or taught that it’s ok to hurt specific animals like pigs and cows, many of them find that their feelings and beliefs naturally align with a vegan lifestyle.
I personally don’t know any kids who were raised vegan or vegetarian who decided to start eating meat later in life, but I do know of many kids who were raised eating meat who became really distraught about it and decided to stop — even kids who didn’t have Paul McCartney as a personal cheerleader for their vegetarianism, like Lisa Simpson did.
Recently the title of “world’s oldest dog” belonged to a vegan doggo, until he passed away at the ripe old age of 189 (or 27, to us humans).
Like people, dogs can be healthy vegans. Of course, their human companions need to be responsible and make sure that their pupper is getting adequate nutrition. Please talk to your vet before making any changes to what your furry friend eats, to make sure that they stay safe, healthy, and happy.
It’s much tougher for a cat to be healthy on a vegan diet. The jury’s still out on whether it’s even possible at all without causing significant negative health impacts to cats.
Rather than subjecting their cats to the experiment of whether a vegan diet will hurt them or not, most vegans I know who have rescue cats make an exception and do purchase meat-based food for their cats.
This starts to bump up against a whole other issue, which is how vegans feel about the ethics of keeping animals as pets, period. Most vegans agree with the ‘adopt, don’t shop’ mentality; they’re against buying purebred dogs or supporting puppy/kitty mills, and instead adopt their pets from shelters or other rescue organizations, with the aim of giving these abandoned companions a better life.
But while I’ve known and loved many wonderful cats in my life, and I’m pretty sure that Maru is my favorite thing about the entire internet, I think we humans need to take a good, hard look at whether we want to continue breeding cats to keep as pets, or whether it’s a practice that would be better off being slowly phased out.
Cats kill billions of native birds, mammals, and reptiles every year. Of course, it’s through no fault of their own — rather, it’s the fault of us humans, who have welcomed 85 million pet cats into our homes (in the US alone), without a full and measured consideration of their impact on the other animals around us.
When I stay with family members who have an outdoor cat, it’s shocking how, over just a few days, he manages to bring so many birds, lizards, and mice into the house — and those are just the ones that we see. Because of this danger to native wildlife, most vegans advocate that people should keep their cats strictly indoors (or build them a catio!). But, then again, is it fair to keep a cat permanently sequestered, or is that cruel to the cat? These “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” issues have led people to question the fairness and wisdom of our decision to keep cats as house pets.
They’re wonderful creatures, no question. But we still need to assess whether America’s current level of cat-ownership — 1/3 of all households — is something we should maintain in perpetuity, or if perhaps we should begin to shift toward companion animals that don’t have as much of a negative impact on the other animals around us.
This one’s really tough, and causes me a lot of inner turmoil — because who doesn’t love cats?! But I think we also owe it to all the creatures who are harmed by cats to put some thought into this issue.