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The legal, ethical and welfare implications of feeding vegan diets to dogs and cats

02 April 2021
15 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 3
Table 1. Required nutrients for a nutritionally complete pet food diet


Veganism is on the rise both in humans and in companion animals, with many owners citing animal welfare as their primary reason for adopting a vegan lifestyle. Feeding vegan diet to dogs and cats significantly impacts their welfare as it puts them at undue risk of developing diet-induced disorders, leaving owners liable to prosecution if they are unwilling to adhere to expert recommendations. As commercial vegan diets are a relatively new phenomena, more research needs to be conducted to understand the full effects. In the meantime, veterinary professionals should continue to educate owners on suitable diets based on the individual's requirements.

According to The Vegan Society (2020) veganism is defined as;

‘A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’

There has been an exponential rise in the number of people living a vegan lifestyle; research conducted by The Vegan Society discovered that in 2014, 150 000 (0.25%) of the UK population identified as vegan, quadrupling to 600 000 (1.16%) in 2019 (Ipsos MORI, 2016 and 2019). Social media campaigns such as ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Meat Free Mondays’ may have influenced the popularity of a meatfree lifestyle; in 2020, 402 206 people signed up to Veganuary (Veganuary UK, 2020). Data collected annually from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) surveys have noted an overall decline in the consumption of meat and dairy products since 2012, with 29% of respondents having reduced their overall meat consumption. The most common reasons cited for adopting a meat-free lifestyle include: health benefits; taste; value for money; the environmental impact of meat farming; and animal welfare (Richardson et al, 1993; Veganuary UK, 2020).

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